27 Jul 2018 21:18 IST

Making every celebration an occasion for cake

With over 200 product categories, Monginis is said to be the number one cake brand in India

A cake brand is definitely not something you want to read or write about when you are just starting a diet. And when it is Monginis, the first brand to professionalise the bakery business in India, even visiting the website can prove disastrous to the most strong-willed dieter.

Originally begun in 1902 by two Italian brothers, the restaurant eponymously named Mongini Ltd. was a popular destination on Churchgate Street, Mumbai (then Bombay). In 1919, it shifted to a bigger building and was renamed Mongini Brothers. After World War II, when the brothers left the country, they sold it to a family named Khurana.

Monginis was reportedly acquired by the Khorakiwala family in 1956 for ₹30,000. The plan was to convert the entire building into a departmental store named Akbarallys. But, taking into account the popularity of the bakery, and the fact that all the baking equipment was already available, one section was retained as such and the enterprise was renamed Monginis Foods Ltd.

Fresh, affordable

Right from the beginning, Monginis’ USPs were affordability and freshness — ‘from the factory to the fork’, as it was elegantly put. Even people from the suburbs would come all the way to purchase Monginis cakes. As its popularity surged, other stores started stocking its products. By 1970, the first Monginis cake shop had opened at Chembur.

 

The very next year, Monginis adopted the franchise model of business, becoming one of the first Indian companies to franchise its cake and pastry shops. The franchise route was adopted to cater to different tastes in different areas. The success of the first franchise shop led to the opening of many more.

By 1986, the number of stores in Mumbai had risen to 75; the same year, the original location was vacated by Monginis and its first factory/cake manufacturing unit — today, the company’s headquarters — was opened at Andheri. By the 1990s, Monginis was ready to venture out of Mumbai and test the waters at Pune, Goa, Rajkot and Ahmedabad.

By this time, the Khorakiwalas had divided their business interests; Hussein Khorakiwala and his sons had taken charge of Monginis. Some breakthrough decisions followed — in 1997-98, Monginis became the first bakery in Mumbai to produce eggless cakes and promote vegetarian desserts.

Top brand

Today, with over 200 product categories, Monginis is claimed to be the number one cake brand in India. It offers products as diverse as cakes (its Black Forest cake is said to be the best-selling variety), gateaux, chocolates and pastries; packaged goodies like muffins, bar cakes and swiss rolls; confectionery like cookies, bakers’ ware and chocolates; and savouries, like puffs, pizzas, samosas, sandwiches and cutlets. It is said that if all the Monginis cakes made on one day are stacked in one place, it will equal the height of Mount Everest!

Cake sales usually surge during festivals like Christmas and Easter, but Monginis made its name associated with every festival, special occasion and event with the tagline ‘What are you celebrating today?’ It positioned its cakes as must-have items for any and every festival like Christmas, Rakshabandhan, Holi and Sankranti; for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and get-togethers; and for special days like Friendship Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Teacher’s Day, Valentine’s Day etc. By offering the public unique, thematic cakes for every celebration, occasion and event, Monginis has carved a niche for itself. It also stormed another bastion by pioneering the concept of corporate cakes featuring logos and products.

Three models

Monginis has three basic business models – cake shops distributing fresh products; long shelf-life (up to six months) packaged goods market; and e-commerce (its interactive website allows one to book products from anywhere in the world for delivery within India). A fourth model is in the pipeline – a bake-shop unit for smaller cities like Jaipur and Aurangabad.

 

The journey to the top slot had its ups and downs but Monginis always kept its focus on two things: preparing all items with the finest possible ingredients and in the cleanest and most hygienic manner; and adding new and interesting varieties at every stage of growth. To this end, the production system is highly automated and customised, and stringent quality control measures are in place at every stage – production, packaging and delivery.

Monginis invests in the best equipment without compromising and even designs its own machinery for some processes. It is a HACCP and ISO:22000 certified company and follows Good Manufacturing Practices as laid down by the American Institute of Baking. The company claims to have been one of the first to introduce refrigerated vans; all delivery vans are equipped with GPS sensors for tracking.

People-oriented

In addition to all this, the human touch is never lacking – Monginis believes in combining technology and people to produce a smooth working relationship. Alongside the customer-oriented approach, it has built up an excellent relationship with its workers, suppliers and dealers: there has never been a strike at any of its manufacturing units to date. The in-built culture of trust and integrity has resulted in long-lasting relationships with suppliers, who are also partners.

Monginis has not lagged behind on the environmental front either: it has installed solar panels in all its factories to ensure a clean source of energy; its air-conditioning systems recycle heat to boilers to reduce thermal waste; food waste is diverted for chicken or cattle feed; its ETP and ATP plants neutralise harmful waste products before release into sewers; and it has planted several trees around its factories to absorb carbon dioxide.

 

At present, Monginis has 18 factories, more than 750 exclusive cake shops (across 150 cities), about 1,700 distributors and 70+ super stockists spread across 23 States in India. Its long shelf life products are available in more than 10 lakh outlets.

After a failed earlier attempt, Monginis has plans to re-enter the southern market and has revived its factory in Hyderabad for this. The company entered Egypt in 1993 as Monginis Bakery and is a leading brand there.

Of late, however, challenges are increasing. Monginis passes on the rise in raw material costs to customers, which means it can no longer claim the ‘affordable’ tag. Other brands, like Britannia, are also offering competition in packaged cakes.

Despite being a low-profile brand that believes more in consolidation than expansion, Monginis is very active on social media, boasting a 4,00,000 strong fan base on Facebook. It uses TV spots, print, hoardings and the internet to advertise its products. In March 2018, it hosted a huge cake exhibition at Goa.

Among Monginis’ key clients are Indian Railways, the Tata Group, the Aditya Birla Group and Patni Computers.

Community outreach, awards

As part of its community outreach activities, Monginis is a partner of the National Skill Development Council of India and offers facilities at one of its factories for training in baking skills. ‘Mongiland’ is an initiative at four centres (Thane, Surat, Delhi and Hyderabad) to inform and instruct school-going children about the baking industry in a participative and fun-filled manner in actual production lines. In 1988, Monginis donated a gargantuan cake (52 feet long, 350 kg) for polio awareness.

Many awards have come its way, including the ‘Most Admired Retail Food Chain’ IMINT award in 2010 (for shoppers and consumer insights); India’s No.1 Cake Brand 2014; India’s Most Trusted Brand 2015 (cakes category); Food & Grocery Brand of the year 2016 (Bakery category); Indian Power Brand 2016 (cakes category); Indian Restaurant Awards 2016 (Best National Bakery & Confectionery Chain of the Year); and Franchise Award 2016 - Franchisor of the Year (Bakery & Café).

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