The recently-released Bhujia Barons tells the story of one of India’s most recognisable packaged food brands.
Decoding the success story of one of India’s biggest confectionery family businesses, Minnesota-based MBA graduate Pavitra Kumar is out with her debut novel, Bhujia Barons. “I wanted to make my first book somewhat connected with my B-school experience and my working experience, and still write about an Indian success story. And Haldiram’s was the best option,” says the 30-year-old author, who favours the brand’s moong dal.
The book charts the history of Ganga Bhishen Agarwal (aka Haldiram), who took over the small shop run by his father and grandfather at the age of 12 and started out by selling locals in Bikaner an improved version of a snack that has become a family staple, the bhujia, in the early 1900s. More than a hundred years and several secessions later, Haldiram’s has developed a “cult-like following” in the packaged foods industry, with the turnover of the brand in Delhi alone amounting to Rs 2,480 crore last year.
Although Kumar shares that it was a challenging experience conducting research with such a close-knit family, she admits that she ended up learning a lot in the process. “There seems to be a certain optimism in the way they’ve treated failure… there is no concept of giving up,” she says with admiration, adding that it is this key principle of “disciplined passion” in the business that has seen them through all the ups and downs.
Need to know
● Marwari children weren’t provided with much formal education, but were taught all that was necessary
for running a business. In fact, they learnt their
tables in decimal points.
● Around 1885, during the reign of Maharaja Dungar Singh, the first batch of bhujia was made in Bikaner.
● The bhujia made by a young Haldiram sold for five paise per kilo, which was a lot of money at the time.
● All Haldiram brothers, in their respective states, can identify all the ingredients in a product just by tasting it.
Published by Penguin Random House. Rs 399. Details: amazon.in
— Simar Bhasin