If there’s one dessert that every person on this planet loves, it’s an ice cream! But one Mumbai-based label is giving every ice cream company a run for its money. Naturals Ice Cream company, which started with an investment of Rs 2 lakh, now has a turnover of Rs 300 crore.
Renowned for its cafe-like ice cream parlors, Naturals has 129 stores in all major cities of India, including Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Delhi.
“You don’t have to wait for the ‘big idea’. It is important to start and build upon the small ideas to create the biggest wins,” very well said by Raghunandan Kamath, the Founder of Naturals Ice Cream, hails from Mangaluru. The boy of a fruit vendor, Raghunandan learnt to distinguish good fruits early on. Shortly, his eldest brother came to Mumbai to make it big. He unveiled a cafe in Santa Cruz, and put Raghunandan in charge of the ice cream counter.
Raghunandan soon understood that ice cream was a unique and exotic dessert that grabbed the fancy of the working class, and was a symbol of elitism.
In 1983, after getting married, he decided to start something of his own, and thus, Naturals Ice Cream came into existence in 1984.
Today, Raghunandan’s sons, Srinivas Kamath and Siddhant Kamath, are assisting him operate the enterprise across India.
While ice cream comes across as the ultimate sweet-tooth experience, production it is not very tough. For the past 37 years, Kamath has been leveraging small ideas to build his empire.
At a time when ice creams were a rare, albeit prized possession and only aristocratic families had access to them, Kamath sold Pav Bhaji with ice cream. This pioneering brand also refrained their brand from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives that its competitors were using.
Kamath keenly observed his surroundings to make ‘Naturals’ a household name — whether it was learning to pick quality fruits like his father, using his mother’s traditional hacks or taking customer feedback seriously.
Today, his wife, Annapurna and sons, Siddhant and Srinivas also serve on the management board. Their staff of 125 members produce close to 20 tonnes of ice creams daily.
Originally from Puttur taluka of Mangalore in Karnataka, Kamath was the youngest of seven siblings. His mother was a homemaker and his father was a fruit vendor. The family of eight also cultivated some fruits on their one-acre land but their monthly earnings were as low as Rs 100.
The prospect of education looked insubstantial. Students of Classes 1 to 5 in Kamath’s school were taught together and despite failing in his exams, he was promoted. However, it was the lessons outside the classroom that Kamath liked the most.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw a dip in sales for the brand’s business, but Siddhant, his brother, and their father are not new to challenges. In 1993, an income tax query on the business turned out to be a big blow for the company. “We incurred several losses because my father was not aware of several taxation policies,” Siddhant adds.
However, the family started on its road to recovery by giving out five franchises of the business.
Similarly, in 1991, when the economy had just opened, allowing foreign companies to open a business in India, ice cream companies like Baskin Robbins and Haagen Dazs posed a lot of difficulties for Naturals.
There were no ‘MBA-level’ tactics used by this courageous businessman who simply wanted to sell fruit-flavoured ice cream. By moving into a niche segment like the ice cream market, which was largely overshadowed by a handful of brands, Kamath took a huge risk and his courage paid off !