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Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Padma Shri awardee: How Rajni Bector’s passion for cooking changed her life

Rajni Bector, founder and chairperson emeritus, Cremica Group of Companies and Mrs Bectors Food Specialities Limited, is a Ludhiana based industrialist whose passion for cooking brought her to great heights.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana |
Updated: November 12, 2021 11:23:17 am
rajni bector padma shri awards 2021Rajni Bector (79) was conferred the Padma Shri award on Monday by President Ram Nath Kovind for her contribution to the promotion and sustainable growth of trade and industry.

Rajni Bector (79) was honoured with the coveted Padma Shri award on Monday by President Ram Nath Kovind for her contribution to the promotion and sustainable growth of trade and industry.

The president acknowledged her for being a source of women empowerment and an inspiration to many women way back in the 1970s, especially those women who wanted to work but faced strong social pressures to stay home.

Rajni Bector, founder and chairperson emeritus, Cremica Group of Companies and Mrs Bectors Food Specialities Limited, is a Ludhiana based industrialist whose passion for cooking brought her to great heights.

Speaking with The Indian Express, Bector says, “When the President of India and the Prime Minister praised my hard work of over four decades, I felt blessed. My hard work has been rewarded. I even invited PM Narendra Modi to Ludhiana when he expressed a desire to taste some of my recipes. He can also help the food industry grow further. It has great potential which needs to be explored.”

Talking about her journey, Bector, who got married at an early age, completed her graduation after marriage. Her family migrated from Karachi to Delhi after partition and, in 1957, married into a business family in Ludhiana.

“It was a very backward city compared to Delhi when I got married and it was a big no for women from business families to work. However, I had a unique passion for cooking and I kept on trying many dishes, threw parties for family and friends. At that time, there used to be no helpers either and I used to do everything on my own. It started from my own kitchen. I started making different flavours of ice creams, later added sauces, cakes, puddings. My friends used to often tell me to start my own venture and I used to laugh at their suggestions as there was no trend of working in those days. Rather, it was considered bad if women from well-off families worked. Until 1978, I was just cooking for family and friends. My three sons were in the hostel and I used to give all my time to cooking. All I learnt was how to make vanilla ice cream from Punjab Agricultural University (PAU). Later, I developed forty of my own flavours. Many students from PAU also used to come to me for tips. Once an MLA gave me an order to supply ice cream at his granddaughter’s wedding. I had one helper who used to clean utensils and hence I refused to do so. However, he provided me with a workforce and I was able to complete that order. In the same year, upon the demand of my friends at Lakshmi Ladies Club, I put up an ice cream stall at the Diwali mela and it was a big hit. I had no idea that it would become such a huge success.”

In 1978, she started a small ice cream unit inside her house with Rs 20,000. “My husband told me that if I was serious about this, I should do it in a proper way and encouraged me to set it up. There used to be hand churners at that time. This is how my journey from a homemaker to a working woman began officially,” says Bector.

She recalls how the brand name, Cremica, came about, “One day, my husband, Dharamvir Bector, came to me and told me to think of a name as he thought the business must have a brand name. I use cream in making ice creams and hence I suggested ‘Cremica’ (made of cream). The branding was done in the early 80s.”

As the food business grew gradually, her sons joined her, after completing their studies, with additions in bakery, sauces, toppings, dressings, etc., over the years. Today Cremica is a popular brand with units in Ludhiana, UP, Delhi and many other parts of the country. Bector says that the business was split between her three sons. “All my sons are grown up now and they did a lot of value addition in the business. I have grown old now. But all the new flavours and items still have a final yes from me,” says Bector. Eldest son Ajay Bector handles ice creams, while Akshay Bector takes care of sauces, toppings, dressings, spreads etc. Anoop Bector takes care of the bakery, popularly known as English Oven.

Bector is involved in philanthropic activities as well, encouraging women to be part of the organisation. Over 6,000 employees work in their various units.

She says, “We have adopted few government schools, and sponsor bright students who cannot afford studies, fund libraries, and a school for special needs children. I keep myself more busy with social work these days. My only advice to the entrepreneurs and budding chefs is to consider their work as worship. They should work hard to excel, with full dedication. Hard work and dedication were the only lessons which I learnt and I am glad that people love our products. I still keep on trying new dishes whenever I get time and pass on those tips to my sons. You know, one should never sit idle.”

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