Life is so much better with a slice of chocolate cake, wouldn’t you agree? And two women entrepreneurs come together to set up a marketplace for home bakers in Indian cities, so that you can indulge in some guilt-free cake eating.Tanvi Dubey
A woman working on a business from home, be it sourcing and selling costume jewellery, sarees, or homemade treats like cakes and cookies, pickles and papads, is often not taken seriously. She is typecast as a hobby chaser, with not much ambition. But what many don’t realise is that these revenue-making initiatives are very lucrative, and provide many with a tidy income - sometimes more than what they had earned earlier at a regular job. And this is right from the comforts of their home, where life, work, and responsibilities all come together harmoniously.
Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too, and that’s what hundreds of home bakers around India will tell you. And the icing on the cake is that they don’t have to step outside their homes, thanks to technology.
HerStory caught up with two busy moms who wanted to not just fill a gap in the unorganised home baking industry, but also give fellow bakers an opportunity to connect easily with their customers.
Anuradha Kambi and Anjana Lath, her sister-in-law, started the HomeBakers in 2018 when Anuradha’s desire to surprise her nephew with a themed cake for his birthday fell flat.
Living in London, Anuradha wanted to send a cake to her nephew in India, but had limited options to have a cake customised. “Either I had to order from a bakery, which does not offer any customisation, or order through existing websites, where customisation was an issue. Alternatively, I could reach out to home bakers in Bengaluru through Facebook groups, but then payment and trust is an issue. When there are brilliant bakers who do a much better job at customisation and taste, consumers from any part of the world should not be struggling to connect to them,” she says.
Seeing the need to provide a platform for talent bakers, Anuradha and Anjana started HomeBakers.co.in as an online marketplace to connect cake buyers from any part of the world to the home bakers in India.
Home baking has taken off in a big way in India: ecommerce has made it possible to purchase what were once highly coveted baking tools, YouTube and sites like Skillshare have allowed women to pick up important techniques, and social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp have made marketing easy. But most of all, digital payments have made transactions easy as pie.
But some problems persist, and several gaps remain. “As a consumer, I saw the lack of an online platform for connecting to Indian home bakers who can supply a freshly baked cake to my loved ones according to my specifications,” Anuradha says.
Anjana, a self-taught home baker who lives in Hyderabad, started her home bakery to fulfil her passion, and at the same time to spend more quality time with her daughter. She wanted to scale her business, but was unable to do so due to a lack of a platform to manage order bookings.
“To our surprise, the problem Anjana faced was a common one, and there was no existing solution, so we found one and executed it,” Anuradha adds.
At HomeBakers.co, Anuradha is the Director- Business, and Anjana is Director -Operations. Along with Sonali, another team member, the three mothers have dedicated themselves full time to the business. Anjana says, “It is an initiative for women, by women. It is our tiny step to convert this unorganised home-based bakery sector into an organised one by providing a platform to the homemakers.”
Starting up was no cakewalk, and the duo spent almost three months to validate their idea. They spoke to more than 100 home bakers and consumers to understand the gaps they were trying to address.
They then focused on the website, and doubled down efforts on ensuring its ease of use. “We had to ensure that it’s easy to use for customers and home bakers and yet cost-effective when we are bootstrapping. We started the work on building the website in August 2018, and launched it in November last year.”
With most of the team based out of Hyderabad, they chose to start there, and test the waters to see if the idea worked, and gauge what appealed to consumers, and what didn’t. Based on this they managed to turn things around where needed.
They are fully operational in Hyderabad, and have launched in Pune and Bengaluru, where they are onboarding bakers at present. Next in the pipeline is Kochi and Chennai.
Onboarding quality bakers is a major challenge. The sector is unorganised, and hence there is no standardisation. Citywide bake shows are helping them connect with the local home bakers.
“We are still working on building the right filtering process. And getting to work with the right people i.e key cake artists and suppliers to help us promote. We are evolving and learning with every event and order,” says Anuradha. The team is also working on adding an FSSAI certification to its offerings.
While heavily dependent on social media marketing, their focus is on Facebook and Instagram. From videos to demos to customer success stories, to meets, events and panel discussions - they have created both online and offline avenues for engagement.
Though unorganised, the home baking industry is thriving. On HomeBakers.co.in, the bakers have the right to price the goods. Prices generally start from Rs 360 for 12 cupcakes, and cakes can even go up to Rs 12,000 depending on the customisation and work involved. The current average order value on the site is Rs 3,000. Customers can rate the bakers according to their satisfaction level.
A survey done by HomeBakers.co.in of over 200 bakers showed that bakers earn on an average Rs 14,000 a month. “As compared to bakeries, where cake typically costs around Rs 500, our bakers are able to get even Rs 1,200 for cakes baked for particular occasions. Sometimes, we have had orders clocking Rs 10,000 too,” she adds.
Cakes have become mainstay for any celebration, be it birthdays, anniversaries, send-off parties, office get-togethers, celebratory dinners, and festivals. And the demand is only going up, as disposable incomes increase, and people can afford such treats more regularly.
“People now want to see their life/occasion depicted on the cake. The demand is also because of increased awareness of such customisation, innovative flavours, and dietary requirements, which home bakers can cater to unlike commercial bakeries making mass-produced cakes ,” Anuradha explains.
When Anjana quit her career to be a full-time mom, she set a lot of tongues wagging. And when she started baking from home, it just got worse. Anuradha points out that this sort of criticism is commonly faced by women who work out of home. “There is also the stereotype that if you aren’t an engineer or a doctor you can’t succeed,” she adds, but says things are slowly changing.
“I have personally met top professional bakers like Samie J Ramachandran, Subhashini Ramsingh and Ashwini Sarabhai, who are all qualified engineers but have pursued their career in the baking industry. My partner, Anjana, for sure has no regrets as she is able to balance her work and being a full-time mum,” she says.
But home baking is no piece of cake. It demands plenty of sweat, toil, and hard work. “When you turn something you have excelled into a business, you have won half the game. Again, being a home baker involves its own share of hard work, from networking to pricing it right, choosing the right ingredients, and bringing magic to the table. That is the second half of the battle to be won.”
It is the battle of batter, and HomeBakers.co.in is doing everything to ensure its bakers emerge the winners.