This young lady with a bright smile will be a second-time participant at the Baker Showcase Edition 3 this Saturday, February 2nd. Subhatra's was the only table chock-a-block with chocolates in all shapes, sizes and colours at the 1st Baker Showcase held last June. (The rest of the tables were filled with baked goodies.) Her wares were eye-catching, mouthwatering and unique, all rolled into one. This time, however, she will be sharing the platform with two other chocolatiers, making this Showcase one to watch out for!
Her cleverly titled venture 'Choc Of The Town' has seen many festivals, occasions and nationwide print, TV and radio coverage by now. In the past 2 years, she has established her online business across India and receives orders from Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Mumbai besides Chennai of course. She has tied up with a nationwide courier company for the same. Packaging here plays a vital role since the chocolates require to be packed with ice around the boxes for long distance travel.
The Diwali season is both the best as well as the busiest period for her business. I remember doing an article on her venture for the Chennai Spice Newsletter last Diwali after randomly coming across the attractive pictures on Facebook. Inspiration struck and the ink flowed upon witnessing every woman's favourite and sinful indulgence - chocolate - in so many forms and varieties! :-) It was a complete surprise for Subhatra since she had no idea that the article was getting published. I had not even contacted her for a soundbyte!
|Toy-Shaped Coloured Chocolates|
It wasn't such a happy phase for Subhatra though unlike the pleasant memory it was for me :P Deluged with last minute orders, Subhatra successfully managed to please her customers with the help of her small team, although she was completely stressed out. She has even had to hire people around such crazy periods to handle the sudden and increasing demands from customers. Corporate orders and local and online-based orders take up the bulk of her time. She chills out by devoting her spare time to painting - on glass and canvas, and ensuring weekends are utilised purely for relaxation. She enjoys cooking on weekends and tries out a new chicken-based recipe each week from the Internet.
Subhatra keeps up with market trends by experimenting with new flavours every month. The focus is always on maintaining rapport with clientele and ensuring prompt delivery of orders. She says it’s always the small touches that matter. Currently, there is one permanent employee and her mother who pitches in to help her. By and large, it is Subhatra who does the painting of portraits on chocolates, colouring lollipops, moulding them into various shapes (heart-shaped chocs are obviously the oft-repeated order!), and decorating chocolate bouquets – a popular form of gifting among corporates and individuals alike.
|Portrait Chocolates - Actor Rajnikanth|
I found Subhatra’s story of how she got into this field rather interesting. She was in Delhi post marriage and worked for a year in an IT startup, post her software engineering degree course. Although she was happy at her job, she desired to strike out on her own. She enrolled in a short-term residential entrepreneurship program at IIM-B, which gave her a good foundation for starting a business venture. The basics of accounting, marketing and drawing up a business plan were all part of the curriculum. She derived much inspiration from her fellow classmates who were from different backgrounds and walks of life. Within a month of this program, Choc of the Town was born!
In order to arrive at her dream business venture, true to her training, she undertook an exercise in planning and preparation. Subhatra jotted down her thoughts in what she calls her ‘Ideas Book’. In this, she tracked all the activities she enjoys - be it painting, drawing, interior decorating, creative artwork etc. It gave her a roadmap on how to proceed in the venture she was interested in, and to arrive at an avenue that matched her skills and interests. She had almost zeroed in on opening a florist outlet. Meanwhile, she also attended classes on chocolate making in Delhi and Chennai. She eventually realized that making chocolates would fulfill all her creative urges. She could paint, draw, try out different moulds and shapes, and be creative with the packing and decoration.
|Bourbon Biscuits Coated with White Chocolate|
Regarding the types of orders she gets, nearly 80% of the portrait orders are from much-in-love couples who like to gift one another their respective portraits on chocolates! There’s a lot of writing and wordings of sweet-nothings on the sweet nothings (!), especially for birthdays, Valentine’s Day, wedding/anniversary gifts on most of the orders.
According to Subhatra, the biggest learning for her so far is to be prepared, and well in advance, especially when hit with a sudden deluge of orders. Ironically, they usually come at the same time (Murphy's Law, anyone?)! Hiring and training is time-consuming, yet necessary as the business grows. Last minute orders can upset the balance, and hence planning and preparation helps. Ensuring on-time delivery is crucial and much follow-up is required to balance all these factors.
Easiest dessert to make – Butterscotch chocs and Marie biscuits dipped in chocolate
Toughest dessert to make – Portraits and writing on chocs, which requires complete concentration and is a challenge given the tiny canvas to display everything on!
Fave dish - Egg curry and Masala dosa
Fave dessert – Strawberry-centred chocolates, cookies & macaroons
Family’s most requested dessert from her – White chocs with fruit or coffee-based centre fillings
Fave ingredient – Fresh cream, especially for centre fillings
Fitness mantra – Morning walks and breathing exercises that instantly bring peace and calm
Fellow Showcase participant’s goodies she would most like to try – Karthika Shravanthi's Bourneville Brownie Mint Sandwich. She also admires the range of desserts from another popular home-baker, Linu Paul.
Subhatra is proud to be one of the earliest members of HBG and to witness its growth. She calls it a "one-stop-forum" for all baking-related info that motivates people from all over the world to try their hand at discovering their latent cooking, baking and creative talents. For her, HBG is a great source of inspiration. She considers the Baker Showcase event a fantastic platform to spread the word about one's business and ascertain crowd response.
- Fruit & Animal Themed Chocs
- White Chocs in food-grade colours
- Assorted Nut-Flavoured Chocs - crunchy almond, butterscotch, fruit & nut, dark, rice crispies
- Biscuits Dipped in Chocolate - Marie, Wafers, Li'l Hearts, Bourbon
- Soft-Centred Chocs with different Flavour Fillings - strawberry, coffee, mango, litchi and caramel
- Ocean-Themed Shell-Shaped Chocs - white & dark chocs mixed together