One and a half years after her daughter’s birth, Sindhu Murali, a resident of South Pune, yearned to find her identity and became a “Crazy Baker”.
Finding her calling didn’t come easily to Sindhu. She traversed through divergent phases in life. From being a Purchase Head in private company where she took care of contract purchase of anti-corrosive materials to setting her priorities around her 3-year-old preschooler to being a Home Chef serving South Indian food for an online food delivery system, Sindhu has donned it all.
“My father used to bring us small cakes from a bakery near our house and then one day he bought an oven. My mother wasn’t the technology savvy person so I took up the task of baking in the house along with my grandmother. I baked for the first time in my 6th standard.” Ever since then it is baking that she enjoys and which offers her peace of mind as it lets her explore her creativity.
Sindhu has been a Home Baker for about a year and a half now. Years of experimenting with baking basic cakes and cookies gave her the confidence to venture in this foray without the need to pursue any professional baking courses. She offers cakes, cookies, cupcakes, brownies to her niche clientele in the central and southeast Pune. People adore her vegan multigrain diabetic- friendly oat cookies. Her Naughty Cakes has a huge fan-following among the youth. “If you don’t want it, that’s okay. But I can’t make a modest one!” comes her reply to a conservative client who wanted a ‘toned-down version’ of the naughty cake. Although demand is always at its peak for her bakery orders, Sindhu is very particular about the quality of cake she delivers – a major reason why her clients come back to her. A client even postponed her birthday celebrations only to celebrate it when Sindhu could make a cake for her. To keep improvising her cakes, she attended a fondant modeling class. For those of you who are new to baking – fondant modeling is the use of fondant to decorate cakes.
Her extremely supportive family is her secret ingredient. Her in-laws support her in the household chores and manage the child when she is baking while her husband keeps track of accounting and helps in delivery. Even little Sniktha makes tiny fondant balls for Mamma’s customized cupcakes. Her clientele has become an extended family. She laughs to tell that her neighbors Kavita and Vinod offer her free PR services as she has been baking cakes for them for nearly three years for almost all the happy occasions in their life. It is moments like these that keeps Sindhu up and jolly. She doesn’t overburden herself with orders all the time but chooses to do it of her own accord ranging from baking 20 cakes a day to none for two weeks.
A healthy support group in the form a closed knit Home Bakers Community has helped her in knowing the ins and outs of the trade. These participants help each other with the technicalities, share tips and tricks and are ready to give suggestions as and when required. Members keep updating each other about places with economical raw materials, they buy raw material in bulk from bigger cities (instead of Pune) and share it among themselves. They even pass on orders in case they are not able to deliver it themselves. At times, one grows better in an uncompetitive environment where the focus is on contention from the work delivered rather than being ahead of the rat race. Sindhu thinks on similar lines. At present, she is thoroughly enjoying her work and doesn’t get fettered by any competition.
Sindhu also shared with us the challenges which are faced by the home bakers. Some of the perennial issues are customers’ nagging about the higher prices charged by home bakers as compared to the commercial bakeries. She explains that novice customers do not realize that the home bakers offer better quality and fresh products as compared to the bakeries. Other daunting tasks are the procurement of raw materials and manpower for an affordable and reliable delivery. In one of her deal to deliver 100 cupcakes for a baby shower, Sindhu was bogged down by the humid weather. The Monsoon air would not allow the fondant to dry and she had to keep the whole room warm using bulbs and oven for days to deliver the order. In another experience, she learnt that about 200 cupcakes, 100 brownies, and 20 jar cakes would be wasted as the flea market for which she had been preparing for two weeks got canceled at the eleventh hour. But again her support group came to her rescue. They offered her to put up a stall for free in front of their restaurants in high-class locations. This opportunity not only restored Sindhu’s faith in destiny and humanity but also helped her network with the elites in the posh locations.
Sindhu ended with a wonderful advice for all the women entrepreneur – Women can fly to what height she wants to, by always keeping in mind her roots. There were times when her patience was tried and tested but then she learnt that one cannot please everyone. “So stand up for yourself and never lose yourself for anything”, she said.