The Real Life MBA – Theobroma – Making Dough From Dessert

Team InsideIIM brings to you a new series called ‘The Real Life MBA’. There are so many successful entrepreneurs unheard of from whom we all can learn a few principles of management. There is definitely more to management than what we learn in B-schools. We at InsideIIM believe there are stories in every nook and corner. So we decided to hit the road and explore stories of some small-medium businesses and how they made it big without an MBA.

Theobroma- The Food of Gods

Theobroma is a famous dessert destination in Mumbai. Theobroma or Theo’s as we fondly call it, which means ‘Food for Gods’ in Greek, is primarily known for its New York cheesecake, brownies and Chicken Sandwiches. Their menu is short and selective, which consists of the owner’s personal favourites.

Kamal Messman- The God of Food

Being regular customers at Theo’s, we have often noticed that the owner personally makes sure that everything is perfect and that no tray is empty. Kamal Messman, the owner, is a soft-spoken and friendly woman. She hails from a food-obsessed family who has always dreamt of opening a little shop that serves treats which look, smell and taste heavenly. She comes from a small town in Bhopal and has finished her graduation there. She then shifted to Bombay where she worked at Bank of Baroda for 20 years.

 

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‘I became an entrepreneur totally by chance. Growing up in a middle class family we all had to share the burden and that’s how I started cooking.’, says Kamal. She told us that one day she made a tray of chocolates and her husband sold it to someone else and the next day that person asked her to make 5 kilos of chocolate. That’s how she got her first order. Someone asked her to make cake for his/her son’s birthday and so on. That’s how she got an idea to start her own bakery.

She tells us that in the start of the business the entire family was focused on developing the business and they didn’t pay much attention on the staff. Because of this there had been many cases of robbing from the cashier. “One day I just came and sacked all the employees and we weren’t sure what should we do next” says Kamal. Now everything at Theobroma is handled by professionals who take care of the business.

 

Theo’s Views on Competition

Kamal is not at all worried about her competitors. She said, “Sometimes customers who tell us that others are offering products at a cheaper price, I simply tell them to buy it from them. Everything at Theobroma is made in-house and we try to keep the price as low as possible and also offer better quality products”. Since they are in the hospitality industry it is very important to maintain the quality of food. Initially Kamal herself used to bake everything and now her daughter Kainaz has stepped into her shoes, she is the head chef at Theo’s. Everything at Theobroma is centralised which helps them to maintain the quality standard. When we asked her how she maintains the freshness of the product she replied that they make everything new the next day and nothing is carried forward. If it doesn’t sell, then they discard the items.

 

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Theo’s Marketing Strategy

When it comes to marketing and advertising Kamal said that she hasn’t spent a penny on advertising. It has always been word-of-mouth publicity for them. According to Kamal “It was a passion which then turned into enterprise. It was never made with the intention to make money”. Since the time they have made it an organisation it has been difficult for them to make money. Their profit margin sometime goes as low as 10%. She adds, “I don’t want to make Theobroma for the elite, it is for the middle class people and that’s why we have kept the price of the products so low.”

They currently have 12 branches in Mumbai and they are planning to expand it to Delhi as they get lot of orders from Delhi.

 

Theo’s Message For You

At the end of the Interview we asked her if there’s any message which she would like to give to the young entrepreneurs to which she replied, “There is no shortcut to success. It’s enormous hard work but at the end of the road there is tremendous success. And keep your friends close they will help you a lot during your journey.” And as far as education is concerned in the line of business she tells us that Education is supposed to foster humility and to value human relations and should not function as a chip on your shoulder that fosters arrogance.

 

Learnings from Real Life MBA:

  1. Learn whom to trust early on in your entrepreneurship venture.
  2. Convert your passion into business and you will succeed.
  3. It’s not always about making money but about keeping the customer happy.
  4. Be ready to face failure in business but learn from it.
  5. Make humility your strength.

 

As told to Sonali Kapoor

 

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Read more stories on The Real Life MBA here.

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