Simran Oberoi is a self-taught home baker and the founder of Ovenderful, a niche signature e-bakery that specialises in healthy and organic bakes, as well as classic bakes. She was also a mentee of The Cherie Blair Foundation’s Women in Business program for a year.
In order to ensure that knowledge on healthy baking can be shared regularly and that baking can be used for social impact and community service, Oberoi started a closed Facebook group called Ovenderful Mom Bakers Community (OMBC), which is almost 13,000 members strong. Recently, Oberoi received a shout-out from none other than Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg for her leadership and incredible entrepreneurial journey which strives on making a difference in the community.
“External validation or encouragement, especially from someone like Sheryl Sandberg, can make a world of difference to one’s commitment levels and you know you can scale greater heights and have a bigger impact.”
She admits that she didn’t expect the recognition coming her way, “It was very fulfilling to see that one’s work is valued to this extent and that it has the potential to be sustained. It felt like I have received a high degree of credibility as well as appreciation which makes all the challenges from the past seem so small! Sometimes your own self-belief is very strong, which is the case for me. But even so, external validation or encouragement, especially from someone like Sheryl, can make a world of difference to one’s commitment levels and you know you can scale greater heights and have a bigger impact.”
OMBC works like a close-knit community that exchanges ideas and recipes with each other, to enable a better understanding of using alternative, indigenous flours or ingredients to make baking healthy and change mindsets about the same.
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So not only does Simran use her own e-bakery’s bake sales for fundraising, she works with the OMBC bakers for many causes that can enable them to make a difference. She shares, “To give you an idea, I started my baking in 2010/2011 by conducting volunteer classes at an NGO Search Years, in Gurgaon, to create a line of vocational training, for twelve girls from rural areas in Haryana. Alongside that, I slowly became part of all fundraisers that focus on generating money for abandoned and injured animals in Delhi and Bangalore- as of now I have baked for Indigree Angels Trust, Help & Heal Animal Trust, Voice of Stray Dogs, CARE Animal Shelter and Precious Paws Foundation.
Extending the desire to use baking as a social impact tool, I involved a lot of OMBC volunteer bakers to bake for various causes – The Bake a Sunshine Cake initiative ( 2015 and 2016) is carried out across many cities in India as well as in the US where bakers carry home-baked goodies to old-age homes and orphanages in the month of December. I partnered with Kritagyata Trust to bake (and encourage almost 20-30 more bakers to join as well) for 2000 children for a Children’s Day distribution at government schools in rural areas of Neelmangala close to Bengaluru.
A flagship program that I started with Ovenderful and a set of volunteer bakers in July 2016 is to have a set of bakers baking and distributing healthy bakes each month for slum children/street children/children of migrant labour in their local areas. This is more of a consistent and regular program so that not only do we give the children the joy of the goodies but also some small form of nutrition. It is called the Ovenderful BakeStreet Program.”
Prior to turning Ovenderful into a commercial venture ( in November 2013), Simran has worked for over 11 years with global organisations in Human Resources Advisory services in Asia Pacific roles as well as in Research & Knowledge Development such as Hewitt Associates, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Hay Group.
Currently, 90 per cent of the members are mothers – and they are widely spread across cities in India and many international locations like the US, UK, Dubai/Middle East, Singapore and Australia, with a few in Hong Kong and Kenya too. Some cities with the largest number of mom bakers are Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi/NCR, Pune and Hyderabad, and some in Coimbatore, Kochi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad as well.
Oberoi recalls the group’s first distribution into the slums for the first time – it was both heartbreaking and humbling both, to see the conditions the kids lived in and yet all it took was a simple cupcake to make them smile.
Over the years, not having enough funds or investment to scale up into a physical storefront has been a challenge. Also, currently working as a single-person enterprise, Oberoi is often pulled into the operations and tactical part and also trying to work on the strategic path for Ovenderful. She says that focusing on the smaller day-to-day details at times shift the focus from the bigger picture. And trying to find that work-life balance is equally difficult.
“You are constantly trying to switch roles between work and life or find ways to focus on one without impacting the other. This happens physically as well as emotionally – but we all have an inherent sense of what that optimal balance is for each of us. The moment we hit that point which stabilises the 2 phases for us, we have found our balance. So, maintaining that balance is a lot of trial and error on a daily basis.”
Oberoi says her entrepreneurial venture helped channel her restlessness in the right direction. In the future, she hopes to open her own café specialising in artisanal healthy baked goods and continue to make a tangible impact on the society.
Video By Ria Das, Text by Amrita Paul
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