How many times have you wanted a pizza? You get excited. You check the menu of a pizza giant or a local pizza joint. All that excitement is now dead, because you have had every single pizza from those menus. All that excitement cannot come back because only a few of those five hundred pizza flavours actually taste awesome. And you are tired of those few flavours.
You end up ordering a lame sandwich. Booo.
Regina Daga, 21, and Varun Bhattacharya, 22, also faced the death of that excitement one fine evening. But they did not order a lame sandwich. In stead, they decided to make a pizza for themselves. And when it turned out to be lipsmackingly delicious, they decided to sell those pizzas.
Regina and Varun met in Pune in 2011. Regina hails from Ahmedabad, while Varun is from Hyderabad. Both these foodies claim to get food. They thought: why not start a food business in a city that loves and breathes food? (Ahmedabad loves food, fyi.) The duo, quite young at the time, had no clue how to set up a business and scale it, but that didn’t stop them from starting No Mad Baker.
Starting up from a small family place (home) where they decided to cook their delicious offerings, one day Regina and Varun made chicken and mayo sandwiches and headed to the campus of Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University (PDPU), an institute located in Gandhinagar, approximately 25 kilometres away from the city of Ahmedabad.
The sandwiches sold in no time.
Surprised, and happy, the duo rushed back to the city, handpicked their meat and other produce and came back to their little place of work to start prepping up for the next day’s sale.
The sales were flowing, with sandwiches selling out soon as they were put on the table. The problem? The commute was a killer and eating into No Mad Baker’s little profits. Not to mention, scaling up at an institute secluded from the rest of the city was an impossible task. Regina and Varun decided to take the golden route: when in trouble, go to the wolves.
But this time, the wolves did not kill them. Carrying boxes full of food, with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian offerings, the duo hit a flourishing outlet of the biggest local coffee chain – Shambhu’s.
And while it may be super hard, (and super weird), to approach total strangers and ask them to buy your food, surprisingly, the people hanging out around at this Shambhu’s outlet loved their offerings, and “ate like never before”.
“The first time we went to Shambhu’s with our food, both of us were actually pushing each other to start the conversation as neither of us wanted to do it. We ended up by asking ‘Vegetarian or non-vegetarian?’ The response we garnered was seriously inspiring,” says Regina. The duo had decided not to take any capital from their families to build and scale the business.
“We had our hands tied when monsoon begun, and we could not carry on with our routine. We just sat home, doing nothing. It was slightly demoralising, but we knew one thing for sure: people loved our food. People were loving everything we were selling. The food was selling thick and fast.” Figuring out a niche, and a business model is all that was left.
“While we were serving at such hangout spots, we came across all sorts of people. Fortunately for us, once we ran into someone who was an event manager of sorts. The person really liked our food and wanted to help us! Next thing we know, we were in the city’s only Harley Davidson showroom discussing serving their guests for one of their significant events,” says Regina.
The duo was the only one selling food at the Harley Davidson event – something they call their big break, where they served more than 400 people. All the specifics – prepping the menu, sourcing ingredients, delivering, serving, etc. – taken care by them.
“60 sandwiches at PDPU now felt like a joke! Try making 400 buns, 200 swirls and twelve-and-a-half kilos of fries. There was so much food that the entire security team at the venue munched on these dishes after the show,” exclaimed Varun, quite ecstatically.
By this time, the Diwali of 2013 was around the corner. While the duo deserved a break, they decided to carry on, this time offering chocolates and cupcakes as special orders for Diwali. “We spent quite a few days without sleep to fulfil the Diwali orders,” said Varun.
In this interim, Regina got selected for the television show Sanjeev Kapoor Ke Kitchen Khiladi. Varun accompanied Regina as her help. The duo fell short of winning the title, but attributed the TV moment as another solid push to their adventure of serving great food to people.
And then came the pizza moment.
And when the pizza turned out really nice, they thought: “We have sold so many random things, so why not pizza?”
And thus launched No Mad Baker’s Mad Pizza.
The first day of pizza sale, as Regina puts it, was “depressing”. Nobody knew what No Mad Baker was. They had not used any sort of marketing and on their first day, the only order they got was from Regina’s mother!
But there was a silver lining. Their Facebook update that they were now selling pizzas grabbed the attention of a few people, including one Rohan Bhatt. “A friend had tasted their food at the Harley Davidson concert and mentioned it in passing. I was connected to their page and found out that they deliver pizzas now. Without wasting a minute, I ordered Chicken Sausage Pizza and one Margarita Pizza for my parents, and it was fabulous. I have not stopped eating their pizzas ever since. The Mad Pizza is phenomenal; every meat lover has to have it at least once! I talked to them, we discussed the issues they were facing and decided to introduce them to the Foodaholics In Ahmedabad group on Facebook,” said Rohan, who is one of the moderators of Foodaholics in Ahmebabad Facebook group that now has more than 14,000 active users.
That evening when Rohan introduced No Mad Baker to the group, a huge chunk of the city’s foodies read about them, about their pizzas and about how awesome their flavours were.
And what happened the next day?
“The next day, we got 11 orders, 18 pizzas in total,” joyfully said Varun, the happiness audible in his voice.
After that, the orders never stopped coming, fame found way to these young people’s home and the foodies literally made them sweat. The pizzas were worth it. “We actually had to turn down 10 people the next day and it felt brilliant and awful at the same time,” added Varun, “The Foodaholics group and its members showed us so much support. It was unbelievable!”
No Mad Baker is an incredible brand name. We asked why ‘No Mad Baker’? Regina and Varun both chuckled, and explained. “We had been brainstorming for names and we came across pretty good ones, one of which was 221 Baker Street! But, we finalised on No Mad Baker, for we are “mad”, just a little and we deliver pizzas on our 2004 Honda Activa. We still cook in the 28 ltr oven that Regina had bought a long time ago but it makes the best pizza. We are a family of four – Regina, me, the oven and the Activa!” said Varun.
Their logo shows a caricature of Regina and Varun on an Activa! (See above.)
In this interim, No Mad Baker has offered special offerings including desserts and a deep dish.
“We had been trying to find a niche all this while, and we see a huge lack of great non-vegetarian pizzas, and I think we just might have found that niche,” said Regina. The duo also serve special vegetarian pizzas once in a while.
Most of their orders now flow in via the Facebook group, their Facebook page and Zomato. “We just got a 4.0 on Zomato, ranked the best place for pizzas in the city!” says Regina, doing a little dance.
“If they keep doing what they do, they’ll go places. The best part about their pizzas is that they don’t add sugar or masala to their sauce. The taste is original and they always keep experimenting with their toppings, which brings out the best pizzas I’ve had till date!” adds Rohan Bhatt.
The contribution of Facebook to the success of No Mad Baker cannot be ignored, and points to how social media and social networking has become an integral part of our lives.
Being only in their 20s, the story of No Mad Baker is nothing short of an inspiration. They have hustled their way to stand where they stand, and hustling is all it takes to do great things. If you don’t start, and if you don’t sweat, you will end up nowhere.
Editor’s note: This isn’t a sponsored article. Neither is this a “favour” to the young and upcoming food giants from the city. We loved the story of No Mad Baker, and we knew it had to be shared with the masses. Every one of us is talented; it is up to us how we unleash our talent! A big kudos to Regina and Varun for doing what they love, and filling our tummies with some lip-smacking food!
With inputs from Rahul Bhagchandani.