Of desserts, dreams, and dedication

Learning to balance education and passion, here are a few students who moonlight as entrpreneurs
Ragul with Asif and Sachin
Ragul with Asif and SachinExpress photo

CHENNAI: After a sweltering morning when the sun melts into the deepening hues of blues and oranges in the evening, the city shines with a warm glow of streetlights, and sweet scent of chocolate wafting through the air in several avenues. On trailing this aroma we find a vibrant cart with warm lights and a tempting array of desserts.

Whether gathered in search of an unwinding escape from the office, a spontaneous meet-up with folks, or a romantic date with a crush, these bustling kiosks welcome everyone under the haven of their chocolate fountain.

From the ganaches of dark, white, and milk chocolates on brownies to the irresistible dipped strawberries, the confectionary carts that are now popping up in every nook and cranny are a must-stop for anyone seeking solace for the soul and a bond to rekindle.

However, with the carts’ delectable ambience, the highlights are their youthful founders, who don’t just satisfy your sweet tooth but also inspire with stories of love, care, friendship and a passion for baking. Just as we stroll through these mouthwatering ventures and the journeys of their visionaries, CE invites you to join us on this delicious and thought-provoking excursion.

Baked with love

‘Baking may be regarded as a science, but it’s the chemistry between the ingredients that make it a culinary art.’ Inspired by this philosophy, the skilled chefs at these kiosks infuse creativity and passion into every batch of crumbs they bake.

Offering an exquisite menu of brownies, strawberries, hot chocolate, and marshmallows — all topped with chocolate chips, sprinkles, and more — Mugitha, the brain behind Dopamine started her confectionary with two of her friends Linghesh and Lohith, studying their second-year at the SRM University.

Bringing a sweet touch to the evening scene of the Gill Nagar’s park, Dopamine adds a joyful note to the ambience, turning a simple outing into a sweet memory. Reflecting on her passion for baking, she says, “I’ve loved baking since my school days. It’s a craft that brings me a sense of fulfilment, a feeling I carry daily. It releases a rush of dopamine — the happy hormone — when I serve my desserts to different age groups at the park, inspiring the name of this cart.”

Akshay B Sunil, Aishwarya and Nikhil Shivanand of Tempt
Akshay B Sunil, Aishwarya and Nikhil Shivanand of Tempt

Similarly, for Aishwarya, the co-founder of Tempt, Anna Nagar, and a law student at VIT College, baking is an integral part of her identity, embodying passion and a vocation for life. Mastering her skills through life’s unexpected turns, Aishwarya drew inspiration from her mother’s home baking during her teenage years.

Venturing into the handed-down skill with dedication, she shares, “When I was a child, my father wasn’t much supportive towards baking initially. After he passed away, and with financial instability in the family, I practised and improved my baking skills, offering a unique dessert called Brocolate, a fusion of brownie and chocolate with four flavours of white, triple-layer, red velvet, and the classic brownie.”

From textbooks to start-ups

Beyond passion, such endeavours require a lot of perseverance and enduring fire to make things happen. And this was evident in these youngsters, who balanced their academic commitments while working towards their dream of a self-sufficient life. Despite being students, these entrepreneurs juggle studying and working after classes to meet their financial obligations.

Hailing from a lower middle-class family, Ragul R, a recent engineering graduate from Sathyabama College, started Lick It Up in Sholinganallur, six months ago to support his single mother and pay off his student loans. “Starting Lick it Up during our final year was no easy feat. We used to close the outlet by 4.30 in the morning, and then spend two hours accounting for the day’s earnings. With just two hours of sleep, we’d then get up and head to college every day. It was a gruelling routine, but we knew it was worth it,” says Ragul, embodying his steadfast character.

However, for some, taking on multiple roles is a quest for opportunities to gain hands-on experience that complements their studies. Hemanth Raj, a final-year student at Rajalakshmi Engineering College, discovered this when he and his three friends Sanjay Prakash, Dinesh and Shubhang embarked on their start-up with Happy Dips, a renowned sweet stand in the street culture of Kolathur.

Studying Computer Science and Business Systems, the four backbenchers transform their roles into budding entrepreneurs, applying classroom concepts to real-world settings. “We believe the great justice to education is not just knowledge but the action we undertake to invest into the right medium. There are strong connecting threads that bond our studies and Happy Dips along, helping us shine in both arenas with strategies such as approaching customers, analysing feedback, and accounting,” says Hemanth.

Hemanth Raj, Sanjay Prakash, Dinesh and Shubhang of Happy Dips
Hemanth Raj, Sanjay Prakash, Dinesh and Shubhang of Happy Dips

Through thick and thin

Sometimes, the dreams we pursue become shared ones for the people we love. And what’s not possible when you have them standing next to you? With such pillars of support, these youngsters tackle every challenge without the fear of stumbling.

Feeling blessed to have them, Akshay B Sunil, the founder of Tempt with his friend Nikhil Shivanand and sister Aishwarya gratefully says, “The role of friends in my journey began long before Tempt, when we started with a small confectionery business, supplying cakes to schools and colleges. Since most college canteens don’t allow outside vendors, it was my friends from different colleges who stepped in to distribute the cakes personally, enabling us to overcome our financial struggles after my father’s death. Even today when my sister isn’t well, they step in to prepare the chocolates before the opening despite having their full-time jobs to do.” Recalling Tempt’s first day, he adds, “We were nervous, but the whole road was buzzing with my and my sister’s friends. And now, this place has become our meeting point.”

Inspired by the song Arputhamana Nanbargal from the movie Kottai Mariyamman, Hemanth finds his friends the real reason for the growing success of Happy Dips. Setting up kiosks at various college events with their collaborative efforts, including RIT, DG Vaishnav, and Saveetha, he says, “We take turns overseeing the kiosk. It’s funny, but without even realising it, we’ve all dreamt of starting a business together with friends. And I’m grateful to have them stuck with me through every high and low at Happy Dips.”

Along the streets of Chennai, many other kiosks have found a spot too. With customers milling in the evenings, and influencers filming their craft, their dreams have now gotten wings. While most of the cart works on an availability basis, we urge you to stop, take some time out and stand in the queue along with the others, and support their aspirations when you have a sweet craving.

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