Arwa Siraj

Challenging the monopoly of some established and traditional bakery houses in Kashmir, the new-age social media driven bakers are now emerging as the new tastemakers in the town preferred for their hygiene, taste and style.

By Auqib Javeed

She had only one window available to market her childhood passion when she came back as a trained baker from Delhi in 2017. And that window was a digital one — now scripting several success stories in Kashmir.

Being a tech-savvy helped Arwa Siraj, 27, to grow as the new-age digital self-starter who would constantly update her work and sync it with the trends.

“Online promotion of the business like baking is important to get your product out off the shelves,” says Arwa.

“If cakes aren’t sold on time, they end up in dustbin. This is where the social media has proven to be an effective tool.”

Before becoming the virtual world’s new tastemaker, Arwa would try her hands on different things on and off, and failed many times. It helped her learn and perfect the art.

Many moons later, the engineer-turned-baker is now successfully running her own cookery brand called “Auburn by Arwa”.

Arwa’s rise coincides with the custom of customised cakes in the urban landscape of Kashmir—where social media influencers are driving the new pulse and preferences.

But while many young bakers are coming out with trendy cakes, Arwa is the first baker to introduce pull-me up cakes, piñata cakes and mini cakes in Kashmir. She has started the concept of “surprise and explosive boxes” besides “acrylic boxes”.

“It’s really doing well,” Arwa says.

“What else do you need when your passion becomes your profession?”

She has employed people to take online orders for the baked delicacies from her cake house at Nowgam, Srinagar.

Arwa’s inclination towards bakery always set her apart in her class. She was barely 8 when she started making cakes and stayed loyal to it despite dejections and disappointments.

“I remember designing a cake on my sister’s birthday which she couldn’t cut due to the hard crust,” Arwa recalls. “I was disappointed but I decided to make it better next time.”

She would watch recipes of baking cakes from YouTube and blogs and learned the art.

“Sometimes it went well and sometimes I failed, but I never gave up,” she says. “It was only after I was done with my studies that I thought of taking my passion seriously.”

By the time she was out of the campus with degree, she had already found her professional call.

But making cake wasn’t a cakewalk for Arwa as she had to face countless challenges.

“Given the unstable and uncertain nature of our place, it becomes quite a big deal for anyone to keep the spirits high,” she says.

Apart from facing crippling situation, the challenge remains to maintain hygiene and presentation.

“For providing fresh and hygienic cakes and bakery,” she says, “the bakers need to find a way of replacing the refined all-purpose flour with healthier options like gluten-free flour. Baking is totally chemical free and is not bad for health at all.”

For baking and delivering orders, she procures material outside Kashmir costing her time and resources.

“Bakers have to work at odd hours too, and have to remain busy for their entire shift,” she says. “The work is both physically and mentally demanding.”

Despite her hectic work, she’s happy to create her own brand in the challenging market.

And for that, she credits her Delhi training period—enriching her passion with professional finesse—making her second to none in the new-age enterprise where reach and audience depends upon one’s digital diligence.

“Ever since I started my business venture in 2017, social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook played a key role in its growth,” Arwa says.

“Five years down the line, the digital investment is making all the difference in my brand.”


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