This duo started a bakehouse in Gurugram; opened 9 stores across Delhi/NCR in 2 years
Mitali Singh and Suchali Jain
American novelist Louis Bromfield once said, “Bread is the king of the table and all else is merely the court that surrounds the king”.
Bread is an integral part of everyday diet and is the most widely-consumed food in the world in all its forms.
Though delicious, too much consumption of bread can wreak havoc on health. Hence, choosing the right kind of bread from a variety of options can make eating bread a guilt-free experience.
Observing the dearth of gut-friendly bread in the Indian market, Suchali Jain, who hails from a finance background opened doors of her entrepreneurial journey and founded Suchali’s Artisan Bakehouse in 2018 in New Delhi with a bootstrapped capital of Rs 20 lakh.
In an interaction with SMBStory, Mitali Singh, who heads the brand communication and business operations at Suchali’s Artisan Bakehouse and is also a friend of Suchali, says,
“Suchali’s trip to Europe brought a big change in her life. The experience she gained of the authentic flavours of bread in the French tradition and the baker’s art during her travel infused passion into her, and motivated her to recreate the tradition and artisanship at the Bakehouse. She first found success baking croissants after which I joined her.”
Mitali has been part of the startup ecosystem and worked for a venture capital firm for five years before joining Suchali’s.
At Suchali’s Artisan Bakehouse, the idea is to bring the best bread loaves and processes from abroad to India. The Bakehouse has remained profitable every month and is aiming to reach Rs 6 crore turnover this financial year. In FY 19-20, Suchali’s Artisan Bakehouse clocked a turnover of Rs 4 crore, Mitali claims.
Bringing freshly prepared bread
According to some reports, the Indian bakery market touched a value of $7.22 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach $12 billion by 2024, with a CAGR of 9.3 percent during 2019-2024.
India is primarily an average quality white bread eating nation and has been very price-sensitive towards baked goods. However, with the increasing disposable income among the young, the metro cities in India are rapidly shifting from average consumables to speciality or premium products which one can witness by seeing the market dominance of brands like BreadTalk and Theobroma.
Suchali’s Artisan Bakehouse is a speciality bakery which produces naturally-leavened sourdough loaves of bread, New York-style bagels, a range of croissants, and tea cakes that are easy on the gut as sourdough is the base bread which is known for health benefits, explains Mitali.
From the day the dough is made till the day they are prepared, it takes four days to make croissants, while on the other hand, it takes three days to make the speciality sourdough loaves of bread.
The business follows an omnichannel sales model and a backward integrated approach to not rely on imports.
“Some USPs on which we have crafted our business model are naturally leavened (niche product), freshly baked, transparency, and product innovation. We bring forth a selection of freshly baked and handcrafted treats which are an amalgam of sweet and savoury,” Mitali says.
Sourdough bread by Suchali's Artisan Bakehouse
Suchali’s Artisan Bakehouse started off with Suchali handling the company and the bakery single-handedly in a small set-up. Growing gradually, the company now has a 6,000 sq ft manufacturing facility and employs 30 people.
Mitali says Suchali’s Artisan Bakehouse has tied up with one of the leading coffee chains in the country for its bakery items and has also collaborated with various restaurant chains. It has one standalone outlet at Cyber City in Gurugram and eight partnership stores across Delhi/NCR.
Within two years of its inception, COVID-19 pandemic halted Suchali’s business operations for almost a month.
Talking about the challenges posed by the pandemic, Mitali says,
“It was a tough situation as we were not widely present in online sales. We were only relying on our B2B partnership and in-store sales. However, COVID-19 opened more doors for us and we started considering online selling mediums.”
Suchali’s Artisans Bakehouse went online in mid-April through their own website and claims to be getting a good response from its customers.
Challenges and competition
Food and Beverages (F&B) sector has always been a very lucrative and high margin business, says Mitali. On the contrary, bakery business operates on a very sleek margin and being bootstrapped means there is almost no room for error in business operations, she adds.
“The ongoing pandemic has thrown up new challenges. There is a need to innovate as there is a new shift in dietary habits of consumers,” Mitali explains.
Almond croissant by Suchali's Artisan Bakehouse
Suchali’s Artisan Bakehouse has also noticed a lack of good talent and workforce which Mitali says is probably because the training institutes are not well-equipped to impart proper training to young aspiring bakers.
Another challenge is the weather in India due to which ingredients get spoilt, making baking difficult.
Expanding the horizon
Mitali says Suchali’s Artisan Bakehouse is aiming to offer a diverse range of products including sourdough bread, bagels, and other freshly-baked goods to customers’ home on a daily basis, besides focussing on increasing the nutritional value of the baked products.
With a bigger unit in place, the company is also aiming to enter modern trade business soon to become more accessible to consumers.
Early next year, Suchali’s Artisan Bakehouse plans to start operations in Mumbai which is a big bakery market for which it is looking at raising funding.