“We’re just hoping to stay afloat until this ends”

Family And Partners, Women Entrepreneurs With More Than A Decade’s Work Put In Building Their Brand. Happy Belly Bakes Was A Fairytale Story. Then Came The Pandemic…

For Tripti and Shisham Hinduja, their satisfaction lies in their customers’. From cakes to waffles, crepes to pizzas and pastas, you name it and you will find it on their menu. With four branches in the city, and a loyal clientele that will vouch for their quality, Happy Belly Bakes is a café that has a cozy aura that’ll make you stop counting the calories. Not that they only deal in sugar-filled goodies. For the health-conscious, they even have a keto range.

The café was born not out of well-planned ideas or on the back off investors. It was a thought that came from two women’s love for cooking, one a home baker and other a head chef at a restaurant in Chennai.

“The idea to start a café of our own came after she married my brother. I was already making chocolates at home and doing a few corporate orders, supplying to some corporate events. Diwali is a big thing for us and Tripti helped me with the first season. She is a chef; she was a head chef in Chennai. Her passion is baking and that’s how we actually started,” says Shisham.

“After our first season, we gathered a little bit of money to move out of home and open up our first kitchen. That’s when we started off together. We decided to go with a pastry line and started off really small with orders coming from friends and family. That grew eventually. We were also supplying to a few cafes and restaurants, so we had some sturdy business that was coming in through the month. And slowly that grew.”

While it has been more than a decade of satisfying Bangalorean bellies, the start was no fairy tale. “We had a very kind person who gave us a space for about a year and he told us you guys have this space till you figure out what you have to do. He gave it to us rent-free and asked us to figure things out in a year. We had up to September or October and we eventually ran short of that space as well and that’s when we moved into another kitchen, that was the first café that we opened up.”

While her company and its product have grown since the first time it was introduced, Shisham reiterates that her beginnings were humble “We started at home, without any equipment. No one invested in us. Luckily for us, there weren’t many people baking back then but there was a lot of demand. And it just organically grew from there. We started with a really small oven at home, and baked our way through. Whatever little profits we made were put into buying an industrial oven and everything else we needed. That’s how we have grown. We never borrowed money or had someone invest in us, we earned and put it back into our business.”

The quirky yet simple name is something that catches your attention, whether you are driving past their quaint stores or browsing on one of the many food delivery apps. “The name for the café was just something that came to me. A name is something that you usually think about, and you go through multiple names together before settling on one. When you fall upon something or create something, you know that this is it. This is what sounds right to you. The attraction was strong to me when this name came to my head and I said this is it,” says Tripti.

For any business that has grown brick by brick, with a whole lot of time and effort invested, pandemics are never good for business. And Happy Belly Bakes was hit hard too. “I don’t think at that time we even realised how it is going to hit us. I don’t think we planned it through, in that sense. No one did. We said ‘okay, it is here and everybody’s going through it’. Obviously, we didn’t know how to work it and we were trying to figure out what the right thing to do was, whether we should call our staff or not, pay them or not pay them. There were so many things. It is about survival for everyone, nobody really thought this pandemic will hit us the way it did.”

But they have pulled through, with the help of those around them and their loyal customers. “My brother, who is also involved in the business now, has been a very strong force for us. He envisioned how it was going to be and kind of helped us sail through. And we have a really supportive team that came together when needed. That team support is necessary to pull through such tough times. We have had to make some changes, like maintaining social distancing or not having more than one or two staff members at a time. But they have all been very supportive. So far, we have been okay, although it was very scary in the beginning.”

They have sailed past troubled times, but things have changed a bit. The staff size has been reduced and are on shifts to comply with the many norms, the menu has become smaller and business isn’t booming. “We have gone through any changes, from having less staff to a smaller menu. 2020 year was all about hoping to stay afloat and move on to the next. We’re just trying to ride the tide and keep going until this ends.”

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