Ms. Aditi Handa, Co-founder & Head Chef at The Baker’s Dozen

Aditi Handa

Interview with Ms. Aditi Handa, Co-founder & Head Chef at The Baker’s Dozen

Aditi Handa, The Sourdough Protagonist completes 10 years in the industry – Onto making Sourdough a staple in every household

Aditi Handa is a renowned culinary expert and the co-founder and head chef of The Baker’s Dozen, a highly acclaimed bakery and patisserie.

With her exceptional skills and passion for baking, Aditi has elevated the art of desserts and pastries to new heights, delighting customers with her delectable creations.

Aditi’s journey into the world of baking began at a young age when she developed a fascination for the magic that happened in the kitchen.

Growing up, she spent countless hours experimenting with different ingredients and techniques, honing her skills and developing a deep understanding of the science behind baking.

Aditi’s commitment to using high-quality ingredients and her ability to balance traditional techniques with innovative ideas have made her a trailblazer in the industry.

Throughout her career, Aditi has been recognized and honored for her contributions to the culinary world.

Her expertise has been featured in various media outlets, and she has been invited to participate in prestigious culinary events and competitions.

Awards & Recognition won Aditi Handa:

  • Outlook Traveller Hospitality Awards- Chef of the year
  • Entrepreneur of the Year in Women Disruptors Awards by Adgully
  • Women Power Entrepreneur of the year by Billenium Divas
  • BW 40 Under 40 Club of Achievers
  • Women Power in Food & Beverage Industry by Billenium Divas

Aditi Handa’s passion, talent, and unwavering commitment to excellence have made her a prominent figure in the baking industry.

As the co-founder and head chef of The Baker’s Dozen, she continues to push the boundaries of what is possible in the realm of desserts, bringing joy and indulgence to people’s lives, one delectable creation at a time.

Congrats on completing 10 years in the sourdough industry, Aditi!

Can you tell us how you first got interested in sourdough bread making and what led you to become a sourdough protagonist?

Aditi Handa: The idea behind launching The Baker’s Dozen was quite simple: “We don’t get good bread in India.” It was challenging to find an authentic loaf of bread in 2012, and only a few select bakeries provided it.

India is a country that loves bread, whether it’s packed in our kids’ school tiffin or eaten as a quick evening snack.

I love sourdough because of its simplicity and versatility. Made with just four ingredients – flour, water, yeast, and salt – each step in the baking process plays a vital role in enhancing its flavor and texture. Sourdough adds oomph to the loaf effortlessly and increases its shelf life, keeping it fresh for longer.

During my training, I noticed that bread was an essential part of Indian meals, but many of our needs around it were overlooked.

We all want our bread to be a healthy treat that stays fresh for a longer period of time. Sourdough fits the bill perfectly by providing nutritional value and better shelf life. Therefore, I decided to introduce Indians to sourdough, so they can enjoy guilt-free daily meals.

Over the years, what have been some of the biggest challenges you faced in popularizing sourdough bread as a staple in households? How did you overcome them?

Aditi Handa: Struggles and Challenges have always been a part of my day-to-day professional life, right from keeping the product preservative-free to ensuring the authenticity of the product. Mentioning the top challenges which were faced in my life and the solutions applied to overcome them:

Chef Aditi Handa
  • Being true to the product and the brand ethics –

While adding preservatives was an easier way to enhance shelf life, it was against our principle of ‘no preservatives’ in our products.

Hence, we chose to research extensively and adapt a unique packaging technology that increased the shelf life of the product without adding preservatives to it. It was also for the first time in India that this method was used for packaging bakery products.

  • Transformation from a Chef to an Entrepreneur

As a Chef, I would always believe that my product is the best and I would be skeptical of customer feedback.

But as an entrepreneur, I learned to listen to a customer’s views and adapt products, and techniques accordingly without compromising on my fundamental principles.

  • Starting with a novel product –

Starting with a unique novel product such as sourdough, it took us time to win customer loyalty. Extensive product trials and customer education have helped us be the protagonists of the sourdough revolution in India.

Please tell us a little about your entrepreneurial journey

Aditi Handa: Our journey at TBD started in 2013 with a 1000 sq. ft. kitchen in Mumbai, and since then, we have grown to become one of the strongest brands in the Bakery category.

My vision was to create a bakery that served fresh, healthy, and affordable bread to people across the country.

As the head chef and founder of The Baker’s Dozen, I am truly grateful for the love and recognition that we receive for our work.

I have always tried to be honest towards my job, and it has been reciprocated by giving me the tag of ‘Sourdough protagonist’.

We started our journey with a small kitchen in Mumbai with 4 employees and now we are a team of 350+ skilled individuals.

It has been an incredible journey for me and The Baker’s Dozen team, and we are committed to our goal of becoming the preferred national bakery brand across e-commerce and Q-commerce marketplaces and servicing over 3 lakh orders a month on month while being EBITDA positive for the last two years.

Kindly brief us about The Baker’s Dozen (TBD), its specialization, and the products that it offers

Aditi Handa: We started our journey of The Baker’s Dozen (TBD) in 2013, with one store in Mumbai as a D2C brand producing 25 loaves a day with an aim to draw attention back to the age-old goodness of sourdough bread and put it on every dining table as an essential commodity.

The Baker’s Dozen today is India’s largest artisan bakery, making breads, cakes, cookies, crackers and premixes using natural ingredients.

The Baker’s Dozen is present across 33 cities and 2000 touch points in India. The Baker’s Dozen uses an omnichannel strategy and retails from 50 of its own stores, 600 Modern and general trade stores and is available on Ecommerce and Quick Commerce channels like Amazon, Flipkart, Big Basket, Zepto, Swiggy, Zomato and Blinkit. 

At TBD, we use AI-backed demand estimation along with an ERP for SKU-level traceability which ensures only the freshest products are available to our consumers. We offer a diverse range of over 60 delicious products including breads, cakes, crackers, and more.

How has the sourdough industry changed since you started, and where do you see it heading in the future?

Aditi Handa: When we started The Baker’s Dozen back in 2013, the sourdough industry was not as popular as it is today.

We were one of the pioneers in introducing sourdough to the Indian market. At the time, we had to educate customers about sourdough and its health benefits, as it was a relatively unknown concept in India.

But in recent years, artisanal bread made with traditional methods has witnessed a rise in appeal, particularly sourdough bread.

Witnessing this change in customer tastes has been fascinating. The rise in the number of bakeries selling sourdough bread is one of the key shifts we have seen in the sourdough sector.

Customers and most artisanal bakeries now consider it a staple. The rise in the number of bakeries selling sourdough bread is one of the key shifts we have seen in the sourdough sector.

Customers now have an abundance of options because it has become a staple in most artisanal bakeries.

Additionally, more home bakers are experimenting with sourdough, which has sparked the growth of a thriving sourdough enthusiast community.

Looking ahead, we think that as people become more health conscious and look for natural, traditional food options, sourdough’s popularity will only increase.

As people seek out healthier alternatives for all elements of their diets, including baked products like pastries and cakes, we also see the potential for sourdough to go beyond bread. Overall, we’re enthusiastic.

In your opinion, what are some of the key health benefits of consuming sourdough bread, and why do you think it should be a staple in every household?

Aditi Handa: I have always believed that eating food in its authentic form is always the tastiest and healthiest way to consume it. 

It does justice to the ingredient to its creator. Sourdough bread is the only way to consume bread, whether you want to have it as toast and butter or make a gourmet dish out of it.

The taste and texture of a sourdough always does justice to how we use it. Sourdough bread is a gut-friendly option that contains beneficial bacteria to aid in the breakdown of enzymes, ultimately improving our metabolism. Its gentle nature makes it a great choice for those looking to support their digestive health.

How do you ensure consistency and quality in your sourdough products, and what steps do you take to maintain the integrity of the sourdough culture?

Aditi Handa: As a bakery that prides itself on its sourdough products, we take great care to ensure consistency and quality in our sourdough bread.

Our sourdough culture is the heart of our products, and we take multiple steps to maintain its integrity. Firstly, we use high-quality ingredients that are carefully sourced to ensure consistency.

We then use a strict production process that involves fermentation and proofing for the right amount of time.

Our bakers carefully monitor the temperature and humidity levels to ensure optimal conditions for the sourdough culture.

We also have a team of experienced individuals who constantly monitor and adjust our sourdough culture to maintain its quality and consistency.

Additionally, we have rigorous quality control measures as we involve very less human touch to ensure that every loaf meets our high standards.

Overall, we believe that our commitment to quality and consistency is what sets us apart in the market, and we will continue to prioritize these values as we grow our business.

What are your future plans for expanding your business and making it even more accessible to people across different geographies?

Aditi Handa: Operationally and marketing-wise, we plan to expand our reach to Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities, strengthen brand awareness, fortify marketing and distribution efforts (both online and offline) across geographies, and reach 2,000 touch points with more than 100 standalone stores across the country.

Our aim is to expand our product portfolio in the bread category and introduce tea-time toasts, different cookies, etc.

For new product development, taste, convenience, authenticity, and nutritional quality are the factors that we will be focusing on.

With the aim of reaching INR 200 Cr ARR by FY24, and making The Baker’s Dozen India’s fastest-growing D2C bakery brand.

What was the inspiration behind turning into an entrepreneur?

Aditi Handa: As said earlier, we had a feedback ‘India mein achi bread nahi milti’. I had always dreamed of starting my own business, but I knew that I needed to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge before venturing out on my own. That’s why I decided to enroll in the International Culinary Centre (ICC) in New York to learn baking.

I had no prior experience in baking, but on my fifth day at ICC, I baked my first sourdough bread. As I touched the dough to check if it was ready to be shaped, I felt an overwhelming love and passion for baking that I had never experienced before. I knew that I had found my life’s purpose and that I was meant to be a baker.

Mixing, proving, and shaping bread with utmost care and gentleness became my true passion. While I never aspired to be an entrepreneur, a manager, or to run a business, I decided to sell the bread that I baked to earn a living.

I wanted to share my passion with others and provide them with delicious, healthy bread made with traditional techniques.

Starting The Baker’s Dozen was a natural progression from there. I was able to combine my love for baking with my desire to start a business.

Today, The Baker’s Dozen is one of the most popular artisanal bakeries in India, and I am proud to have been a part of its growth and success.

What are your success tips for young and aspiring entrepreneurs?

Aditi Handa: Don’t do it alone, Find a Co-Founder: This is something every entrepreneur should do, find a co-founder with a complementary skill set.

Entrepreneurship is a long, difficult journey that requires an array of skills. Everyone needs a partner who will be your shoulder to lean on.

It’s ok to drop a few things

As someone who wants to be successful, we are always trained that we must always be on it, be the best and do it all.

That’s never true, the only way to do it all is to accept that I will have to drop a few things. If I need to be at the plant today, I won’t be able to put my kids to sleep.

If I want to vacation with my family I won’t be able to resolve all work concerns that day. The day we accept it will always be a give and take we will be far more content and successful. And you know what…it’s not a compromise or a shortcoming. It’s a balanced way to live life.

Delegate but always be aware of the last detail

I think as one chooses to grow, delegation is very important, almost critical. However, I feel a lot of us go wrong in thinking delegating means disconnecting or being less aware of the work.

With my teams when I delegate we sit down together to structure reporting formats in a way where I have very detailed visibility even on the smallest task. The same is available to the entire team so we are always on the same page.

Get your ecosystem on board

I feel as women we always have and will continue to have a multitude and diverse set of responsibilities on our plate.

To be able to do these well it’s important for our ecosystem which could be our immediate family, close friends, and even close work colleagues understand the complexity of it.

They will need to help pitch in as and when required, sometimes to cook a meal, to pick up kids from school, to give a download of a meeting we had to miss, etc.

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