Home-based small food business is gaining a large consumer base, thanks to the niche products and clients they cater to. Poorva Tamhane delves into the strategy behind such successful enterprises
The public appetite for good and honest has been a long time coming in India. People today travel far and wide which has brought them in contact with cuisine that they would like to sample and taste even when they’re back home. And that’s where gourmet business comes in. Due to our vibrant food choices and varied cultures it is easier for such businesses to spring up. Another factor that has contributed in the mushrooming of these pret gourmet businesses is the rise of the star celebrity chef as seen on television which has motivated people with culinary skills to take a step ahead in bringing their product to the market. Homegrown businesses are an exciting endeavour but one must tread with caution.
One step at a time
As with any business it is essential to plan before setting out into the market. Sucheta Thakur of Icekreamskee, who has been making ice-creams since 1999, says, “When starting off one must be careful, do adequate research and be prepared to meet any kind of unexpected pitfalls. Taking constructive criticism from friends and family is great but the real challenge is to take your product to complete strangers and prove to them that it fills a niche and that they can’t do without it.” Twinkle Renes of The Dessert House wanted to get into gourmet but she never seemed to find the time.
“I was determined so I started watching Youtube videos about baking which were a disaster at first but slowly started yielding results as my technique improved,” she says sharing that she now takes classes on the weekends to teach other interested candidates.
When it comes to handling your first business Apeksha Jain, owner of The Gourmet Jar, says, “Specialty foods is a very vigorous market. The search for new tastes drives a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds into this market. The Banana Jam I had on a holiday to Burgundy, France was simply heavenly. In an effort to replicate it once we got home, this passion project began.”
Knowing your craft
Though there’s room for new entrepreneurs, some great products never make it to consumers because the makers fail to learn some basics about the food business. “I took a short course at The Renaissance Hotel & Convention Centre for about four months which gave a boost to my skills as well as business acumen,” Sharleen Annunciation-Gaokar, owner of Sharleen’s Cakes & Confectionary explains.
Thakur too holds a degree in food and nutrition which came in handy for her enterprise when she began. She ventured into ice-creams as she wanted some alternative options for her daughter growing up. She now has specials such as – Jalebi Ice-cream, Iceberg which is a combination of Blue Curacao and Lemon and Chilli Guava ice-cream. “Most homemade food ventures are the result of a labour of love,” she says.
Keeping it fresh
Sourcing products and storing is a critical factor too. “Buying in bulk and from wholesale markets is a cost effective move and saves up a lot of time as well,” explains Renes while Annunciation-Gaokar adds, “I buy all my ingredients from the local store as I better understand where the products are sourced from and can always go back for more when I’m in need of urgent restocking.”
Becoming industry ready
Then there is the added task of following production, labelling and marketing requirements. Thakur says, “You can’t simply make a food item in your home kitchen, place it in a bottle, and start selling it. It has to be marketed in a friendly fashion especially since one associates homemade products with familiarity and warmth.”
The Gourmet Jar’s signature Orange Whiksy Marmalade was awarded a Bronze medal in the World Marmalade Awards 2015 that took place in Dalemain, UK. Jain says it is crucial to have a signature product that leaves customers wanting more. “The strategy should be to have customers associate your brand with a few products and then get them to try some new ones as well.”
There is also the visibility factor at play. Often the entrepreneurs who succeed are the ones that do the most research and talk to most people about their product. Thakur says, “Your product has to be seen and heard. There is also a need to have some presence on social media although that might not seem to give a quick response at first but it creates an impact in the minds of potential customers.” Jain agrees that having a website of one’s own is a tested conventional medium that works in favour of showcasing one’s products and building trust with the customer. “Since, I had a food blog already the transition was easier,” she adds.
Roadmap for the future
Businesses that engage in such a niche market are often subjected to the pressures of expanding out into retail which could at times even hamper the products quality. There is therefore a need to have a business development plan in place preferably at the outset itself. “Having established a customer base since 2012 we are now looking to add more savory spreads to the portfolio, and maybe have our own retail stores across India. Expanding your business and making plans can be in the form of a working document, one that would do justice to the direction in which your business is headed,” Jain adds.
Thakur says, “The secret to a successful business enterprise is probably working hard and realising that it is a product that I love and that I want to share with everybody. Building it up will make people happy and that would be a reward in itself.”