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Lovely Sweet Shop in Jalandhar cantonment’s Sadar Bazaar. The brainchild of Baldev Raj Mittal, a small-time military contractor, it began life in 1961 as a modest hole-in-the-wall operation. But there was nothing modest about Baldev’s ambitions. A boy of 16 at Independence, he helped his father run a small canteen for jawans in an infantry battalion at Sialkot in West Punjab, and moved with the battalion to Ferozepur after Partition. Watching thousands of refugees rebuilding their lives, restless Baldev wanted to reinvent himself too. But his family, which had been forced to flee the harshness of rural Rajasthan not so long ago, was loath to help. A loan of Rs 500 from the commanding officer of the battalion gave Baldev his lucky break. Soon, Lovely Sweets was up and running—the first ‘proper’ sweet shop in these parts—and dispensing laddoos from 5 to 7 pm every day.
Their sweets, now hugely popular in Punjab, began travelling across north India, army units among their loyal patrons. The family’s unfailing mantra was: low margins, high volumes. “From 1970 to 1980, we sold our laddoos for just Rs 4 a kg,”