People in Delhi love Natural ice-cream so much thatmany of them get it specially packed in order to bring it on the flight from Mumbai. In fact there’s so much demand for the treat, first sold in a store in Juhu some three decades ago, that more than 2,400 scoops of Natural ice-cream are flown to the Capital almost everyday during the wedding season. Without a store in the Capital, that’s the only way to bring it in. Srinivas Kamath, the 30-year-old director of the company that his father founded, plans to change that — Natural ice-cream will open in New Delhi also. Natural sells a total of 1.4 lakh scoops daily in half a dozen states. Kamath wants to expand that footprint, besides debuting new products. His father RS Kamath, who started Natural’s first store in 1984 on Valentine’s Day, more as an outlet selling pav bhaji rather than an ice-cream shop, has just one piece of advice for his son — quality and taste should not change. For the younger Kamath, this dictum is sacrosanct. Despite doubling capacity, only fruits, milk and sugar still go into the making of the ice-cream, which doesn’t contain preservatives or stabilisers. Armed with a post graduate degree in family business from SP Jain Institute, Kamath junior has taken the ice-cream company national since he joined four years ago. Store count has doubled to 116 from 50 doors in 2012 as it entered markets such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa. What he hasn’t tweaked though is the company’s frugal advertising expenditure, which isn’t even 1% of his Rs.100-crore annual sales. Natural doesn’t need it. “There is a high degree of familiarity even outside the home turf of Mumbai through word of mouth publicity,” said Kamath. Experts said Natural will need to make sure the taste remains the same as it expands, since the dessert now needs to be shipped to stores far away from the factory at Charkop, a northern suburb of Mumbai. “What will be challenging for the company and will require focus is a robust supply chain and logistics to keep the inventory levels as per demand. Processes for standardisation are equally important,” said Ruchi Sally, director at boutique retail consultancy Elargir Solutions. Then there’s the competition. While dairy giant Amul is by far the leader in the Rs.3,000 crore ice-cream market, others such as Baskin- Robbins and Gelato are expanding aggressively and now have more than 600 stores together. Hindustan Unilever, which runs Kwality Wall’s kiosks, brought its largest ice-cream brand Magnum into the country last year. Mother Diary and Vadilal too have a strong presence in the country. Kamath junior is confi dent that Natural can’t be beaten when it comes to its most important quality. “Replicating our taste is nearly impossible, especially for fruits like tender coconut and sitaphal, which is made manually and takes hours to do,“ Kamath said. Incidentally, these two are the highest selling among two dozen or so flavours off ered by Natural. The elder Kamath is still responsible for introducing new fruit flavours. He’s planted various fruit saplings on the ground of the company office in Charkop, which he treats as a sort of personal laboratory. Both the Kamaths are completely in sync on one other thing – they emphatically rule out any stake sales. Said the younger Kamath: “We are not interested and won’t sell ever. Why part with shares when borrowing money is cheaper?“ (Source: The Economic Times, Mumbai, July 22, 2014)
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