13
June

Eggless Address

Story by R S Gull in June, Jammu

A year after graduating, she married in a housewife-seeking baker family. As the pressure mounted to create resources to fund better education for her three children Rachna Dubey started her struggle and transformed the family business for the first time in nearly 75 years. Two years after, she is Jammu’s only address for eggless bakery. Her Giriraj Bakery is manned by nine staffers, with monthly sale touching half a million at a huge three ton flour input, reports R S Gull

Actions speak loud

A conservative Tarseen Lal Sharma had brought up his three daughters literally in greenhouse. He was employee in Jammu’s DC office and his wife a teacher. They educated their daughters well but rarely could they “cross the border of Jammu”. They knew their responsibility. Educate them and get them settled.

In 1998, Rachna completed her BSc from Women College in Ghandi Nagar. A year after she was wife of Mahesh Dubey. Only son of his father, Mahesh was a commerce graduate. Instead of making an effort to get into the services sector, Dubey’s preferred him to carry on the family business – a bakery they were running for three generations.

Then, they lived in Mastgarh on a link road to Jammu. They had an old traditional oven that would bake the routine Kachuris and Kulchas. The family had missed the bus of improving the systems even as the society had changed, completely. By the time, Rachna started thinking of advising a change, she was mother of three kids.

“I had my kids studying in Judhamal School and one day I seriously felt lack of resources to manage proper education of my two kids,” Rachna said, frequently being interrupted by the clients paying for their orders. “The situation proved so grave that I had to withdraw my kids from the expensive school and get them admitted to an economic Maha Rishi Vidya Mandir.” That proved a turned point.

By then, it had been two years that I was pushing the family to seek a loan and improve the livelihood conditions,” Rachna said. “As the future of my kids was at stake, I came out of my home to hunt for an opportunity.” Instead of finding a job, she wanted to improve the business the family had inherited.

District Industries Centre (DIC) was her first stop. She was giving a peephole introduction of the Prime Minister’s Employement Generation Programme (PMEGP). It had the subsidy element but beyond half a million requirement, she had to go to the bank. It was the collateral part of the plan that discouraged her. “Our property had joint ownership and nobody was willing to mortgage it,” Rachna says. “Then somebody, somebody told me about the EDI and a visit changed my perception about what can be done.”

She had only one option: food processing. But there were not many applicants. “I would keep my youngest kid with my mom and routinely visit the EDI,” she remembers. “One fine day, the officials felt moved that I was going to EDI daily and there was not enough of quorum to start training so they took an internal decision and admitted me in a general course.”

It was March 18, 2012, a day, she says she can not forget when she was in a training class. “It was so different that I had to start unlearning the past to learn the new things, ideas and things that I never knew,” Rachna said, while going through the two “prized” notebooks of the training era, she has preserved as her “monument” and a “prize”. The notebooks have recorded the lecturers, the lecturers, ideas and the process – anything and everything that happened during the training. It also has a dozen odd visiting cards of the experts who visited the trainees, still pinned. “For those hours, I had forgotten that I have a young kid to take care of. I remember April 4, 2012 when my guru said it is over.”

The Bakery with a difference.

Dream project

The next challenge was to get the equipment that her dream project required. “I saw God helping me directly,” Rachna says. “I just got information that a food processing exhibition is going is about to start in Pragati Maidan and I approached my father – now a post-retirement stamp vendor, and father-daughter left for Delhi.”

Seeing Metro

This was for the first time Rachna had moved out of Jammu, in a train. “We had seen Metro on TV and this visit enabled us to avail this service to reach Palam Pathak where my uncle lived,” she remembers. “Bt once I collected almost three bags of pamphlets of the equipments on display and calculated at home, it was so costly that, it seemed attempting the project was impossible.”

Products asserting

While leaving Pragati Maidan, there was a person who was offering handbills about his products asserting that he has no stall but he manufacturers the equipment. “I traced it and I rang him up and that gave a satisfaction that the project is doable,” Rachna says. “Next day, we travelled to UP’s Apsara Badu and met the manufacturer and the deal was struck. The machines he was making were within the range we had.”

Exploring Margins

"Bed room was devoured by the rotary oven,”

It was another lengthy process or procure the counters. Father-daughter travelled Delhi thrice and finally managed parts partly from UP and Delhi. Within a month, the machines arrived and started the literal dismantling of their home, now in Trikuta Nagar. “My bed room was devoured by the rotary oven,” she laughingly informs. “One of my wardrobes got converted into a standing store and our dining table was pulled out to become Giriraj Bakery’s Cake and Pastry section.” The unit started its operations on May 11, 2013 after a month long installation. Location of the shop proved a bigger advantage.

Maze of energy bureaucracy.

But there were many twists. Within two weeks of the happy start, the machines stopped operations and situation forced us to resort to old Bhati that we had deliberately avoided destroying. Engineers said the equipment will not operate at such a low energy in-put. This introduced Rachna to the maze of energy bureaucracy. “I was begging every engineer to set it right, all promised help but nobody rescue us,” she said.

Call from CM’s aide

One day, her phone rang and it was EDI asking her to participate in a gathering of successful entrepreneurs, a function Chief Minister would preside over. She was even asked to share her struggle with the audience. “Till 2 PM I worked at the bakery and I took an hour off to write my speech and by 4.30 PM I was asking everybody if I can say all this,” Rachna says. “I told everything were honestly and boldly and within hours the function was over, I got a call from CM’s aide and things started moving.”

Baking the future

They took their time.

Officials in the power department started yielding but they took their time. “I was getting calls on daily basis till one day a transformer landed at my doorstep,” Rachna says. “Though I required 25 KV transformer, they came with 65 KV because they wanted to keep the locality happy at my cost – something that I objected to and they have agreed to rectify.”

Happy to have succeeded

Rachna is happy to have succeeded. She now owns a rotary oven, a spiral mixer, a planetary mixer and a cutter besides lot many small things that the family already had. “Our project was worth Rs 9.80 lakh and it envisaged equipment cost of Rs 8.50 lakh and a working capital of Rs 1.42 lakh,” said the entrepreneur. “I just paid a margin money of Rs 42,000.”

Shakahari bureaucrats

Now the family has moved from the Kachuri days. It is the only address in Jammu for eggless bakery, a key attraction for vegetarian people. “We use milk polish and avoid non-veg completely,” Rachna, a thorough vegetarian herself said. “We maintain a quality and that is getting us clients from all the corners of Jammu.” Her clients include many shakahari bureaucrats and businessmen. Items in the basket have grown up: there are five varieties of Kachuris, two diversities of rusks, a good biscuit portfolio, snacks, pizzas, sandwiches, muffins, cream rolls, cakes and pastries, and puddys.

Time to go to EDI

A guest faculty!

But her bakery is not a one-couple show. “We have nine formal employees manning three sections of our products and everyone gets paid in time – three of them Rs 10,000 each,” Rachna said. “My husband is the face of the counter and I personally manage everything in the back-end.” She now manages her time between the bakery, the shop and interaction with officials. “We still do not take bulk orders because we need to add up to our capacities,” Rachna said. “I have to take time to go to EDI whenever they require my interaction with the new entrants.” She is a resource persons now, a guest faculty!

“The margins are good.”

Within less than a year, the unit has a three ton four consumption in a month. “We are right now having a sale turnover of more than three lakh rupees a month and it is growing,” she said. “The margins are good.” ”

“I still cook the family meals,”

The family has no guests because they lack space to house them. But she is keen to dismantle it further to expand the counters. She wants to establish it a model unit before thinking of a chain, a dream she says she is committed to. She will not shift to an industrial estate even if she gets land because she owes part of her success to the location of her house. Her children have started thinking in terms of making value-additions in future.

Rachna is candid in admissions that it is she who takes most of the decisions of the family. But being empowered does not entail a disruption in tradition and routine. “I still cook the family meals,” she insists and breaks into a laughter.