As a fast-developing state, Assam is witnessing a rush of new methods and innovations in every sphere of life. The baking industry has also undergone great transformation, in recent times, as a result of new and improved innovative methods of cooking, serving and packaging, and purchase. Even the way a customer orders and gets delivery has changed over the years. As customers demand more quality baked products that offer more value for money, only a handful of kitchens have been able live up to expectation. Many others have shut down.
To emphasize, there are a few kitchens that have constantly served their customers quality tasty delights. Places like Guwahati-based Orange Oven easily come to mind, with homebaker Sanjukta Bhattacharyya at the helm of affairs. Despite the lockdown, Sanjukta has been able to build and maintain a loyal customer base with nothing but referrals for her tasty treats.
Sanjukta began her culinary journey at an early age, with her parents serving as her earliest source of inspiration and motivation. She picked up a few things watching them bake regularly and soon enough, began baking for guests and family members that would often come to visit. As her skills improved, so did her passion and love for the craft. She spent more and more time in the kitchen, honing her culinary skills and creating amazing pastries. As she recounts, birthdays were a good excuse to bake in her home.
“We always celebrate the birthday of each and every member of our family. When I was in class 6 or 7 ( I don’t exactly remember), it was my birthday and I invited many friends and relatives, just so I could get more gifts. As a close-knit family, we already had many members in our home and, in addition, I invited my friends and other relatives too. That day I cooked for more than 50 people all by myself. At last, everything went fine and I was very happy,” she says.
This Guwahati baker has always had a thing for enterprise, but was always held back by circumstances beyond her abilities. Eventually, she kicked off the journey during the pandemic that affected the entire world.
In her words, “during this lockdown, I tried many dishes, mithais, cupcakes, etc, and then uploaded pictures on my social media pages. Coincidentally, during the lockdown phase in mid May 2020, my sister-in-law asked me whether I can make some cupcakes for her which she would pay for. We delivered the next day and also uploaded the pictures, mentioning they are for sale. After sometime, I started getting responses and orders, which continued.
“My family, relatives, friends, ex-colleagues and well-wishers all supported me in the initial stage by ordering stuff from me and recommending my products to others. I would like to specially mention that my teachers from school, college, and university have stood by me like a pillar. They still support me. My customers also refer my products to others. I am thankful to all of them,” she adds.
Speaking on how she overcame the financial challenges she faced during the early days of running her business, she says, “My first order was for a few cupcakes and that too was unplanned and unexpected, so the initial investment was very low. I still remember I delivered my first order in pieces of clean thermocool wrapped with aluminum foil. I bought some mithai boxes from a nearby mithai shop and started delivering in those boxes. After delivering the first order and getting the payment, I bought materials the next day with that money,” Sanjukta notes.
Ever since her business took off, it has done nothing but blossom. With positive feedback and encouraging remarks, she has experienced a steady increase in her customer base. There have also been some amazing and memorable moments. “During the period when the lockdown eased a little, people were very stressed and afraid of visiting restaurants. I am happy that I was able to bring smiles on their faces by delivering my products.”
From the success of her current business, Sanjukta plans to expand her brand even more. “I am looking forward to starting a baking and cooking class that will empower the underprivileged section of our society, especially women.”
Sanjukta sees feedback as stepping stones, objects that move you from one step to another. With feedback, both positive and the few negative, she has been able to improve significantly on her customer service and quality. There are a few recipes that have had the most success with her customer base. The fresh cream cake, cream cheese cake, buttercream cake, chocolate ganache cake, carrot cake, and some others stand out for her. There have also been special demands in her business.
“Generally, people often demand themed cakes. But more recently, people are slowly discarding full fondant cake (as it is not so tasty and solid, only good for pictures). So I have to make themed cakes with other options (using only fondant toppers), which is very challenging,” she says.
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