Aarefa Johri, Scroll.in
Mumbai, 22 March 2016
– the crispy, deep-fried, disc-shaped snack that has fans across India
– is believed to have originated in Gujarat. But if you were under the
impression that it is a typically Maharashtrian preparation, it is
probably because of Raghunathrao Chitale, the founder and owner of
Pune’s iconic Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale food and dairy brand.
Raghunathrao, popularly known as Bhausaheb Chitale, died in Pune on March 20 at the age of 95.
though milk and dairy products was the Chitale brand’s original
business, the headlines remembered Bhausaheb as the “creator” of
Technically, the Chitales didn’t invent the crunchy
besan- and maida-based snack. It has been a part of traditional west
Indian cooking, particularly Gujarati farsaan, for a long time. But
without Bhausaheb Chitale and the rapid growth of India’s packaged food
industry, bakarwadi may not have been as popular among Indians both in
the country and abroad.
Today, packaged bakarwadi in multiple
sizes is sold by many firms – Chitale and Haldiram’s perhaps the best
known – but the story of their journey from household kitchens to
grocery store shelves across the world began with the Chitale patriarch.
The Chitale story
in 1920 in a small village in Maharashtra’s Satara district, Bhausaheb
Chitale began his career helping his father with their milk business in
Pune. As he came into his own, Bhausaheb expanded and transformed the
brand into Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale, which sells a host of Indian
sweet and savoury snacks.
“In 1970, a person from Gujarat
introduced Bhausaheb to the bakarwadi,” said Indraneel Chitale, one of
Bhausaheb’s grandsons. “But the Gujarati preparation was on the sweeter
side. My grandfather thought of adding more spice to the recipe to
cater to Maharashtrian tastes.”
The current form of spicy
bakarwadi, with a hint of sweet and sour, was popularised by Bhausaheb
and his brother Rajabhau Chitale, who died in 2010. The family business
is now run by their sons and grandsons.
“The Chitale bakarwadis
are just right in terms of flavour – they are spicy and crunchy and go
well with both tea or beer,” said Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal, a food
writer from Mumbai.
From hand-made to automation
the 1970s, when Chitale Bandhu began selling packaged bakarwadi,
workers in their Pune factories manually prepared up to 300 kg of the
snacks a day. But with demand constantly on the rise, the company
decided to automate the process.
“My father went to Europe and
with the help of experts from Germany and Holland, designed a machine
specially to make bakarwadis,” said Indraneel Chitale. “The whole
process took four years.”
In 1989, the company introduced
partial automation for bakarwadi production, and by 1994, the process
was completely automated. Today, Chitale Bandhu has three such machines
in Pune, which collectively churn out 850 kg of bakarwadi an hour. One
of the machines is dedicated to supply only within Pune, where it is
often sold out in the first half of the day itself.
we are able to sell everything on the same day as it is made,” said
Indraneel Chitale, who claims that Chitale Bandhu is the only company
that makes bakarwadi through a fully automated process. “Apart from the
milk from our dairy, bakarwadi is actually our highest-selling product.”
has also helped increase the shelf-life of bakarwadi and other Indian
snacks so that they can be more conducive to export. “As Indian
companies have scaled up, they have been able to adopt automated
technologies not only for production but also packaging,” said
Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of Third Eyesight, a consultancy firm.
With better packaging, dry food products are protected from the
elements and from decay. “It has enabled Indian snack manufacturers to
find their way to customers in much more distant markets within and
outside the country.”
(Published in Scroll.in)