How family unity helped this six-decade-old bakery in Dehradun recover after a tragedy
In a busy market lane of one of the oldest cities in India, Dehradun, stands Sunrise Bakers. Over 60 years after it first came into existence, the bakery has now expanded and opened a second outlet in the city. The expansion is more noteworthy as it comes after a particularly difficult year for the family-run legacy business, with the death of Amarjit Singh Jolly and Harmeet Singh Jolly, both second-generation entrepreneurs who were carrying the legacy inherited from their father Harnam Singh Jolly.
“Everyone was saying, ab Sunrise Bakers ka kya hoga? (what will happen to Sunrise Bakers?) as both my father and youngest uncle, who were together running the business for years, died. Everyone in the family was emotionally broken but we also had the responsibility to gather ourselves and not let the legacy go to ruins” says Rishika Jolly, third-generation entrepreneur and daughter of Amarjit Singh.
Harnam Singh Jolly had four sons - Didar Singh Jolly, Amarjeet, Harmeet, and Jagjit Singh Jolly. While Didar Singh is based out of Noida, Uttar Pradesh; Amarjeet and Harmeet were running the bakery in Paltan Bazaar; Jagjit was working with ONGC and helping his brothers on the side. The sudden demise of his two brothers spurred Jagjit to take over the reins of the business with the help of the third-generation.
Talking to SMBStory, Jagjit and Rishika say despite the challenges through all these years, the bakery has been running profitably since its inception. Now, after almost 65 years, they are on their path to expansion.
The legacy symbolises ‘unity is strength’
Talking about the bakery’s early years, Rishika narrates how her grandfather Harnam Singh Jolly came to Dehradun during Partition in search of work. On realising that there was good demand for bakery products in the city, Harnam Singh decided to set up shop in Dehradun in 1956.
“My father bought a shop and started the business by making biscuits, '' says Jagjit. “It was all handmade then as there were no machines.” he adds.
Other small confectionery store owners also used to get biscuits made from Harnam. According to Jagjit, those days, direct consumer consumption was less, and a majority of buyers were small confectionery owners.
Harnam ran the business for around 23 years before passing away in 1979, after which his eldest son Amarjit joined the business.
“My eldest brother was the face of our bakery. His compassion and kindness was loved by every customer. My younger brother was his biggest support. Both would handle counter sales effortlessly and would deal with each customer personally,” Jagjit tells SMBStory.
Sunrise Bakers’ most famous produce was its rusk. Jagjit says that in the 2000s, to help his brothers meet the rising demand of rusks, he set up a rusk factory. He recalls how customers used to get angry as freshly baked rusks ran out of stock quickly. “Many people who used to commute from far to buy our rusks started complaining and this was when we thought of stationing a different manufacturing facility to manufacture rusks.” This helped Sunrise Bakers scale their business.
According to Jagjit, the core of the business lies in making products by hand, and even today, many of the bakery’s products are mixed by hand before being manufactured by machines.
Sunrise Bakers is a completely bootstrapped family-owned business, and although its third generation of owners have taken different career paths, their shared passion for the bakery has remained.
“My cousins and I were never unaware of the business. Even though I am a Business and Data Analyst my cousin brother Arpit and sister Aashna are Chef and Visual Communication and Designer, we were raised in an environment where we always had an idea of the business. We are Sunrisers but when we lost the two strong pillars, it became our responsibility to serve our customers with the same love my father and uncle did,” Rishika says.
The need for expansion
In October 2021, Sunrise Bakers opened a second outlet in the Krishan Nagar area of Dehradun.
“Ghosi Gali, where our shop is located in, is a crowded area. Eventually, the newer generations will switch to easier accessible bakeries, given there are so many bakeries now. Hence we opened up another outlet in a posh locality to meet modern-day consumer expectations,” Rishika tells SMBStory.
Dehradun is known for its bakery items with other old bakeries like Standard and Ellora’s, dominating the market.
Rishika says that they are now constantly innovating their offerings and are bringing options for health-conscious customers too.
“Expanding comes with experimentation, and we aren’t in a position to lose any of our customers. Thus, we are trying to bring in trendy produce while maintaining the quality of the products,” Rishika asserts.
Challenges and the way ahead
Talking about challenges faced by the business, the uncle and niece duo point to logistics as the main hurdle in the face of expansion.
“We need a delivery partner who will not mishandle the products. Bakery products are so fragile that even for deliveries in proximity, the products can break into small pieces. For pan India delivery, we would definitely need strong logistics support.”
Packaging is an important factor but upgrading the packaging would mean increasing the price of products.
“Our next step is moving online and building a D2C brand, and for this, we have to work on enhancing every business vertical - right from manufacturing to packaging and delivery to maintaining the business ethics and quality at place.”
“Be it blood, sweat, or tears, we can’t give our legacy away,” Rishika signs off wistfully.
Edited by Anju Narayanan