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Baking happiness: When Pune’s Kayani wanted to rename Shrewsbury biscuits

Renowned for their Shrewsbury biscuits, Kayani Bakery has been one of the most preferred bakeries for Puneites. Rustom Kayani, co-owner of the bakery, speaks to HT about its history and more.

pune Updated: Dec 10, 2017 15:33 IST
Rustom Kayani (R) and Sohrab Kayani (L) with products at Kayani Bakery on East street, Camp on December 4.
Rustom Kayani (R) and Sohrab Kayani (L) with products at Kayani Bakery on East street, Camp on December 4.(RAVINDRA JOSHI/HT PHOTO)

When 19-year-old Rustom Kayani joined the family business in 1985, it was because his grandfather had passed away. An engineer by education, Rustom has spent 32 years working at the bakery along with four other partners (family members). “I started out with bread and till date, I still work in the night shift for two-three days a week. As a family, we are pretty hands-on in the business. The beauty of working as a family is that we get to take vacations, we get to discuss matters and everyone is there for each other,” said Rustom as he keeps a check on all the fresh items being shifted from the packaging section to the counters.

Customers line up to buy products from Kayani Bakery. (Ravindra Joshi/HT PHOTO)

Renaming Shrewsbury biscuits and getting a patent would have been a wise move

Famous for their Shrewsbury biscuits, Kayani bakery takes pride in being the first and only one to make it eggless. “These biscuits were already being made before I came in. However, it is not your run-of-the-mill biscuits that is available everywhere else. It is a special recipe and made particularly for the Indian market. I believe it would have been a wiser move to have renamed and patented it,” said Rustom. Contrary to popular belief, the bakery does not only operate on fire wood ovens. “We brought in diesel and gas ovens and the fire wood oven is used only for biscuits and certain products. For us, clients’ needs and choices are what matters. I can experiment and add 300 new products, but will it be carrier friendly, will it last long; These are the questions we ask before bringing out a new product.”

Rustom introduced the walnut chocolate cake

Sohrab and Pervez Kayani also started working at the bakery as teenagers. The partner brothers now don’t seem to remember much about their early days here. Pervez says, “I took over in 1970, we had the same products even then. Rustom brought in the walnut cake. We used to come to the bakery as kids during winter vacations and help out.” Sohrab added, “December month is always the most chaotic, so as kids too, we would come in between 8am and 1pm to help out. Back then, we had products such as jam tarts, jam puffs, pattice and fancy cut pastries. We discontinued the same because it was difficult for people to carry it and preserve it for long.”

Expanding business

One question which every Kayani loyalist would like to know is whether they will ever expand or have branches? “Well, all know that we are poor businessmen but excellent providers,” said Rustom laughing. “We are happy as we are and we may look at expanding the business abroad. The third generation is currently running the business. After us, we are not sure what will happen. My son Aurash (21) is learning finance in Canada, he may come back to handle the business. You never know. I want my kids to learn more about bakeries and business. Hence, I wanted them to get more exposure,” he added.

We are confident and have full faith in the judiciary

In October, Kayani Bakery was asked to shut down by the Pune Cantonment Board for running the business illegally since 2006 (no trade licence), after Pune Cantonment Board president brigadier Rajiv Sethi conducted an investigation. The bakery’s lawyer Dara Irani moved the PCB and on November 17, joint civil judge (senior division), Pune, Jaydip J Mohite, gave a verdict in favour of the bakery, based on which PCB moved an appeal before the additional sessions judge to bring a temporary stay on the bakery. The next hearing of the case will be on December 16. Rustom said, “We are confident and have full faith in the judiciary. The worst moment for us was when we were ordered to shut down. When we were allowed to reopen, I broke down in court. I never thought we would ever face something like this. It is a 62-year-old business and we are at the mercy of an order now. I hope they see the hope and faith of the business and all we can do it hope and pray.”

Pune has been supportive and extremely kind

Rustom has been approached by many well wishes who are ready to give them space to construct a new bakery and shop for free, but they don’t want to move because of their family’s association with the place. “Puneites have been extremely kind and supportive. They have patiently waited for us to reopen and like always, come in huge numbers to buy stuff. We make a daily business of somewhere between 2.5 lakh to 6 lakh, depending on the day of the week. So, you can see what we went through when we were shut for a month and a half.” Despite being shut, the staff was given their basic salaries and continued to hope for the best, added Rustom.