While working as researcher on ground water at ICRISAT, Narayana Peesapaty, owner of Bakeys Food Pvt Ltd, realized that the ground water was depleting faster due to wrong cropping patterns. There was excessive rice grown in arid soil and that added to further extraction of water and pumping long hours as the levels were constantly falling.
The farmers were both misguided and eager to make a quick buck and so they were migrating to producing water intensive crops in an area where they should not be grown at all. Free power and subsidies on fertilizers were attracting them towards growing water guzzling crops.
Peesapaty realised that by the time his daughter would grow up, half the ground water would have vanished, soil deteriorated and water of rivers polluted. He did not like doing research on paper and prove some huge statistical facts. He wanted to help millet farmers as that was one way to protect land, soil, and ground water, along with giving them a way out of debt traps.
He had seen people using Khakra and Jowar roti to scoop food. This fuelled his imagination and he decided to try out making a spoon with Jowar and other grains and get nutrition back on the dining tables. He worked on the idea and it proved him right. He created an edible spoon and then the rest of the range of cutlery too. The rest, as they say, is history.
Flavours Add Taste
Presently, Bakeys uses rice, wheat and jowar as the main flour mix for all their spoons. No chemicals, preservatives, emulsifiers, colours, or fat are used in making the product. The cutlery is vegan, vegetarian and nutritious. It is like a dried vegetable with just two-three per cent moisture.
According to Peesapaty, “Bakeys right now is concentrating only on one shape – that is lunch spoons. By 2017, we are planning to launch soup spoons, chopsticks, dessert spoons, and forks. We are testing our own developed technology and once it gives us the desired results we will go for other shapes on commercial production levels.”
He says, “The flavours of these spoons are plain, sweet with some sugar and savory with cumin, ajwain (ajowan caraway), rock salt and black pepper. We are also planning to introduce Cinnamon, Ginger and other such combinations but a bit later.”
The shelf life of edible cutlery if preserved in dry conditions without refrigeration is 24 months.
Bakeys production capacity was semi-manual and only 5,000 spoons were produced per day till mid-May. However, now it has increased to 20,000 per day with recently designed, fully automated system.
Peesapaty reveals, “From 5,000 spoons per day we have managed to make 20,000 – 25,000 per day in three shifts since July and intend to make 60,000 – 70,000 per day by September. Once we are convinced of the new technology that we have designed ourselves, we will install more such machines and make more than 1 lakh spoons in 24 hours but that could take a few months. We are targeting January or March 2017.”
Laurels from India & Abroad
“When we first came up with the idea in 2006 it did get fair publicity on local TV channels, news media and even went on Discovery channel in 2008. But we could not enhance the production for lack of consistent orders nor had money to expand technology,” he says.
People from 12 countries asked for samples between 2006 to 2012 and Bakeys did send them, but they were found too expensive to import.
“Now we have received mails from 50 or more countries from around the world. This amazed us as social media reach was fantastic and challenging,” reveals Peesapaty.
According to him: “We have sent close to 50,000 spoons abroad since 2014 and now we are inundated with orders that are close to 25 lakh spoons from India and abroad together (all paid for in advance). We also regularly supply to Café Coffee Day – 20,000 or more spoons per month.”
Leaving Behind a Bumpy Road
The urge to develop something new was nothing like walking on a bed of roses. There were many hardships involved. His family supported his dream but the dream came with near poverty level financial burden. There even came a time when everything seemed hopeless and Peesapaty figured he would shut it all down and look for a job. When he understood that determination was all he had, he decided not to give up. He kept at his dream, even though he didn’t make profits until 2006.
“Since the idea was so new and such a thing did not exist, I had to experiment a lot both on recipe and moulds, baking systems, and ultimately the market. Of course, I put all my life earnings at stake and just wanted to make it happen. I quit my job at ICRISAT and started my own small unit. Friends and relatives pitched in with some financial support but I was going nowhere as the market was not responding and many of my mould shapes proved wrong. Spoons were breaking and rectification of moulds costed me a bomb each time,” he says.
From 2006 to 2013, Bakeys was self-funded. The unit got its first loan in 2013 when Peesapaty decided to mortgage his house.
The company, which is known for making a spoon for just Rs 2, was reeling under losses and never made any profit from 2006 – early 2016.
It was only in March 2016 that it started getting recognition and in the last few months, has been swarmed with orders. Bakeys is now producing and delivering these orders.
“We now see a huge growth rate as the demand from USA, UK, EU, China, Australia, Mexico and within India is pouring each day. We are not ready with technology and that is delaying our whole process right now. No such machines exist that we can simply import and create spoons so we are also pioneers in designing and fabricating a fully Made In India technology,” says Peesapaty.
What Lies Ahead
The company is looking forward to attaining perfection on smooth running of its automatic machine by producing 1 lakh spoons a day and then working on other new and appropriate baking technology – some of which are in the testing phase.
“We are seeking investment and intend to install production systems in different continents to reduce logistic costs, breakage in transit and also keep the cost low that way. We will also be making Jowar Pizza Base, Jowar Stuffed Parathas at a later date,” concludes Peesapaty, revealing his expansion plans.