Growing up in the noughties, like most middle class families with a collective sweet tooth, Saturdays were declared baking day — a chance for the kids to trade in their clay dough for cookie dough. Our grandmother, a stern matronly figure from another time however, didn’t think very much of these ‘extravagant’ hobbies of ours. Once, when we brought her freshly baked bread, she chortled, asking if she’d been ill recently to merit this gift. Her old-school, austere culinary tastes dictated that cakes were meant just for birthdays and bread, which was hardly considered staple down South, for hospital patients.
In stark contrast today though, you’d tread lightly around the grumpy coffee-addled millennials at work, especially when they haven’t had their 11 am red velvet fix yet. It’s in this market that a number of home baker start-ups have mushroomed across the city.
According to Durga Menon, who runs Lluvia Bakery, it’s a change in consumption habits among the urban middle class in India that has driven the baking boom. Bread does figure as a second staple in more middle-class houses, whether it’s paired with hastily-tossed pasta after a long day’s work, or used to make subs for kids’ lunches. Menon tells me that over the last six months alone, her customer base has tripled and she’s had to move her operations out of her house and into a rented space. While Lluvia bakery produces bread that is preservative-free and ‘real whole wheat’, Menon finds that customers are willing to pay a little extra for healthier alternatives, like her fast-moving cinnamon raisin bread.
It’s on this ability to read customer sentiment that Janani Vijaykumar bases her business model for DessertFirst, an online start-up patisserie. Vijaykumar discovered the growing demand via social media for customised cakes that were occasion specific. She began to spend six hours on a single cake, giving each a personal touch that she believes mass-produced franchises can’t compete with. Today, her cakes range from bawling fondant infants for a baby shower order to naughty edible figures cavorting on the top of a cake that belongs at somebody’s hen/stag weekend shindig. For a whole generation, it appears that the gamut of social events that warrant a generous slice has expanded well beyond birthdays.
Freelance writer Paul Dharamraj brings you the latest buzz from start-up incubators around the country