Meet the BREA brothers who set up the first live bakery at Bengaluru airport

In a span of almost five years, BREA clocks in Rs 5 crore turnover and has the brand's retail presence across 250 outlets in Bengaluru. It produces 6,000 loaves of bread daily along with other bakery items.
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BREA Founders Dianath Arshad (left) and Mothasim Arshad (right)

Born out of a desire to provide people with fresh bread and baked products, the story of BREA conveys that one can innovate a traditional business by targetting the right segment and using the modern B2B model to make a brand.  

Started by brothers Dianath Arshad (44) and Mothasim Arshad (42) in 2014, the brand aims to introduce the concept of healthy baking to its consumers.

In an interaction with SMBStory, Founder and Managing Director of BREA Dianath Arshad shares the journey of BREA, which was born from his grandfather’s AM Bakery.

Our family has been in the baking business for 120 years and we are the third generation bakers. Our grandfather ran the AM Bakery from 1940 to 1960 in the Cantonment area of Bengaluru. In the pre-Independence days, the establishment was serving bread and bakery items to the British Army.”

O Syed Rehman (Grandfather- Arshad brothers)

After running the AM Bakery for almost two decades, Dianath’s grandfather wanted to explore the opportunity in the commercial segment. Thus, in the 1960s, he opened two bakery stores called Crown Bakery, one each in the Cantonment area and Richmond town of Bengaluru.

The Crown Bakery was run by Dianath’s grandfather and grand uncle. Though the bakery was famous among Bangaloreans, it was a conventional setup focussing on counter sales.

Dianath says that it was in the 1990s, he and his brother Mothasim joined his grandfather to evolve the traditional business model and focus on the B2B segment.

From the 1970s to 1990s, we maintained the traditional confectionary business. However, our aspirations were different, we wanted to move to a different brand. We then took the franchise of Chennai-based Cakewalk in 1991 and opened the franchise outlets in Commercial Street and MG Road in Bengaluru. The MG Road outlet was one of the most sought after hangout points in the 90s,” he recalls.

However, in 1996, the brothers had to close Cakewalk stores because the lease of the building had expired. And, this was the time when the duo came up with a plan to not only maintain but diversify the legacy of their grandfather.

In 2000, they formed a partnership firm known as Renowned Foods and resumed their B2B model. Mothasim had learned the art of confectionary and decorative cake making under the mentorship of his grandfather. In their first independent venture, he took total control of the production.

Under this company, they supply bakery, snacking, institutional bakery solutions to multiplexes, theaters, malls, corporate houses, and leading coffee and restaurant chains across Bengaluru. They also supply their products to rock’n’ roll-themed chain Hard Rock Cafe.  

After gaining momentum in the business, the brothers thought to make their grandfather’s dream come true and launch a brand which will serve healthy baking items to the consumers.

BREA was launched in 2014 with a personal capital of Rs 3 lakh. Dianath says,

BREA was born out of an emotional dream of our grandfather. He used to say that he wants his bread on every breakfast table of Bengaluru. And so, we launched the brand keeping intact his 100-year-old recipe.”

The bread of life

Dianath explains that the base recipe of their baked products at BREA is 100 years old. It is one of the first brands which is a clean label company using herbs and plant-based preservatives. He says, “The shelf life of our brand is not more than five days because we do not add preservatives. Though there is no denying that to make bread there needs to be some amount of chemicals but in our case, we use it way below the permissible quantity.”

BREA Roti

At present, the brand produces 14 SKUs in bread items, including slice bread, Mumbai pav, Delhi kulcha, burger bun, bread crumbs, and flavoured croutons.

The brand's retail presence is spread across 250 outlets in Bengaluru, including Big Bazaar, Godrej Nature’s Basket, MK Retails, Food World, and other local retail stores.

Struggle to find shelf space

Nowadays, finding loaves of bread and bun of BREA in supermarts is a common sight. However, the initial days of this brand were a struggle.

Dianath recalls that in the beginning, they approached large stores in the city to keep their products but they weren’t so welcoming. They faced challenges of being a new brand. Retailers were sceptical to offer them shelf space as there were already big brands occupying the space and were giving these stores good sales. He says,

We were denied shelf space in stores, and we had to rework on our business model. My brother and I then went store-to-store asking people to keep our bread for a day with the deal that if it is sold, we will turn up the next day for the money. If the bread wasn’t sold, we would take it back.”

He adds, “I still remember that on the first day we targeted 40 stores but only 10 shopkeepers agreed to keep the bread packet. We kept a total of 20 bread packs, two each in 10 stores, and that was our beginning.”  

Gradually, when BREA’s demand among consumers escalated, the same stores which once denied to keep BREA products approached the brothers in 2017 and offered shelf space without any listing and vendor registration charge.

At present, the brand produces 6,000 loaves of bread daily for supply to retail stores across Bengaluru and clocks an annual turnover of Rs 5 crore.

The live bakery at Bengaluru airport

BREA's live bakery model at Bengaluru airport

To take the brands’ presence internationally by introducing it to the travellers, Dianath takes pride in the fact that they have opened a stand-alone live bakery at the Bengaluru International Airport last year. He says that they want each traveller to take a part of Bangalore with them.

The brand has launched BREA roti, an intermediate snack, and authentic Bangalore cookies in this swanky outlet. According to him, the Bangalore cookies are made using the same recipe of his grandfather.

These kind of cookies were available earlier in the corner shops of the city, however, with preferences changing, people stopped buying them. We thought of launching this product in an attractive pack making people reach out for our traditional cookies.”

BREA has also opened its kiosks across six locations in Bengaluru, including Yamlur, Commercial Street, Banaswadi, Yelahanka, Sadashivnagar, and CV Raman Nagar.

BREA's Bangalore Cookies

Challenges with existing brands

“Challenges provide us with new learnings. And for me, facing a new challenge is good,” Dianath says. “We do not have any competition with other brands on the quality or categories of the products. However, we do face challenges on occupying the shelf space in retail stores.”

The placement of products on shelves of retails stores are done considering various factors, including the vendor charges, demands, the category of the product, and so on. The founders are currently battling with existing brands to occupy the shelf space of each retail store in Bengaluru.

Hitting every breakfast table

With the desire to hit every breakfast table, the brand has plans to make its presence across 500 stores in Bengaluru by the end of the year. It is also planning to launch new products in the modern retail stores by June, including whole-wheat namkeen and Bangalore cookies.

On talking about the franchise model, Dianath says that they are open to experimenting with the franchise model. By 2020, BREA wants to enter the entire South India market.

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