Taste of Small Scale Entrepreneurship in Chennai – In the Choux of Daya’s Patisserie

Daya Shivani, a young baker and entrepreneur is on a mission to show people in Tamil Nadu that pastries dont always mean cake. Daya’s Patisserie was a dream that took shape through an Instagram Page in mid December 2020. Her pastries range from the traditional French Mille Feuille (a layered puff pastry) to a more experimental rhapsody of raspberries, pistachios and praline layered Joconde Cake (a French sponge cake.) “I work well with sweets. When it comes to adding salt I’ve always messed up but with sugar it’s always spot on!” she says jokingly.

Daya inherited her passion for cooking from her mother, but it was only during second year of Culinary School in Chennai, while experimenting with ingredients with a friend, that she realised her real interest lay in making pastries. So, she went to Bangalore to complete a diploma in French Pastries from Academy of Pastry Arts. “Bangalore already has great food and a lot of people catering french pastries and other things out of the ordinary. Back in Chennai these things are still new and only done by a few home bakers.” The best seller at Daya’s Patisserie is the Choux Creme. “It’s one of the simpler French pastries because it’s just a choux pastry with craquelin (a biscuit of sorts), yet people are baffled by the entire concept.” Daya wishes to acquaint and indulge Chennai’s population one soufflé at a time.

Daya’s Patisserie is currently a cloud kitchen armed with grade A appliances and a centralized AC based in Velachery. She plans to expand with a store front and a display in the following months. Almost all of the sales happen through her phone on Instagram, Facebook or Whatsapp.

A one woman army, Daya not only makes the pastries but also procures the ingredients, takes pictures for social media marketing, contacts bloggers, contacts pop-ups, discusses pastry options with clients with only one other person employed for daily maintenance of the kitchen. “It’s great being a single entrepreneur because you get to work on your own terms with your own limits, except when someone calls up and says: Hey! Can we get a 2 kg cake by today evening? I seldom say no, so it just means that I’ve got to work longer hours.”

Daya’s Patisserie has registered as a business with Swiggy Genie to handle logistics. This helped streamline the payment process for delivery. She prefers to book an Uber or personally deliver the more delicate pastries and tiered cakes.

Initially she marketed her pastries through food bloggers. “I was stressed about running the business on my own. So I sent my pastries to ‘A Girl with Taste’ who was the first food blogger I got in touch with. She gave me tips and feedback which boosted me to send it to more bloggers,” she recalls, “ By the time I sent it to 7-8 bloggers I realized that no matter how many followers they have, their followers would only follow a food page if they want to order from it regularly.”

It was with this realization that Daya started looking into other ways of getting word about her Patisserie to the masses. “There are alot of people organizing pop-ups in Chennai these days like Lime Soda Pop-up and Hermoso Events that cater specifically to bakers and small entrepreneurs. It’s usually a two day long event and they give you a table and a couple of plug points, so you just have to go setup your products. These people have a lot of followers so these events get a lot of footfall.” She feels that these pop-ups are a more beneficial method of marketing because it allows her to interact with her clients, introduce them to the various pastries (because French pastries and flavours are not common knowledge in Chennai) and gain feedback. Daya’s Patisserie featured in it’s first pop up by Lime Soda in March 2021.

The pandemic saw a surge in home bakers and small time entrepreneurs in the food industry. Their increasing popularity was because people did not go out as much anymore and they wanted to try new things. “A lot of the home bakers sell their pastries at a lower rate because they do it more out of passion and do not spend much time on the costing.” This makes it difficult for people like Daya with a cloud kitchen because they have to lower rates to meet the competition. “People come to me and say you’re just baking from home right, why are you so expensive? What they don’t realise is that we are still using electricity and ovens and in my case a central AC for my kitchen that runs the whole day.” Competition aside, people from the home baking community still reach out, try to help each other and share tips.

Recently it was made mandatory that all small food enterprises and home bakers would have to be licensed by FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) in order to function without being penalised. The body is working on creating an effective online platform to digitize and make the inspection process faster. This would reduce the inconvenience posed by physical approval processes, while kick starting the business.

With respect to being a small entrepreneur in a big market like Chennai, she believes that the initial ‘hustle’ is the hardest. Once the brand gets around the customer base is loyal so people keep coming back. “Till then you just have to keep going and stick it out. It’s a good place to start because there isn’t as much stress.”

The patisserie has been partly self-funded and partly funded by family. Daya’s Patisserie shoots for the stars. She has recently started courier service to other cities in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Bangalore. “French pastries don’t last as long outside so for now I only courier brownies and cookies outside Chennai.” She is also working on partnering with a delivery service so that she can safely ship her less stable mousse based desserts which need to be packed with ice to survive the Chennai heat. In the next 6-7 years she aims to grow the brand into a high-end French dessert bar in the heart of the city.

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