Following one’s inner calling has many rewards and this is reflected in Simran Oberoi Multani’s entrepreneurial baking business Ovenderful. Packed with goodness of grains, nuts & fruits; her recipes are child-friendly, vegan, gluten-free, free from artificial sweeteners, colours and preservatives. People keep coming back for the honest-to-goodness flavours and the heartfelt community initiatives that spread smiles & compassion.
In an interview with Deesha Kriplani for The Positive Media, she speaks about the many rewards of baking from the heart…
Q: From being a successful HR Consultant for leading Indian Corporates to a flourishing Baking Entrepreneur – what made you switch careers?
Ovenderful started as a baking blog for me to chronicle my experiences and recipes when I had just started baking some 4-5 years ago. However, in November 2013, as my son was turning a year old and I was in a full time role at work as well, I went through the phase that several women go through –I loved being a mother, but I wanted that to be one key part of my overall identity. I was looking for something that would be an extension of the person I was. I am an HR professional by experience and education, with over a decade of consulting experience. But even that didn’t seem to drive my enthusiasm in a way that baking did.
Additionally, organizations did not and even now many do not, have the kind of support system that allows new mothers to bring their little ones to work and be at peace in their minds, given our nuclear family set-ups. Hence the passion to bake as well as my desire to be at home with my son drove me to undertake this entrepreneurial venture full-time. That’s when I decided to find that one aspect which links my heart, soul and mind, so that I could leverage it and create a venture. These reasons provided the much needed impetus to start Ovenderful in a bigger and more active way.
Q: You’ve taught village girls to bake without any electricity or fancy equipment. Kindly share your experience.
When I had just started baking, Mr Shelat, the Founder of Search Years, a Gurgaon based NGO, asked me if I would be able able to take vocational training classes for around 12 village girls who came to the SY centre for vocational skills and art training. That’s when I volunteered to take weekly baking classes for these girls – that experience actually opened my eyes to baking with limited resources since they would ask questions about how to bake in a cooker or eggless because they could not afford eggs or an oven, and had electricity issues in their villages. It propelled me to try out alternatives.
I would have learnt the regular baking approach using the OTG, using eggs and hand beaters, had I not had a chance to take those classes. There is always value in being experimental when it comes to cooking or even baking. There is always value in keeping one’s mind open to non-traditional methods and perspectives. The SY experience totally expanded my mind’s horizon in ways that nothing else would. It also taught me a great deal of commitment – after a whole week of working in my consulting role, the weekends were precious. But when I started these classes, to travel to them and carry them out on Sunday mornings needed me to push myself. And I think the prospect of meeting energetic and enthusiastic young girls who loved the idea of what they were doing, was the single-most driving factor.
At the Precious Paws Foundation Fundraisers Bake Sale
Q: The natural flavours, the fundraising, community welfare – tell us more about Ovenderful’s unique vision & mission
When we speak about health, we often count the calories but not the chemicals. So my vision with Ovenderful was 2 things – one was to bake as close to natural as possible and keep the store bought and artificial chemicals or colours at bay. In the clutter of fondant based or colour filled cakes, I felt that somewhere the wholesome flavours of baked goodness itself were getting lost. So Ovenderful ensures that aspect and focuses on making sure that the health quotient is always the primary essence of each bake. Secondly, making the bakes inclusive as per health requirements and food preferences is the other part of the vision. There are many who have food allergies and many who choose to eat a certain kind of food. For both these groups, the options are limited and at times forbiddingly expensive. So my focus from Ovenderful was to make my baked to order list as inclusive as possible to be able to cater to these segments.
When it comes to fundraising and community welfare, I have never hesitated to use Ovenderful to raise funds for helping animal rescue NGOs through collaborative bake sales for Indigree Angels Trust, Help & Heal Animal Trust, Precious Paws Foundation, VoSD, CARE Animal Shelter. To me, every venture has to have an overarching community purpose if it is connected to me.
Q: A lot of parents & fitness enthusiasts are opting for chemical & gluten-free sweets which are slightly more expensive than branded counterparts available in markets. Is Vegan Baking a lucrative career?
Vegan baking is a lucrative career provided one understands vegan baking and knows how to manage the substitutes or alternatives. India does not have a ready range of vegan products like butter, milk and so on. So making some of these at home is the answer, but that is time consuming and can be expensive. Nevertheless, it is a great area to work in with increasing potential in the future. Eating chemical free food is the way to go and today there are those who are ready to make that difference in their lifestyle even if it comes for a marginally higher cost.
Q: What is Ovenderful’s current market reach? Can your goodies be bought online?
I am focusing on getting all the goodies online for ease of access and placing orders, but as of now there are a selection of the Ovenderful goodies that are available online through Amazon’s Junglee Local Store, My Little Moppet and Masalabox. For the rest, depending on the enquiry received I share the baked to order list with those who want to order and it contains over 75 options for them to choose from plus variants.
Q: Ovenderful’s Annual Bake Sale for fund-raising is an instant sell-out. What drives you to take up these initiatives?
Yes, things have been great on that front. The Annual Bake Sale for fundraising does well because the cause or the animal rescue shelter that I identify and focus on is genuine, the person who runs it is credible and the financial support they need is evident. The sale does well because those who know me for a while now, know that that is a key area that I want to be able to contribute to. There is limited or almost no focus on animal welfare to the extent that it should be in India. The kind of cruelty that animals suffer at our hands is immense. But there are those individuals who work tirelessly and quietly to help these voiceless souls and my Annual fundraising is to ensure that they receive the funds and attention that they deserve.
As an extension of this fundraising work, I am also now a part of The Bake Collective, which is an organization that uses bake sales extensively to raising funds for critical causes in collaboration with Goonj, Milaap and so on.
Q: Your initiative Bake-a-Sunshine Cake for Christmas turned into a movement. Kindly share more about this experience.
When Ovenderful Mom Bakers Community that I founded a year ago, completed a year as an FB group focusing on healthy home baking, I wanted to do something which went beyond the regular contests to win(did that too!). I launched the “Bake a Sunshine Cake” initiative for December 2015, which was basically about spreading sunshine by baking healthy goodies at home like we would for our families and sharing those with those less fortunate, children at orphanages and those in the old age homes. The initiative was carried out by over 30 mom bakers in Bangalore, Mumbai, Faridabad, United States ( Indiana, New Jersey, Clarksburg) and United Kingdom. Names of some of the places visited were Cheshire Old Age Home- Bangalore, Vishwas Home orphanage-Bangalore, Snehasadan Home for the homeless street children Mumbai, Janak Sewa Samiti Old Age Home Faridabad, Brookdale House senior care facility in Hampshire UK, through the Lord’s Pantry program and Feed the Sheep programs in the US. In many cases, apart from the goodies, the bags and handwritten notes were part of the special touch.
People also reached out to their community children, security guards, auto drivers, delivery boys, housekeeping staff and even Indian stray dogs with homebaked goodies to spread happiness and holiday cheer. It was an immensely enriching experience for me to be able to lead this and have so many like minded bakers joining in to make such a world of difference in and around us.
These bakers of the Ovenderful Mom Bakers Community made it a huge success in its first year ( just a month ago in December 2015!). It will only get bigger and better each year.
Thank You for sharing about your Inspiring Journey. Wishing you the best for everything from the entire team at www.thepositivemedia.com
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