Ankrish Gidwani (BBA in Hotel and Tourism Management 2017) is nowhere near what most would consider to be a normal university graduate. For one, he has been running his own business, Baking Maniac, with his mother Renuka Kripalani Gidwani, since the age of 12. The adventure in all things sweet led him to the Hotel and Tourism Management Program at CUHK Business School. This was followed by setting up an elegant bakery in Wong Chuk Hang, where he bakes bespoke cakes, cupcakes and cake pops, and hosts workshops as well.
Ankrish (left) gets essential support from family in running Baking Maniac
Studying Comes First, According to Dad
Ankrish is a true baking maniac, who balanced high school with bakery and managed to survive with degrees, work experience, study abroad, and his business intact. Originally, his dream was to scale up the business and forego further studies altogether. But this changed after as his dad insisted on a higher education, which Ankrish continued to balance alongside running Baking Maniac.
“I choose CUHK Business School because they have the best program for hospitality in Hong Kong,” Ankrish says. The opportunity to study in Cornell for a semester was another unbeatable draw, along with the experience to intern in hotels and learn from guest speakers. “We would have hotel and restaurant owners from New York City talk to us and this was so amazing and offered so many connections, which were great for my development,” Ankrish says.
Ankrish (2nd from right) had an unforgettable internship experience at The Four Seasons Hotel
Alongside learning business essentials such as accounting and law at the Business School, Ankrish says his internships with the food and beverage department at Café Gray in The Upper House, and the guest experience team at The Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong were life-changing for him. His time at Cornell University was invaluable as well, although he did have some bumps along the way. “I never ran a washing machine before and on the first day somehow it broke. I had never cooked for myself either, I can’t cook I can only bake,” Ankrish says.
A Hobby that Turned into a Business
When Ankrish started the business, it was all about birthday cakes, but with demand from commercial organisations and events, Baking Maniac morphed into a sought-after destination for what Ankrish calls “celebration desserts”, with clients including everyone from pop stars to brands.
It sounds glamorous, but Ankrish does everything from emails, accounting, social media, dishwashing to arranging deliveries, alongside his baking duties. The passion for dessert began as a child, when once he was not allowed to go out and buy cake, and started making it at home on his own. At 12 years old, Ankrish developed this precocious talent and emailed five star hotels in Hong Kong asking pastry chefs to be allowed to work with them and learn baking. While many replied, they could not offer him a role given his young age. So Ankrish watched YouTube for techniques, created a blog detailing his after-school baking, and suddenly became noticed online. Word of mouth grew around Baking Maniac at that point, and the orders began to skyrocket, along with the media attention.
Ankrish enjoys decorating and making beautiful cakes
While studying in Cornell on exchange was a great experience, Ankrish’s business dipped a little as word got around that he was not in Hong Kong. Upon his return however, Ankrish set his sights on getting Baking Maniac back into the limelight, emailing his 5,000-strong database and organising a grand opening party. “Still, many people don’t know Baking Maniac, but in a way I like the brand being exclusive,” Ankrish says. “Those 5,000 clients have been so supportive over the years, yet after opening I was still scared that business would cool down. Thankfully it’s been great so far,” he adds.
One of the most important elements for Ankrish is to keep the quality of his business high, regardless of what stage of life he finds himself in. “Sometimes it’s 1am and I’m tired. Yet if the cake I’m making is not up to standard, I redo it. Everything I do must be worthy of the Baking Maniac brand,” Ankrish says. “With the power of social media, if one person has a negative experience, the whole of Hong Kong will hear about it,” he adds.
Ankrish (Top row, 2nd from left) makes new friends during his exchange at Cornell University
Passion Drives the Future
When we suggest that Ankrish would need caffeine to keep his long hours up, he says he never drinks coffee. Indeed, passion is what keeps him active: “When you are working you are so in the mood that you don’t eat lunch, or dinner, and you want to see the design in your head come to life,” he says. When he is engrossed in cakes nothing can stop him. “My dad sometimes says: ‘Are you crazy? You haven’t been to the toilet all day’,” Ankrish adds with a laugh.
Cakes take Ankrish ten to twenty hours, although special requests are often longer to prepare. Ankrish creates everything from Spiderman-themed birthday delights for kids to eight-tiered creations and bespoke treats with edible jewellery that can take weeks. Attention to detail is essential to the business, and Ankrish chooses everything from his cake boxes, company logo, to sofa fabrics in the studio, and even the napkins — after a few teething pains nothing is left to chance.
Ankrish (top left) loves travelling and exploring new things
“My ultimate goal is to have a retail outlet and let more people in Hong Kong try my products and be able to buy them outside of occasions,” says Ankrish. For now, Ankrish may explore consignment, but the challenge is finding the right match for his business, and be accessible while maintaining the brand’s premium image. Given his hands-on approach, will it be a challenge to delegate? “It has to be perfect, and to start trusting people, you need to find the right match. It’s not a good business if it is all on one person,” Ankrish says. One company that Baking Maniac could take inspiration from is Sift, the bespoke cupcake operation with outlets around Hong Kong. “I don’t want to be all over the city, I want to keep that element of being high-end and exclusive and people need to make an effort to get our cakes,” he adds.
At the end of day, the devil is in the detail. “Rather than make millions of dollars I want to make less and keep it perfect,” Ankrish says. For anyone starting a business, the mantra offers a lesson in entrepreneurship — act with passion, integrity and maintain quality — a sweet recipe for success.