This Mumbai-based homemaker is baking her entrepreneurial dream catering to celebs like Katrina Kaif, Janhvi Kapoor
Thirty-one-year-old Juhi Pahwa confesses she has run away from three different jobs even before getting her salary. For the MBA graduate from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS) in Mumbai, a desk job never really cut it.
Juhi had always imagined opening a restaurant, but it remained just a dream because of the sheer capital that launching a restaurant involved.
But, as they say, where there is a will, there is a way – and Juhi found a unique way to channel her inner entrepreneurial zest through The Better Binge - a home baking venture offering gluten-free and vegan cakes and desserts.
Founded in 2018 in Mumbai with health-conscious folks as its target audience, it has an elite clientele, including Bollywood celebrities like Kiara Advani, Katrina Kaif, Jacqueline Fernandes, and Rajkumar Rao, among others.
Juhi Pahwa, Founder of The Better Binge
A serendipitous beginning
A year after her marriage, Juhi baked her first cake ever in 2017. Her husband’s late grandfather had a sweet tooth but was not allowed to consume refined carbs and sugar. Juhi decided to experiment with healthy ingredients to whip up desserts for him, and till day, she credits him as the brain behind her venture.
Scouring YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest for healthy recipe ideas, Juhi quickly became adept at substituting ingredients with healthy alternatives — jaggery for sugar and jowar flour in place of refined all-purpose flour.
"I was learning new things every day on the job, and I still do. Initially, it used to be disastrous but over time, I started tweaking here and there, read many international blogs, and learnt substituting, as every sugar has a different kind of texture and every flour has a different absorption level,” she tells HerStory.
After getting the brand trademarked in November 2017, the next four months saw Juhi embarking on backend work like branding, designing the logo, and packaging, and finally kickstarted the operation commercially on International Women’s Day in March 2018.
At a time when the Keto diet was a raging trend, The Better Binge happened to be among a handful of brands offering ketogenic desserts. Juhi rode the wave by getting some of the most suitable ingredients, including sugar-free sweeteners and chocolates, imported from the US.
Fortuitously, her cakes reached Bollywood actor Swara Bhaskar within the first month of operation as a gift from shoe designer Aprajita Toor. And the rest, as they say, is history, as word about The Better Binge quickly spread through the Bollywood network.
Juhi also tapped the influencer marketing space by sending cakes to mommy influencers and bloggers for promotions and set up exhibitions in Bandra to increase her clientele in her own neighbourhood. The self-taught baker now has an impressive Instagram presence, where she offers a wide range of cakes.
“My premium cakes are priced at Rs 3,500 per kg, while normal cakes are available at Rs 2,000 per kg. This is because I target people who are willing to invest in their health, and do not mind shelling out the extra money,” she says, adding that while the target audience has not changed, she is now developing products to cater to all income groups.
Although her elite Bollywood clientele provides a lot of mileage and visibility, Juhi makes sure the attention to detail is the same across her range of products.
(From L to R) Kiara Advani, Katrina Kaif, and Janhvi Kapoor with The Better Binge cakes
According to Juhi, many big and small brands have diversified into offering healthier alternatives, and gluten-free recipes are just a click away. She says this is because people are increasingly adopting veganism as a way of life, giving further impetus to businesses like hers. According to the International Market Analysis Research and Consulting Group, the Indian bakery market itself reached a value of $ 9,626 million in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.8 percent from 2021 to 2026.
However, Juhi believes she is yet to see the ultimate milestone, and advises those looking to start up in the bakery and home-based businesses to keep up with that initial spark.
While declining to share any financials, she says the brand has grown at a phenomenal rate while she continues to bake from her home kitchen. “I earn in a month what I initially made in the first year,” she quips.
While The Better Binge currently operates on a pre-order basis only in Mumbai, Juhi has plans to enter the retail segment across India in the next few years.