Mumbai sandwichwalas in a jam due to bakery brawl

Nandana James Mumbai | Updated on September 25, 2019 Published on September 25, 2019

Shashikant Ramakhedekar at his makeshift sandwich shop

Family dispute disrupts supply of the bread that’s the toast of the town

For nearly a week now, Mumbai’s famed sandwich sellers have been entreating an iconic city-based family with a silent prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.”

The object of their yeasty yearnings is an Irani family, which owns Western India Bakers (Wibs), makers of a brand of bread that is — without risk of exaggeration — the ‘toast’ of the town.

But all is not well in the crusty world of the Iranis. Wibs has ceased its sales since September 19, and there were media reports on Tuesday that a family dispute threatens to put asunder the partnership that has been firing up the ovens since 1973 to keep Mumbaikars supplied with their daily dose of starch.

Mega brand

Wibs bread came in a distinctive red, white and blue packaging. The brand had a 46 per cent market share of the city’s sliced bread market, and nearly 90 per cent of its sliced white bread was being sold to the city’s sandwichwalas, the report noted.

And many of these sandwich sellers, whom BusinessLine spoke to on Tuesday, were rueful over the loss.

“Wibs should come back,” says, Jagdish Patel, 37, from his sandwich and general shop in Churchgate. For him, Wibs is the best thing since, well, sliced bread. “Woh ekdam smooth bread hain” (It’s the softest),” he says.

Shashikant Ramakhedekar, 54, who runs a makeshift sandwich store, says the exit of Wibs from his life has added to his cup of woes: ever since the metro construction nearby began, access to his shop had been cut off by barricades, and his business had taken a beating, he added.

Raju Basu, 35, at the eponymous Raju Sandwich, a popular sandwich haunt near two colleges in Churchgate, ever since his uncle started the shop over 40 years ago, they had been using Wibs bread. Prem Poojari, 54, who works at the store, chimes in: “My wish is that it should come back; we have used it for decades.”

For now, they are using Britannia, which he admits is just as good. Prakash Pawar, 40, also at Raju’s shop, disagrees. “Britannia is not as great as Wibs.”

Not everyone is waiting around for the supply of Wibsto resume. At Sai Ganesh Sandwich Stall, another popular sandwich store adjacent to St. Xavier’s College, Vinod Jadav, 32, one of its owners, says he isn’t bothered much by Wib’s closure. He has always used Modern bread, but he frets that with the exit of Wibs, the pressure on supplies of other brands too will increase.

Feeling the pinch

Manoj Goud, 35, another sandwichwala in Churchgate, says that for someone like him, who uses just about eight packets of bread a day, it may not be a problem, but other big sourcers may feel the pinch.

“I want Wibs because it’s the best, but if that’s not going to be available, I’ll settle for something else,” says Ramakhedekar.

Published on September 25, 2019
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