Nurturing Dreams, Baking Success: An Interview with Prameela (Pam) of Pam's Redefined Bakery

Prameela (Pam) is a firm believer in teamwork and a strong advocate of discipline. Living in several countries and travelling the world gives her a global perspective. As a self-starter and self-motivated person, she began her career in the IT industry. Since then, she has donned several technical & managerial roles in diverse domains like Air Traffic Control, Sim Cards, Chemicals, Public Health, Media and entertainment, and NGO. After years of corporate life, she decided to nurture her entrepreneurial dream of starting her own venture and thus born SwasthVie. Swasthvie stands for healthy life. Pams - The Redefined Bakery is one of the primary initiatives under the SwasthVie umbrella.

She is a proud mother of a 17-year-old boy, and her husband is her strongest supporter of all her crazy adventures.

Apart from enjoying the roller coaster ride of the start-up, whenever time permits, she likes to do yoga & meditation, read books, make mandala art or watch sci-fi movies. She is a firm believer in karma and firmly believes that what goes around comes around.

Here is her interview by Suresh Nair.

Thank you for taking out time from your busy schedule for the interview.

1. Give us an insight into the early part of your life. Where were you born and raised?

I come from a middle-class family. I am the eldest of three sisters. I was raised in Delhi and spent most of my childhood living here. My father worked for NTPC, and my mother worked intermittently- she was busy caring for the children and their ageing parents. We lived a protected life- in a cocoon of company-provided accommodation, schools, shops & hospitals within the premises. Little did we realize that it made us vulnerable to the world outside.

2. Tell us about your journey at IIM Ahmedabad.

I did my masters in computer science in France. My husband and I lived and worked in several countries in Europe. In 2007, when we came back to India to be with our ageing parents, I had the idea of starting a bakery and cafe, my son was an infant, and my family needed my attention, so I settled for a job.

Many years later, I felt it was time to rejuvenate that dream. IIMA was the first step in that direction. I was convinced that a structured Business Management credential from a top-class institute will add value to my stature as a founder.

It was my best academic and professional experiences that taught me many things. The rigor of the course, the campus, the class- all are precious memories. As with any academic program, it can only prepare you for what you want to do. Your learning never ends. Life never stops teaching.

3. Who all are there in your family?

We are a micro nuclear family of 3-husband, wife, and son. We take care of my father and my husband's parents who live close by.

4. How did you come up with the concept of PRB?

As mentioned earlier, owning a bakery was always a dream. My interest in baking started in Europe, particularly in France. I am thankful to life for giving me that opportunity. I was able to experience different cuisines, tried my hands on many recipes, and pestered my colleagues to teach me a particular dish. I visited their home and met their parents or grandparents, who loved to bake/cook. My colleagues were so sure of my interest that they gave me two books with some great baking recipes as part of my farewell gift. They are treasured possessions in my library.

Long story short, Oh la la Bakery was the original idea that saw the light of day as Pam’s Redefined Bakery some 15+ years later. Reminds me of a quote that the book you write in your 20s and the book you write in your 40s will tell the same story in very different ways.

5. What is Pam’s Redefine Bakery? Explain about your organization in detail.

After graduating from home baking, I went for a professional diploma course in baking.

When PRB was set up, I wanted it to be a unique and ethical organization. It was a difficult decision to be a 100% eggless bakery; it was more of an ethical/moral one than a religion-based decision.

I wanted anyone who buys from PRB to be 100% sure of the product- It is eggless. We have a set of core values that we live by. We have around 70 different products that fall under six different categories. All our products are handmade, without any added preservatives and 100% eggless. Our packaging is made of paper wherever possible. We have two kitchens producing bread and confectionery items. A small fleet of delivery teams. My corporate and professional experience has helped me to set up things in a systematic way. We extensively use digital documentation and have had a proper POS and accounting system since day one.

6. Take us through the initial period of setting up PRB. What were the challenges? What obstacles did you face when setting it up?

The initial period of setting up period is so hard to describe. When I finalized my logo, the name of the company and space for baking, COVID struck. I had to wait it out.

It was a period of mixed emotions. There were days I was overwhelmed & full of apprehension. There were days when my optimism soared high- I took great pride in what I was trying to build.

I used my free time to research the infrastructure required for a professional bakery.

I learned about the different kinds of machines and equipment required. I made a long list of vendors.

As soon as the lockdown got over, the first thing I did was rent a place and get the fit-outs done.

COVID 2nd wave hit us hard. I had a half-done workspace, things barely functional, and my family had COVID. It was a time I would like to forget & erase from my memory. I was lucky to survive, unlike many others.

Besides COVID, other problems worried me, like the supply of basic amenities like water and electricity.

Fuel (PNG) at commercial rates is still rigged with issues, hampering productivity and morale for a budding entrepreneur. Another major challenge I faced was hiring people. I interviewed many people whom I liked. They didn’t want to risk joining a startup. I was consumed by the thought- what if no one is ready to work for me. I went to recruiters but for no concrete results.

After a grueling period of search and hundreds of interviews, I hired three people, all women. For the initial six months, we remained a 100% women organization until it became apparent that we needed a “delivery boy “.

7. Do you feel your challenges were greater as a businesswoman? Would it have been any different for a man setting up a business?

No, I hear the same story from my fellow entrepreneurs.

8. What is the role of family and friends in setting up a business? How important is their contribution?

My husband and my son both were very supportive of my venture. My husband has been and continues to be a pillar of strength throughout my journey. He is there to assure me when I go through dark days. My son has been a great motivator and critic at the same time. He was my first employee!!! When free, he helped deliver orders, managed ledgers, ran errands etc. He is off to university now and I miss having him around.

9. What are your business plans?

Our target segment is B2B- 90% of revenues concentrated in this segment. We have set a target of 100% growth this financial year 2023-24. We are anticipating our team to grow by 25 % or more. We are planning to exploit and exhaust all marketing channels available to be able to achieve the above. We are also exploring e-commerce platforms for product categories like cookies, granola bars etc. We are working on minuscule margins, which I foresee continuing for another ten months.

10. Any bucket list that remains to be fulfilled in life?

The bucket list is long. We want to be a bakery that’s loved by our customers. As we speak, I am looking at one of my favorite items, the Besan Khatai. I wish Besan Khatai gets popular- like the Besan Ka Ladoo and Gulab Jamun.

Another thing on the list is that I wish for an opportunity for our Respected Prime Minister to taste our Besan Khatai.

No politics, No bias, No gain, No publicity, just a simple wish of a budding entrepreneur.

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