Early rise: The young Hongkonger breaking into baking, aged only 21
After years working from his home kitchen – and graduating from university – Ankrish Gidwani has opened a business to put his passion to good use
Most 21-year-olds are typically studying or filling employment applications for entry-level jobs. But for Ankrish Gidwani, the main concern is finding full-time qualified staff for the bakery he started nine years ago.
It is a remarkable rise for the young entrepreneur, who once never dreamed his hobby and passion for baking would become his job.
Gidwani got his first paid order when he was 12, after posting about his baking on his blog.
“At that time it wasn’t a business. I was just doing it for fun and I loved doing it,” he said. “I never thought I would be doing it as a career.”
Gidwani wanted to perfect his craft and decided to contact Hong Kong’s five-star hotels, offering to work for free to get experience from veteran bakers. But he was turned down due to labour laws in the city, barring employment of anyone under 15.
But, like many millennials, Gidwani decided to teach himself online by watching videos on YouTube and posting the results on his blog.
With help from his mother, he baked cakes in his kitchen at home. But after he was interviewed by several local news outlets aged about 15, “that’s when it became real,” he said. He began getting orders every day.
Gidwani quickly realised the business was getting too big to run from his kitchen, and wanted to move to a larger space.
But there was one hurdle he needed to overcome: his father said he had to go to university.
“At that time I didn’t want to go,” Gidwani said. “I was looking at properties to rent [for the business] in high school. But my dad said I could open my own business after graduation.”
Gidwani acceded to his father’s wish and started a degree in hospitality management at Chinese University, graduating in May and opening his 1,800 sq ft Baking Maniac kitchen in Wong Chuk Hang in October, using money he saved selling baked goods over the past nine years.
There, he bakes his creations for sale, and also has an event space for small parties.
He estimated that the set-up cost him more than HK$1 million.
The university course gave Gidwani the opportunity to finally work at five-star hotels; he took internships at the Four Seasons Hotel and The Upper House, gaining experience in customer service.
And his success caught the attention of the Chinese University Centre for Entrepreneurship project director David Leung Shing-chuen, who wanted to give the young businessman a leg up and use him as an example for other budding business owners, whom his programme aims to help.
“We want to invite Ankrish to talk to our students,” he said.
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Leung said that the generation currently graduating from secondary school or university is highly entrepreneurial, especially having grown up with the internet. But he warned that while it was easy to build an online store, that can give a sense of “false hope” because it is costly and the competition extremely intense.
He added that it was important for young entrepreneurs to speak to experienced businesspeople and investors to help guide them over any potential obstacles.
Gidwani admitted there are days he is so overwhelmed with work that he questions whether he took the right career path.
“I have sacrificed my social life since a very young age, concentrating and investing all my time into the business. However, I soon concluded that I wouldn’t be happier doing anything else,” he said.
“Follow what you believe. I’ve had so many people tell me not to do this ... but I always stuck to what I wanted to do and at least I won’t regret anything later in life.”