The room is engulfed in a warm sweet scent. There is that familiar aroma of melted butter and caramelised sugar that is always a treat for the olfactory sense. A couple of tactful hands are at play kneading the dough while some others sprinkle tiny bits of candied fruit. The massive ovens hum along in the backdrop as if indicating that they are ready to assimilate the prepared mixture. After a seemingly long wait, the doors are opened to reveal the baked goodies. Golden brown with generous portions of a maroon confectionery, the much-in-demand Karachi Bakery fruit biscuits are ready. This and much more is a customary exercise at the 60-year-old baker’s factory unit near Shamshabad in Hyderabad that produces three to four tonnes of biscuits daily. The franchise is fondly known as the ‘True icon of Hyderabad baking’.
As good as new
This bakery enterprise was the creation of Khanchand Ramnani, a native of Karachi in Pakistan, who chose to settle in India after the Partition. At a time when the scarcity of fuel for cooking resulted in deaths due to starvation, Ramnani ventured into the bakery business and he began making rusk and bread with his three sons: Hassaram, Narayandas and Ramesh. In 1953, brothers Narayandas and Hassaram chose to take a bigger leap and diversify the business into biscuits, cakes and pastries. Thus, Karachi Bakery’s first outlet was set up in Moazzam Jahi Market, one of the busiest markets in the city of Charminar.
The bakery today, offers a wide range of products ranging from biscuits, cookies, cakes, cupcakes, macaroons, rusks, sweets, pastries, chocolates, snacks and artisan varieties of bread. It is managed today by the third generation of the Ramnani family — Rajesh, Harish and Vijay Ramnani — who are eager to take forward the legacy of the franchise. “In 1953, we did not have a manufacturing unit; we procured material from other bakeries and sold it. Then, in the 1960s, we started our own small production unit and eventually discovered our signature product (the fruit biscuits),” recalls Rajesh Ramnani, director, Karachi Bakery.
However, defying conventional business beliefs, this little bakery store decided to deliberately go slow when it came to expansion. The trio had bigger aspirations and they wanted to concentrate on improving their limited product base and build a strong regional brand first. And the recipe was indeed delivering expected results as its five-product strong brand in 2006 was gaining popularity not solely for the legacy but also for its quality. Karachi Bakery’s biscuits are hand-made and carry the claim of being fit for consumption for a month. Quality remains a cornerstone of the brand’s policy. Rajesh adds how his grandfather would say, “If you want to do good business, you have to retain the quality at an affordable price and thus expand your consumer base”. Today, its signature products — including the hugely popular fruit biscuit, Osmania, and cashew variants —account for 40% its revenue. The biscuits are priced between 125 and 499 for a 400 gm pack.
Once the ingredients for growth were identified and the brand was established, the company shifted focus to profitability. In 2006, Karachi Bakery set up outlets in different parts of Hyderabad — Banjara Hills, Madhavpur, Secunderabad and Gachibowli. “Hyderabad was and is a typically biscuit consuming market. Just how Mumbai is famous for its vada-pav and Kolkata for its fish, Hyderabad, after idlis, is famous for its rusks and biscuits. The Nizami food culture encouraged the creation of rich, dried fruit biscuits from which this market emerged and continues to follow a similar pattern,” explains Harish Ramnani, co-director of the company. In an effort to cater to this demand, Karachi Bakery’s biscuit collection includes butter, choco-cashew, badam-pista, coconut, and chocolate biscotti variants. Today, the stores in Hyderabad attract an average daily footfall of 1,000-1,500 people and registers an average ticket size of 800.
Once the city of Hyderabad was conquered, the bakery chain wan- ted to stake claim to the national market share. The southern brand tied up with marquee retailers such as D-Mart, Big Bazaar and also with a few local retailers across the country. “We launched new flavours and introduced the concept of British, Italian and US cookies…