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By TPCI | September 11, 2019

From humble origins as a sweet shop started on a Rs 500 loan in 1961, Lovely Sweets evolved into a popular brand name in the state of Punjab. Later, they diversified into auto dealerships with Bajaj two-wheelers. But its next big leap into education was even more staggering with the launch and success of Lovely Professional University, which has helped build careers of thousands of students. 

Shaishav Mittal is a scion from the third generation of the founder family, and started managing Lovely Sweets in 2009. Inspired by the success of this family venture, Shaishav was long captivated by the idea of a bakery. He saw an untapped potential for eggless but was a little apprehensive on the execution of the business idea in an extremely crowded market. Later on of course, he realized that his venture, which we now know as Lovely Bake Studio, was a brilliant idea to embark on.

In this conversation with IndusFood, Mr. Shaishav Mittal, CEO, Lovely Bake Studio, speaks volumes about his success specifically through the platform of IndusFood and how Lovely Bake Studio plans to be the next big exporters of “eggless bakery products” and go global.

IndusFood: What was the inspiration and business idea behind the brand “Lovely Bake Studio” when it was founded? How did the business evolve in the initial years?
Shaishav Mittal: We created the brand Lovely Bake Studio in the year 2014. I was prompted by the idea of a bakery at the showrooms of Lovely Sweets, one of the country’s finest brands, which is making a range of delicious products. I used to be a part of the brand and I still work for them. During my routine activities at Lovely, I observed a surprising fact; a large chunk of customers used to ask for bakery products daily, while they visited Lovely Sweets. This triggered us to do some research. And the process started.

We at Lovely are pure vegetarians and eggless. So the concept that we wanted to promote from day one was “eggless and vegetarian”. Eventually, what we found during our research was that there was a huge gap in the market in terms of availability of these products (eggless baked products), and the gap still persists.

Surprisingly, a majority of the bakeries or dairies in Delhi, which sell dairy and bakery products today, are not at all eggless. Thus, from the day one, our vision and mission was crystal clear that we would engage exclusively in the making of eggless cookies.

I started off with Lovely Bake Studio in 2014 and the plan was an instant hit. Slowly the popularity grew to Amritsar, Punjab and even to London. People travelling from London started asking us to ship our products to them in their hometowns. And that’s when we thought, “Why not package the most premium regular selling products and try to establish the market in India for eggless biscuits, cookies, cakes and dry cakes?”

Eventually, we were able to establish the market within North India. The first account which we cracked was WS Smith. That is still a source of nostalgia for us. Thereafter, once we had developed the packaging for our products, we also started selling at all the major airports in India. Our products were all at the shelves for both domestic and international buyers. Since then it has been a good off-take.

Eventually our products got further recognized at the shelves of many modern retail establishments, such as Reliance, Walmart, 24*7, D-Mart and many other top-notch players.

IndusFood: What were the major challenges to growth and expansion and how did you meet them?
SM: The first challenge was the price, because we were eggless and using premium ingredients like almond, cashew, oats, etc; which in turn made our products costly. It took us time to convince the market (retailer distributor) and the partners that this entire idea of eggless bakery can actually work.

However, the first year was really tough for us. We had to explain the product and then receive the feedback. It was only after the first year of our launch that we started receiving good response from the market.

Moreover, there is a problem which a new brand usually faces; the retailers are not very sure whether the products that they are going to put on their shelves will be supplied on time or the quality will remain consistent. Also, since the pricing is high, they generally fear the possibility that the product may not sell.

But I believe that once the product gains shelf space, these hurdles would never last long. In our case, above all, we also had few promotional schemes that were exclusively designed for our retailers. Besides, we had deputed our own promoters and samplers in various supermarkets, whether India or abroad; to promote, generate awareness and educate the masses about our product. Thus, these tactics coupled with our decent packaging of products helped us to sustain the initial hiccups to a large extent and build the brand really well.

IndusFood: How do you ensure that quality standards are maintained in your products?
SM: We have our own manufacturing factories and facilities, which sprawl across the North Indian region. We have our own labs in our manufacturing plants wherein our products undergo regular testing; whether it is raw material, processed or the final produce, every ingredient of our products is tested. At times, as per need and requirement of the buyer, these are also NABL certified and we ensure the highest quality.

We put a lot of checks on the raw materials before they are processed to finished goods, thereby ensuring that the quality is consistent every time with every bite. We are ISO 22000, 15000 and 9001 certified, which are few of the highest marks of quality. We also have the finest quality machines in our labs; these machines are imported from around the globe to make these bakery products.

Secondly, our USP is the “ingredients” that we use. These are fresh and un-preserved, and thus they are wholesome too.

IndusFood: How has the brand progressed on the international front? What are the key markets you are targeting for your products and why (domestic and international)?
SM: We have been exhibiting in various national and international exhibitions from the last three years now. Interestingly, we did not receive a single order from our participation for the first two years (in various exhibitions). But this is where persistence comes into play. In many instances, buyers want to judge whether the brand has a long time vision or not. So, for the first two years we utilized the platforms for brand building.

It was only by this year that we received orders from buyers in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sydney, USA, Chile and Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, I am glad to announce that except Dubai, we found all our other buyers from IndusFood. I must say, our perseverance and TPCI’s consistent efforts have paid off.

However, our products are very universal in nature. So going further, Canada, US and Middle East countries will continue to be big consumers for us.

IndusFood: How do you see the growth in the Indian food and agro processing industry both in general and within the snacks segment? How is it expected to reflect on the exports front?
SM: There are two major factors, which are helping the overall processing industry. One, the population is increasing. People need to have at least three meals a day. That means they will definitely need to have some snacks. Owing to this very fact, the demand is set to gain global momentum. 

Secondly, people are willing to try newfangled and healthy products, even if the price is higher. Therefore, we have ensured that all our products are rich in healthy nuts & grains like cashews, almonds and oats. Our entire product range is very low in sugar. Besides, we make all our products with pure butter. Therefore, we have tried to incorporate healthy and farm-fresh ingredients to make our products invigorating.

Since, India is projected as an export-hub in the near future, all the market players, say farmers, manufacturers and distributors will be benefited from this industry. Talking about Lovely Bake Studio, today almost 10% of our business is exports, which we target to reach to increase to at least 20-25% in the next financial year.

IndusFood: How do you plan to expand in the near future?
SM: We are going to embark on a completely organic journey very soon. This is a concept, which is being developed for the very first time in India. And we are also now certified by the Government of Sikkim and Government of India to sell our products in India as well as abroad.

We have come up with almond roasted cookies wherein we have used “Sattu ka aata”, i.e. barley flour instead of regular wheat, whose health benefits are all known to us. Besides, we also have amaranth cookies along with millets and seven grains biscuits.

Moreover, people today know about the health and medical benefits of organic produce. Thus, we are pretty sure that our organic range will be a success. However, finding organic ingredients from India remains a challenge for us currently. There are only a few regions like Sikkim and Himalayan regions, where farmers are actually doing organic farming. Since the supply is limited, the prices are a little high.

The other major challenge for us to enter the organic segment is the fact that lots of farmers lack “organic” certification. So, until and unless we are very sure that the farmer is cultivating organic produce, we just cannot put them in the recipe.

IndusFood: Please share your experience of the previous editions of the IndusFood event. What are your plans for the upcoming fixture in 2020?
SM: I must congratulate IndusFood, as they are facilitating the small to medium to big time players to launch their products in the international market. It even gave us a platform to educate and make buyers across the globe aware about the quality of our products. This is the very first initiative, which has happened in India. So, it is really a prudent platform and the results generated by it are burgeoning. A range of organic cookies, biscuits, and sweets is slated to be launched by us, and we are planning to place them for the very first time in IndusFood 2020.