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  • Writer's pictureTharindu Ameresekere

Journey from being a Chemist to a Baker - OH! My Cake

Updated: Mar 26, 2022

He was planning to be a chemist. Baking delicacies was a hobby he did in a remote area as a recreation during evenings. From there to where it is now, "Oh My Cake" has an amazing story to share. Yugadeep Jeevaratnam the artist of the brand, the business & the baked goods tells us all about it.

Yugadeep you went from being a specialist in chemicals and now you are having your own baker and making your own things, so tell us how did this switch exactly happen?

My mother used to bake cakes for birthdays to family gatherings, so baking has been a part of my life since my childhood.

There was a time, after I did my degree in chemical engineering, I was working in Maskeliya which was very far from the city, more like a remote area where my only recreation in the evening was to have a piece of cake and just chill.

That's when I started to do trials in making different cakes and desserts, since I've always had a liking for sweets & desserts. So when the cafe called Shackasz, which was here before and they were closing down, I thought why not take it up and give it a try. So here we are. And I believe I made the right decision.

How do you get inspiration to do thing differently ? You come up with outrageous combinations like the boozy chocolate truffle which is a favourite at our Business Lounge office as well, and how do you get the inspiration to do it?

Well as you said, I didn't want to recreate what the rest of the bakers & cake shops in Colombo do and just add a different name to it. So I had this tagline of desserts which I called "Oh My Cake".

Our main motive was to concentrate on desserts and to take different types of desserts to people rather than taking cake. So we thought of doing something that's just enough in terms of portion for an individual without having to share a larger sized cake slice with someone. We made it less "cakey" and more "desserty" so that's how we thought and came up with new and different combinations.

Yugadeep you are not on Uber eats, you don't have a web site but you have some social media profiles but not the most active. How has that worked out and what was your thinking?

We'll be joining Uber eats in the upcoming months but we wanted to know whether "Oh My Cake" would be a successful brand. We were a bit skeptic at the start. Because initially when we planned to start "Oh My Cake" we were thinking about it as more of a conceptualized dessert bar with a touch of sophistication but we weren't sure whether the Colombo market would be ready for it. So we thought that we'll start slow and small with a basic dessert bar and keep moving ahead as we learn and familiarize ourselves with the market as well.

We also noticed that a lot of brands in the market that come out with the best branding and the best strategies in terms of digital media eventually end up closing in a year or two. So we thought that we should give the right quality and let our main PR be through the word of mouth of our customers.

Most of our current customers are people who come through the word of mouth and I think that's more sustainable than those influenced through digital media. And if at all you create a hype on digital media and then you don't keep up to it, you will just end up winding down and people will not even remember you.

In terms of 2020 what trends do you see ? As we live in a world of messages that says "Cut your sugar, eat healthy, stay healthy" etc; what trends do you really see as someone who lives with people who are really into desserts ?

I feel like the amount of sugar they want in the dessert has reduced for sure because if you see cakes and desserts made by our grandparents were extremely sugary. But those kind of sugar levels are not there anymore because I have some elderly customers say that our desserts aren't sweet enough but the younger crowd seem to like our desserts as the sugar content is just right for them. So I would definitely say that the consumption of sugar has gone down during the past decade and as the market becomes more knowledgeable they will demand their desserts to be less sugary.

And your hot chocolate is something definitely crave worthy. What's the secret behind it?

Most of the places use the power mix which is readily available in the market called drinking hot chocolate. We just use pure chocolate and melt that with milk and we use some other ingredients that brings out the richness in the hot chocolate.

If anyone is planning to start their own venture maybe food or in baking what would be your advice for them?

Consider the quality of the product and use the best of ingredients. Yes, the best of ingredients would be expensive and that would increase the cost to operate it. But my advice is to find a price point comfortable for you where it doesn't become a loss making venture for you while the customer also continues to get a good quality product. This should be your formula no matter what business you enter. Always remember that you don't have to market or promote heavily. Because I believe that branding and everything comes secondary but the quality comes first, so prioritize on that. If you can get the quality right, the customers will follow and be with you for sure.

So if the product is good then the branding will be taken care by that itself is it Yugadeep?

Yes, for me I didn't do any branding at all. I just had a name board but I was able to keep moving because the product quality was high and it was what the market segment I targeted was searching for. This is the feedback that I got. It is important you listen to the feedback on what your customers have to say. Eventually you could build your brand up and do advertising and marketing and even promote on digital channels but at the beginning itself if you ruin the quality that you serve then it becomes a blunder and there is no turning back.

Where do you see your brand specially in the market with big players and franchises with multiple outlets ? Here you are in small place on a bit of a popular street but not the most visible brand in this field. Is this how you have planned to move on to 2020 as well?

We have plans for expansion and we are still looking out for places. We also have another location in mind at the moment but we are not sure how operational it would be for us. It's definitely a bigger space than this where customers have a little more space and seating and could chill for a while.

We are planning to serve coffee as well because we don't do coffee in this current place and the moment you have coffee people would want to come and sit for a while and chill, have meeting etc. The current location is not the ideal place for people to sit and chill for a longer time so definitely we would be looking for expansion in terms of space and also plan to expand our desserts range where we will have a wider variety available.

(Interviewed by Editor in Chief of Tharindu Ameresekere)

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