Happiness is only a cup cake away ! !
PURI TO PARIS
By Honey Patnaik
Pat a cake Pat a cake baker’s man; bake me a cake, as fast as you can!!
Jayanarayan Pujapanda has revolutionized the bakery and confectionary industry in Odisha and has brought much needed excitement into the bakery business. The sophisticated elite croissants, healthy brown breads, multigrain breads, almond flake cookies, cakes with real fruits that melt in your mouth and many other delicious bakery delights have made their presence felt on the dining table of an ordinary person. Coming from a family of Sevayats, who boast of a proud lineage privileged to perform the sacred puja of the Lord of the Universe Sri Jaganath and his siblings, Jay has come a long way and balances tradition and culture with modernity and panache! Coffee Bytes over a platter of cup cakes and croissants spoke with this illustrious entrepreneur and found out his bucket list of dreams and achievements. As they say in French ‘Bon Appetit.
Even though you belong to the Sevayat family of Puri you are an entrepreneur of a different kind. How did this happen?
I consider myself very fortunate that I belong to the Sevayat family. My relatives still perform the puja for Lord Jaganath and his siblings in the world famous Jaganath temple, Puri. I belong to a joint family where tradition does not act as an obstacle to modernity and change. Our quality of life is enhanced because we love our language, culture and tradition, which in turn enriches our education and lifestyle. I studied in an Odia medium school, completed my graduation in Travel and Tour management from SCS college Puri, went on to do a Pg diploma in hotel management and then a short sales course from NIS Bhubaneswar which made me discover that my strength lay in selling. I was enlightened about the magic word called ‘Trust’, which is the main bond between a buyer and a seller and my journey started in the retail world.
You are famous as the ‘Mall man’, how did this impact your life?
The retail sector has always been my passion and I am an excellent salesman. I started my career as a customer care associate (CCA) at Shoppers Stop, New Delhi and my salary of Rs 3883 a month brought in a lot of joy and made me feel worthy. Slowly but steadily, I climbed the ladder of success where every rung was made out of struggle, gained experience and learning about the nitty- gritty of retailing in business. In a short span of time I was heading stores, honing my skills and gaining new insight in the process. I gained immense knowledge in almost all departments while working for different companies like the Landmark group, Khadims, ICICI, Pantaloons etc . It has truly been a roller coaster ride from the day I started as a simple CCA to becoming the store manager of Pantaloons Bhubaneswar and then the CEO of J Consulting and COO of The World group.
We came to know that you were a terror in college. How true is this?(laughs)
Yes it is true and I was very aggressive and arrogant in college. This was the reason as to why I lost a year in my academic career too. At the drop- of- a -hat I was ready to sit for dharnas and strikes in college, being young one is prone to get carried away. But in 1996 the day I lost my mother Devpriya Puja Panda everything came to a standstill. A few days before she left us for her heavenly abode she had told me, “You have burnt your tongue and career only for your friends”. Her last words and her loss was like a bucket of ice cold water on my aggressiveness. It made me step back and introspect who I was. It made me want to reform my attitude and I consciously tried to control my arrogance and anger. I did well in my career, and became the sports champion of Utkal University. There were many proud moments after that but I always feel the void of my mother’s guiding, supportive presence.
Why did you want to sell bread?
Well, my company Paris Bakery is not only about selling bread. I always felt that this sector had a huge potential and I wanted to explore this unknown territory. The dream of opening my own company was realized in 2014 and Paris Bakery was born. My experience of more than 18 years in retail helped me understand how to go about this new route. When I worked in Europe and Dubai I came to know that bakery products had a huge potential and later when we surveyed the Odisha market it was interesting to find that a lot of people were travelling outside the state and country. So naturally this group had a fair idea of the bakery products. Once done with our survey we knew there was scope for a new entrant in this segment. Market penetration and awareness was required and the concept of coffee shops, cozy sit-outs where a light snack could be had which made this project more viable. A particular segment of people eat certain kinds of bread and we tried to make it available to them easily. I wanted that everyone should be able to afford the cakes, cookies, breads, tarts, pies etc. that we would create and cater at a reasonable price. We also decided that all items would be vegetarian so that it could be consumed on all days by people of all walks of life. Hygiene, quality and affordability became the keywords to our success.
What are your strategies towards the skill development of your staff?
A brand is built because of its people that work in it. Today we boast of more than 700 skilled and unskilled workers. There is a lot of training, workshops and specialized courses for the staff who work for us. It is very necessary to train and develop the staff because they are the face of Paris Bakery. You know, it would sound surprising but some of our top managers have come from the shop floor. We feel proud that these individuals who started out at a lower position are now empowered to take on the rigours of managing an entire store. A feather in our cap is our membership in the Bakers Association of India. We are an active member and attend seminars, conferences, workshops to enhance our skills. Recently we have added the Italian Gelato- Venetia. The pilot project was a great success and it is ready to be rolled out. I am sure we could blend a Coffee flavoured gelato too..
Our Chef and our Sous Chefs have the huge responsibility of checking the freshness of the items in the stores every day. When a customer comes with a grievance we redress the grievance, and try to find out why the complaint has been lodged and rectify the error. Our customer care centre is one of the best in the business and we try to keep it open 24×7. Today we have stores in almost all the districts of Odisha and have forayed into Kolkata with four new stores. Expansion of this home grown bakery makes me feel very proud because our quality is our tag line and the excitement of dreams coming true is beyond the description of words.
Do you believe that behind every successful man there is a woman involved?
Of course I do believe in it. My mother and my wife both have been the pillars behind my success story. My wife Rajlaxmi Mahasuar is highly educated and runs the Raj Hotels group. She helps me in everything I do and is now taking care of my son Jeet (8yrs) and daughter Meet (3yrs) . Family support is needed in building a flourishing business enterprise. She also looks after Sahaya which is our CSR wing under which we take care of the girl child and run an old age home.
How does Jay relax and de-stress?
Swimming , gym and cycling are a regular thing for me and my kids. I love playing games and did the same in college and even represented my University. The killing instinct that comes in the games helps us in business too. Nobody sees the under belly of business, they think all is hunky dory though it is not. I love home cooked food as I travel almost six months a year and crave to get back home as soon as possible. I am a selective foodie and I love watching television and movies.
What are your future plans?
My next venture is a complete vegetarian Paris Bakery food plaza in the smart city which will be able to service more than 500 customer inside the store at one go. This will be ready by this diwali and is based almost on the Haldiram food plaza concept. My favourite sentence: I am a fighter till the end. We wish Jay all the very best and we hope his journey from Puri to Paris would take him far and beyond. Paris Bakery is clearly an example where modern practices have successfully taken forward the fine art of baking to a different level altogether.