Kan­nur’s most fa­mous bak­ers

Progressive Grocer (India) - - Contents - By Roshna Chan­dran Stone­bridge

The Venus Group is pop­u­lar for its Sheen Bak­ery stores in Kan­nur, Ker­ala. Man­ag­ing Part­ner Veen­ish Ku­mar talks about the busi­ness and his plans for the fu­ture.

The Venus Group is pop­u­lar for its Sheen Bak­ery stores in Kan­nur, Ker­ala. The fam­ily-run busi­ness is now man­aged by the sec­ond generation of fam­ily en­trepreneurs. Veen­ish Ku­mar, Man­ag­ing Part­ner at Venus Group of Con­cerns, talks to Pro­gres­sive Gro­cer about how the busi­ness has evolved over the years and his plans for the fu­ture.

Up­pot Ku­maran, the late founder of Venus Group of Con­cerns in Kan­nur, Ker­ala, learned the ropes of busi­ness while work­ing as an ap­pren­tice in an old bak­ery. In 1952, he de­cided to launch his own busi­ness un­der the ban­ner of Venus Group of Con­cerns. His hunger for driv­ing his busi­ness to the next level and his de­ter­mi­na­tion and pas­sion to suc­ceed led him to open Stan­dard Bak­ery in 1960. This new out­let in Kan­nur quickly be­came fa­mous for its three trade­mark prod­ucts – Bread, Rusk and Cake. His un­bounded en­ergy drove him to open an­other two Stan­dard Bak­ery out­lets in Kasar­god and Valavat­nam in Ker­ala, in 1965 and 1966. Not one to let the grass grow un­der his feet, Ku­maran ex­panded his bak­ing units with the launch of Sheen Bak­ery in 1970. This out­let was strate­gi­cally lo­cated next to the busy Kan­nur rail­way sta­tion and grew to be one of Venus Group’s pop­u­lar bak­ery des­ti­na­tions, a rep­u­ta­tion it en­joys till date.

DAILY PRO­DUC­TION OUT­PUT AT VENUS GROUP Cakes: 100 Kg Bread: 2,000 pieces Samosas: 100 Kg Snacks: 500 Kg Sweets: 100 Kg

In 1974, Up­pot Ku­maran breathed his last as he was about to open an­other bak­ery out­let in the State. Two of his brother-in-laws – Mohan and Suren­dran – stepped in to com­plete the un­fin­ished project and de­cided to name the new out­let ‘Ku­mars’ in mem­ory of Ku­maran. As the busi­ness re­quired close mon­i­tor­ing, Ku­maran’s wife Saraswati, a re­tired school teacher, and her broth­ers, joined forces to keep the con­cern up and run­ning. Be­tween them, a de­ci­sion was taken to foray into the dis­tri­bu­tion game un­der the name Sheen Veen Trades. As of to­day, Venus Group’s man­u­fac­tur­ing, dis­tri­bu­tion and re­tail ven­tures have struck solid roots and are be­ing man­aged by Saraswati and her six chil­dren – Veena Sathyanath, Sheena Rath­nakaran, Shee­jith Ku­mar, Shabin Ku­mar, Sha­jin Ku­mar and Veen­ish Ku­mar.

Ren­o­va­tions and ex­pan­sion

“I grew up sur­rounded by the fam­ily busi­ness,” says Veen­ish who acts as the key de­ci­sion maker as well as Man­ag­ing Part­ner at Venus Group of Con­cerns. “The cakes baked in those days were done the old fash­ioned way. There were two peo­ple who would stir a huge la­dle from an urn to pre­pare the cake mix­ture. Bak­ing was done in brick ovens and in­gre­di­ents like maida, which was sold un­der a quota sys­tem, used to come from the Kan­nur port.”

Veen­ish, with his mother’s guid­ance, set about ren­o­vat­ing and ex­pand­ing the man­u­fac­tur­ing units. He de­mol­ished the old of­fice at Bel­lard Road and re­built it into a fac­tory unit, which he named after his fa­ther – Ku­mar Tow­ers. The multi-sto­ried build­ing has a to­tal area of 8,000 square feet with a fac­tory space of 1,500 square feet for bak­ing fresh cream cakes and pas­tries.

In 1999, Veen­ish opened Chi­fonet, a mul­ti­cui­sine restau­rant and a year later, he opened Baker Boys. Both store and restau­rant are lo­cated at Ku­mar Tow­ers. He also evolved the re­tail space by adding a seat­ing ca­pac­ity for eight cus­tomers and by stock­ing other branded prod­ucts at the Baker Boys out­let. “The av­er­age ticket is Rs.150-200 and our fastest mov­ing cat­e­gories have been cake, bread and sweets,” he re­veals.

In 2003, Vi­neesh opened New Sheen Con­fec­tionary. At the same time, he also ex­panded Sheen Bak­ery by open­ing new out­lets in Talap in 2009 and at the Kan­nur main bus stand in 2010. Cur­rently, Sheen bak­ery prod­ucts also have re­tail pres­ence at the Greens Hyper­mar­ket, Orange Su­per­mar­ket and at the Metro in Kan­nur.

“I also started a fac­tory in Talap 12 years ago for man­u­fac­tur­ing Venus prod­ucts. It was a small space, so then we bought out the ad­ja­cent prop­er­ties one by one to ex­pand the fac­tory,” Veen­ish says. This unit was ded­i­cated to pro­duc­ing Venus bread and snacks. An­other Sheen man­u­fac­tur­ing unit was also set up near the old Kan­nur bus stand for pro­duc­ing savoury items.

To bring his old units up to snuff with mod­ern prac­tices, Vi­neesh re­placed the ear­lier brick ovens with gas and diesel ovens. The re­tail out­lets have all been up­graded with cool­ing show­cases and re­frig­er­a­tors.”we have also ex­panded our prod­uct cat­e­gories,” in­forms Vi­neesh. “Our bread now comes in many va­ri­eties – wheat, brown, fruit and multi­grain. The savouries and sweets cat­e­gories have also new prod­uct lines. We have also started our online busi­ness, which is be­ing man­aged by my nephew Nived Nath.”

The an­nual turnover at Venus Group is Rs. 18 crore cur­rently. All stores are ap­prox­i­mately 800 square feet in area and also stock other branded prod­uct such as bis­cuits, aer­ated drinks, juice and bev­er­age.

Chal­lenges

“At­tri­tion, of course, is a huge chal­lenge and we have to keep train­ing new staff. Main­tain­ing fresh stock is also dif­fi­cult in the case of per­ish­able items. By the end of the day, we have to de­stroy ex­pired items from all our out­lets,” ex­plains Veen­ish. “Apart from a few top re­tail­ers in Kan­nur, we have not started sup­ply­ing our bak­ery prod­ucts to other re­tail stores since they are highly per­ish­able. More­over, we are not sure how the re­tailer will han­dle the goods. There is no guar­an­tee.”

At­tri­tion is a huge chal­lenge and we have to keep train­ing new staff. Main­tain­ing fresh stock is also dif­fi­cult in the case of per­ish­able items. — Veen­ish Ku­mar Man­ag­ing Part­ner, Venus Group

Fu­ture

Veen­ish has plans of ex­pand­ing to an­other restau­rant and two more bak­ery units by next year. “We also plan to ex­pand through the fran­chise route be­sides open­ing an ex­clu­sive show­room near the rail­ways sta­tion.” With the Union min­istry of Food Pro­cess­ing push­ing its ‘Food Park’ ini­tia­tives, the Venus Group is also mulling to take up an in­dus­trial area to start ex­port oper­a­tions once it puts in place a sys­tem of bet­ter pack­ag­ing of its prod­ucts.

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