Meet Meeta W – A baker with a soul

April 5, 2016 6:52 am | Published by | 1 Comment


The Indian bakery scene is witnessing a revival and has made its presence felt strongly in the last couple of years. A major part to this resurgence has been because of the arrival of women bakers on the scene in huge numbers.

The offerings have been interesting and cater to a diverse food palate ranging from the health conscious to the indulgent to the unique. Either through small marts or your neighborhood stores or supermarkets or independent bakeries the have leveraged every channel available to them to make their delicious wares known and distributed to a fast growing and receptive audience. However, it is also an extremely competitive business. Don’t let the delectable pastries and bakes lull you into complacency. Business growth is directly proportional to the fire in your belly and your oven!

In a brief chat with Meeta Walavalkar, a popular baker who has successfully made the journey from being a home baker to a full-fledged business that is now thriving; I try to understand what makes her tick and what it takes to succeed in the business.

The Objective:

soul-bakers-productsMeeta Walavalkar is a dreamer, thinker and doer. She is someone who doesn’t just dream but goes ahead and realizes them. She likes observing more than talking. Her company Soul Bakers was born out of her skill for observation. When she was unable to find healthy food products in the market for her child, she observed that there could be a vacuum in the food industry and also a business opportunity. This gave rise to Soul Bakers.

The Initiation:

Baking was something that happened out of nowhere for Meeta. Surprisingly, she had never even touched an oven till about 5 years ago. She quit her regular job wanting to try and make something healthy and tasty for her children as the market didn’t have products that she was looking for. Hence, she started preparing products using healthy and organic ingredients such as whole-wheat, jaggery, sugar and cold-pressed olive oil instead of “Maida”, artificial sweetening agents and “Dalda” respectively. The outcome of her experiments came out exceedingly well.  She ended up with products that were not only healthy but tasted great too. She started sharing it with like-minded people and very quickly the orders started flowing in and a business was born.

Business Requirements: Once the name of the business gets decided, the business name and entity has to be registered. The following points should be considered before starting a business in this vertical:

  • Product: What will the product be?
  • Niche: Is the product filling an unfulfilled niche in the market?
  • Availability: How and where will the product be available in the market? This will directly be proportional to the shelf life of your product
  • Target Audience:  Identifying your target audience. Select those areas where you are going to distribute your product. For e.g., the target audiences for Soul Bakers are health conscious people. Hence, she didn’t go to Reliance or Big Bazaar for distribution.
  • Enrich your knowledge: Attending workshops that will help you fill in the knowledge gap and enhance your skill set to take the business ahead
  • Share your knowledge:Be a part of sessions and voluntarily contribute and share your knowledge with likeminded people
  • Test the waters:Put up small stalls at flea markets or bazaars and test the waters. Do tasting sessions and take note of feedback

Finding Money to Start:“Soul Bakers” is self-funded. That is what Meeta recommends if you are starting out with a unique product. However, one can approach different sources of monetary sources such as small business loans, personal investments, or government grant.

Business Plan/Model:

Marketing comes to her very naturally as she was working in the same sector for different MNC’s for a few years. Marketing involves distribution, pricing; it revolves around the 4P’s (Product, Price, Place and Promotion) which was easy for her to understand. She took a methodic approach.

Rules and Regulations while setting up the business:

Food is a very sensitive sector for two chief factors – Hygiene and Health. People pay their hard earned money to buy a slightly higher priced product with the promise of good health. Hence, a lot of things need to be considered in terms of laws and regulations.

Meeta mentioned that in her business ‘organic certification’ was one of the toughest hurdles. After weighing the pros and cons she decided to opt out of this.

What is her opinion on organic certification? How is it different? Why does she feel it is not relevant?

Organic Certification is not mandatory, but this gives you a seal of authentication. She wanted to build the trust with her customers on the basis of the quality and authenticity of the product She has taken the following certifications which took only a month or two:

1)    FSSAI certification

2)    Trade certificate by BBMP (Karnataka specific)

3)    Labour Law

4)    Weights and Measures

5)    VAT certificate.

Business Expansion, from home to factory: Very quickly the business had to move out of her basement to a factory. The search for one was also an adventure in itself. To set up a food based factory you need to keep in mind the following:

Why Soul Bakers is unique?

They offer a wide variety of organic products that are healthy and tasty! All their products are preservative free and have a longer shelf life as compared to others in the same categories. This is because of the innovation that the Soul Baker team has done in their baking techniques ensuring it lives up to its own high standards of quality and freshness.

Advice to the future entrepreneurs in this segment:

Keep your passion and business separate. Business comes from rational thinking. Please don’t confuse the two. Baking is not my passion; I felt that there is a need for such a product in the market. It started with my own children but very quickly I identified it as a market need and the fact that there is nothing currently existing in the market to fill the need. I decided to take it up as a business. Once you identify a need in the market, if it matches your interest, you can take it up”, she signs off.

Banani Das Dhar

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