Home / Books / Bhujia Barons by Pavitra Kumar | Book Review

Bhujia Barons by Pavitra Kumar | Book Review

Biographies are definitely inspirational reads. It gives you the summary of a successful life in a few hundred pages. And, that includes the lessons learnt through the experiences of years. It is like how you churn milk and collect the essence as butter. Of course, the butter milk also possesses some fantastic qualities. But, the butter is just the butter. A biography is like the butter that came out from a remarkable life. And, if you know how to absorb that knowledge, implement the lessons you can learn from that content, you can make “ghee” from that butter that can enlighten the lamp of your life too.

With the aim to share lessons we’ve learnt from various reliable sources (like commencement speeches, biographies, and others), often share our views and reviews for the same.

Book Title : Bhujia Barons
The Untold Story of How Haldiram Built a Rs 5000-crore Empire
Author :
Published by : Penguin (1 August 2016)
# of Pages : 256 (Paperback) 197; 6322 KB (Kindle EBook) 409 Minutes (Audiobook)
# of Chapters : 6
Purchase Link(s) :

In the same regards, today we’re going to share with you our unbiased and uninfluenced thoughts about an interesting book Bhujia Barons that comes with informative tagline The Untold Story of How Haldiram Built a ₹5000-Crore Empire. Published by Penguin Books, this book is penned by Pavitra Kumar.

Book Cover:

Do you believe in the saying: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”?

We do.

At the same time we also acknowledge the influence of the book cover in a viewer’s mind. And, based on that impact, the viewer can pick the book from a wide range of options available to him/her otherwise. And, if he found blurb and other stuff interesting, he may decide to buy it.

So, let us take a look at the cover page of this small book.

Bhujia Barons by Pavitra Kumar | Book Cover

Bhujia Barons by Pavitra Kumar | Book Cover

As you can see the cover page is really attractive. A cheerful background color is rare to be seen on the cover page of a biography. This book is a pleasant surprise in that sense. Also, the illustrations of people are really interesting. They have all the traditional elements you may look for. The process of Bhujia making is also elaborated a little.

I like the cover page.

The Book And What We Think Of It:

Usually we talk about a book into two distinguished segments, dedicated to the bird’s eye view of the book plot and our views for the same. As the nature of this book is quite different, let us merge both these segments together.

One thing I like to point out in the beginning is the simple language used in the book. While the author has a really good command over English and has a very rich vocabulary (which is visible in the book content); instead of using hard to understand words, or using go-get-a-dictionary kind of idioms; she decided to use a day-to-day language. And, that makes the book readable for everyone.

In this we come to met a large number of family members of the protagonist. And they range from the generation before and after him. It is a really well-researched documentation where you come to know a lot about the Haldiram family.

The book starts documenting (in brief) the journey of Mr. Haldiram Agarwal’s ancestors.

As it is said, “The voyage to the moon starts with a small step”; and it is true for all journeys. The foundation stones are implanted by Mr. Halddiram’s ancestors. It is not necessarily the foundation stone of a physical building. The business mindset, the attitude to do something significant from whatever resources available, with the hands-on-skills, and most importantly, the encouragement and the guidance whenever required, are also key elements.

The book mentions many names, and to avoid spoilers, I will avoid mentioning them. However, I must mention “Bhikhi Bua”.

The book has some interesting detailed descriptions reflecting the surroundings and people’s mood. For example, the following scene is so realistic that you can visualize it by closing your eyes.

It was just another ordinary Wednesday afternoon. The market was bustling with tourists, students, housewives and merchants—all in throes of besting shopkeepers for the cheapest deals they could find. The merchants, in turn, worked their charm in frenzy, moving their arms around animatedly, calling out their meanest deals, ‘Three for ₹10! Three for ₹10!’ while arrogantly boasting about the ‘highest quality’ products!

You can still see such situations in flea-markets. Of course, in small villages and towns, (or for that matter in some old markets of metro-cities too) it is common to witness such stuff.

Talking about India and not talking about cricket, simply not possible!

In this book also you can find references of the game of cricket.

In the midst of this chaos, groups of people gathered around radios in local teashops, cheering India’s cricket team in a very intense one-day international against Pakistan in Sialkot. Dilip Vengsarkar was in his element and close to scoring a century against India’s bitterest rivals in cricket. He endeared himself to the crowd even more when he hit another four, forcing the Pakistani fielders to sprint across the field in vain. The audience in Chandni Chowk roared in delight as the announcer on All India Radio described this young player’s incredible performance. There was cheering and excitement all around. Everyone was a stranger in those small groups around the radio, yet they hugged and shook hands as if they were brothers.

See, how sports unite people regardless of their financial or social status!

The book talks about communal harmony in simple words.

This crowded district, where one could barely walk without brushing against vibrant life, was an amalgamation of religious harmony.

Then happens a tragic incident. The then PM of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards. And, it resulted in communal riots where Sikhs were targeted. And that affected the Agarwal family too. Who can decode the mysteries and uncertainties of life?! When they were seeing hope in the future, it all shattered. The book mentions that Ashish Agarwal was two years old then.

For those who don’t have much idea about the brand and if it has subsidiaries. Or have queries like, where is the Haldiram business headquarter? The author brings in simple answers.

The Haldiram family business started when the patriarch Haldiram began making and selling a new snack—the bhujia we all know and love—to the locals in Bikaner in 1918. This family business has survived almost a hundred years of change and challenge to become one of India’s most-loved packaged food brands today.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
The brand name is currently used by three completely independent businesses run by Haldiram’s grandsons, namely Haldiram’s Nagpur in Nagpur; Haldiram Bhujiawala, Haldiram’s Prabhuji and Haldiram in Kolkata; and the best-known Haldiram’s in Delhi.

The author elaborates further:

They share the same genes, the same heritage and the same passion for bhujia, yet every day they strive to be different from one another and shine brighter in their own individual light. Possessive and territorial in a market where together they are leaders, they combat each other in a twenty-five-year-old battle in the courts of Delhi and Kolkata to carve out the bigger piece of their heritage for themselves. This is a complex family with many factions and loyalties, where at times blood and brotherhood are not synonymous.

By the way, do you know, the patriarch’s real name was not Haldiram?

The author brings in some interesting details about the founder.

Ganga Bhishen Agarwal, aka Haldiram, was born at a glorious time in Bikaner, when progress was the new theme song in town and Bikaner was beginning to evolve from the rural desert sprawl that it was into a flourishing trade town. He was the grandson of one Bhikharam Agarwal, son of Tansukhdas Agarwal, a poor and unimaginative merchant living in the Bachaut Ka Mohalla area in Bikaner.

Responsibilities make people mature, not age!

That is true for most of the situations and people we come across. The author, when studied the life of Haldiram, found the same happened to him and his family members as well.

Let me quote the author:

In those days, boys became men as early as ten years of age. Before they knew it, they were married, and dutifully, they began adding to the population soon after.

As mentioned earlier, Bhikhi Bua has played a vital role in the entrepreneurial journey of Haldiram – the brand. Especially in its early days. The author has referred to her contribution at more than one place in the book. Eg:

Bua, in introducing the family to the snack, had unwittingly set wheels in motion that forever changed the fates of this family and the history of Bikaner itself. An invisible player, she never received the credit she deserved for sowing the first seeds of bhujia in the Haldiram family, but her loyalty helped the family through one of its toughest phases, giving them the initial tools that later made them the magnates that they are today.

You will find the historical references as well as the socio-economic situation, and norms of the time. For example:

‘It sold for 5 paise per kilo, which in those days was a lot of money for this commodity, especially since 64 paise made a rupee at the time,’

The time of kings and kingship was different from today’s and may be considered not-so-good-time-to-live-in by the current generation. But, that is not the absolute truth. There were visionary kings who always treated the citizens like their own family. The people living in those areas in specific times were fortunate to have so many facilities.

Dungar Singh (1872–87), a courageous and forward-looking maharaja for those times, was known for his desire for a modern administration. He was the first Indian king to introduce a police force, establish the state’s first hospital, and it was he who ensured that Bikaner was the first Indian princely state to introduce electricity in 1886.

Based on the family environment and genetic inheritance, the people of various communities have some special abilities in specific fields. It becomes their global identity. And, most of the community members prove it to be correct. Here is what the author says about the Marwari people.

This Marwari tutelage consisted of a thorough education in counting, multiplication, logic, and profit and loss concepts. Children finished this schooling within a couple of years. What was highly interesting is that while regular school children are taught tables such as 2 x 2 = 4, Marwari children learn tables in decimal points, which they know by heart! This traditional society reveals a keen emphasis on mental maths. Any Marwari child could calculate 2.5 x 3.6 = 9 in a matter of seconds without putting pencil to paper.

Of course, no big tasks can be completed by standing alone. You need a team of like minded, supportive and skillful people who believe in the same end goal to achieve a remarkable feat. Friends are the most reliable people we can bank on, outside of family, when it comes to trust during thicks and thins. The book mentions various of Haldiram’s (or his family members’) friends. For example:

Allah Beli and Haldiram had been childhood friends and were close even though they had not met in years.

Abhey Rawat Bachawat, a dear friend of Haldiram’s from his childhood days, immediately helped the family set up home at No. 3, Harpudo Gali, Bhurjo Dalal Street in Kolkata.

It was a joint family for years or even decades, but eventually, they also get separated. So everyone get wings to fly as per their capacities and conquer the territories of their own expertise. Like in many cases, the leading lady/ladies has played an important role in this case too. The book mentions:

For those times, Champa Devi had taken a very bold step when finally cracking under the pressure of living in a difficult family situation and demanding that her husband separate from the family.

In most of the cases when a person succeeds, it is more due to his attributes, characteristics then skills and abilities. You will definitely trust an honest humble person than a rich and cunning one, right? I found an interesting paragraph in the book referring to the characteristics of Haldiram, that must have played a vital role in his journey of success.

Haldiram had earned tremendous respect from the local community because of his values and his scruples. Many a day, he went to work by cycle-rickshaw. According to Mahesh Agarwal, ‘He was so honest that every day before departing for home, he would ask the cashier at his own shop to give him 50 paise for travel expenses. Being the owner, he owed the cashier no explanations; however, he expected the cashier to make an account of all expenses regardless of the amount and who they were made by.’ In spite of being the boss, Haldiram never expected special considerations from anybody, least of all his employees.

If I had to quote only one segment from the book, I would possibly settle for this one.

These quotes must have given you a fair idea about the book and the quality of writing it contains.

Of course, there are many lessons I learnt by reading this book but rather than sharing them, I would like you to read the book and find your own perspective from the same.


An interestingly written inspirational read. I found it worth reading. Not only will you learn so much about the people behind the brand “Haldiram”, but also its detailed journey and current position. The author doesn’t shy away in calling a spade, a spade and talks neutrally. For me, that is the USP of the book.

ThinkerViews Rating:

Around 7.5 stars out of 10.

Quick Purchase Links:

Over To You:

If you already have read the book do share your remarks and thoughts via comments below. Does this review help you in making your decision to buy or read the book? Do not forget to share this article with your friends over various social networks. Please follow/subscribe us on various Social networks like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, Audible, and others. And yes, you may like to subscribe to our RSS feeds to get latest updates for the site to land right in your mail box.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *