“In April 2012, while I was learning to shape one of my first sourdoughs (a French Pain aux Cereales) at the French Culinary Institute in New York, I felt a love for baking like never before, and since then I have never looked back,” remembers Aditi Handa, Co-Founder & Head Chef at The Baker’s Dozen who has brought a revolution in the sourdough business in India. She together with her co-founder, Sneh Jain launched The Baker’s Dozen, in 2013 with the aim of drawing attention back to the age-old goodness of sourdough bread and putting it on every dining table as an essential commodity. “Since our inception, we've been operating in this sweet spot known as Artisan@scale. The Baker's Dozen today is India's largest artisan bakery brand, producing breads, cakes, cookies, crackers, and premixes from natural ingredients. We are fortunate to stand strong in the bakery industry, having crossed the milestone of selling 1 million pounds of sourdough in the year 2021, complemented by serving 2 lakh orders every month. Nothing can match the vibe of a happy customer,” she proudly shared. Know her exciting journey this Women’s Day.
What were some of the hurdles that came along the way?
Struggles and Challenges have always been a part of my day-to-day professional life, right from keeping the product preservative-free to ensuring the authenticity of the product. Mentioning the top challenges which were faced in my life and the solutions applied to overcome them:
Being true to the product and the brand ethics – While adding preservatives was an easier way to enhance shelf life, it was against our principle of ‘no preservatives’ in our products. Hence, we chose to research extensively and adapt a unique packaging technology that increased the shelf life of the product without adding preservatives to it. It was also for the first time in India that this method was used for packaging bakery products.
Transformation from a Chef to an Entrepreneur – As a Chef, I would always believe that my product is the best and I would be skeptical of customer feedback. But as an entrepreneur, I learned to listen to a customer’s views and adapt products and techniques accordingly without compromising on my fundamental principles.
Starting with a novel product - Starting with a unique novel product such as sourdough, it took us time to win customer loyalty. Extensive product trials and customer education have helped us be the protagonists of the sourdough revolution in India.
What has kept you going?
It’s not been an easy journey but entrepreneurship never really is. We get into this not to make a quick buck or to exit or to have an easy life. We are here to make a brand make a product we believe in even when no one else does. This journey has far more lows than highs. But when you see your product on a retail shelf and a child picking it up and saying “mumma I want this”…the kick of it is good enough to last you through the troubles.
What’s your plan to expand the brand to other cities/countries?
Operationally and marketing-wise, we plan to expand our reach to Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities, strengthen brand awareness, fortify marketing and distribution efforts (both online and offline) across geographies, and reach 2,000 touch points with more than 100 standalone stores across the country. Our aim is to expand our product portfolio in the bread category, introduce tea-time toasts, different cookies, etc. For new product development, taste, convenience, authenticity, and nutritional quality are the factors that we will be focusing on. With the aim of reaching INR 200 Cr ARR by FY24, and making The Baker’s Dozen India’s fastest growing D2C bakery brand.
Tell us about your other businesses and brands.
A lifetime goes in building a brand and The Baker’s Dozen is our mission in life.
5 tips you would want to share with fellow women entrepreneurs?
Treat yourself as an equal: We hear and even experience “I get treated differently because I am a woman”, this treatment may be good or bad. However, I have always believed that when I am at work, dealing with my vendors or colleagues we should always think of ourselves as equals, we should judge ourselves on the skill set and not on the gender.
Don't do it alone, Find a Co- Founder: This is something every entrepreneur should do, find a co-founder with a complimentary skill set. Entrepreneurship is a long, difficult journey which requires an array of skills. Everyone needs a partner who will be your shoulder to lean on.
It’s ok to drop a few things: As someone who wants to be successful we are always trained that we must always be on it, be the best and do it all. That’s never true, the only way to do it all is to accept that I will have to drop a few things. If I need to be at the plant today, i won’t be able to put my kids to sleep. If i want to vacation with my family i won’t be able to resolve all work concerns that day. The day we accept it will always be a give and take we will be far more content and successful. And you know what…it’s not a compromise or a shortcoming. It’s a balance way to live life.
Delegate but always be aware of the last detail: I think as one chooses to grow, delegation is very important, almost critical. However I feel a lot of us go wrong in thinking delegating means disconnecting or being less aware of the work. With my teams when I delegate we sit down together to structure reporting formats in a way where I have very detailed visibility even on the smallest task. The same is available to entire team so we are always on the same page.
Get your ecosystem on board: I feel as women we always have and will continue having a multitude and diverse set of responsibilities on our plate. To be able to do these well its important for our ecosystem which could be our immediate family, close friends and even close work colleagues understand the complexity of it. They will need to help pitch in as and when required, sometimes to cook a meal, to pick up kids from the school, to give a download of a meeting we had to miss, etc.
Top Trends that you foresee
Considering today’s scenario, consumer centricity is at the core of any brand, and keeping up with consumer trends and needs can be tricky at times. There is a major shift in consumers’ purchasing habits, and there is increasing awareness among people regarding their well-being, to which the pandemic has contributed to a very large extent. People are now very concerned about what they buy and consume. Ready to consume food segments such as bread and sourdough have suddenly witnessed a swelling demand in the last couple of years. People now look forward to products that are accessible and easy to prepare. ‘Good for you’ indulgence will be a key bakery habit developing in the future.