R S Kamath
Backed by passion, creativity and determination, Natural Ice Cream is mulling overseas expansion. In an interaction, R S Kamath, Founder/CMD, Kamaths Ourtimes Ice Creams Pvt. Ltd shares brand’s UAE market aspirations.
Namita Bhagat (NB): Tell us about the origin and concept of 'Kamaths Ourtimes Ice Creams'.
R S Kamath (RSK): What started out as a small store in Juhu (Mumbai), today, has become the definition of Mumbai’s delectable taste for desserts. A mixture of passion, creativity and determination is what it took to turn Natural Ice Cream into a success story. However, the success did not happen overnight. My journey started in my younger years, while assisting my father, a fruit dealer, when I got his expertise in fruits. Later on, while working with my brother in his chain of eateries and served ice cream, I learnt all about ice cream. These experiences lead to the creation of the brand ‘Natural Ice Cream’. I came across several hurdles including finding the right equipment to make the ice cream. Because of its manual use in nature, it became quite a task to increase the production capacity and keep up with the rising demand. I invented a machine that could produce more ice cream using the same method along with inventing a machine that could de-seed fruits in a very short time.
NB: What is the USP of the brand?
RSK: Our brand and products are so unique that people keep coming back for more every time. Natural Ice Cream is deeply rooted in tradition and uses traditional methods to make ice cream. All the ingredients used in preparing products are almost completely natural and are sourced from India. We do not use any preservatives, stabilisers and artificial colours or chemicals, which is why our ice cream is delicious and wholesome. With 27 years of being in the business, 100 outlets across the country and the recently launched state-of the-art factory in Mumbai, Natural Ice Cream is still raring to go places. And it is the rare combination of traditional methods and modern technology that will take us there.
NB: What are the motivating factors that inspired the company to opt the franchise model for the brand's expansion?
RSK: When Indian economy opened up, we saw a lot international brands entering India. With several multi-national ice creams brands establishing their mark, we knew we had a unique product that could compete with them. Also, to keep our market share and reach out to our customers, we took the franchise route in 1994, by opening five stores in Mumbai. As the franchise route was the only fastest way to expand and also it meant that we need not be present at the store to handle day to day affairs, as the franchisee would handle it. This gave us an opportunity to concentrate on manufacturing of ice creams thus having better control on product and quality.
NB: The brand is set for international expansion. Could you tell what markets are you looking at for expansion?
RSK: Currently, we are at a planning stage, nothing has been finalised. We are looking at international market where Indian population is thick and also from the point of logistics and local food laws relating to dairy products in those countries.
NB: What are your expansion plans for the UAE? What is the brand’s model for expansion in the Middle East?
RSK: UAE, for its geographical proximity to India and its climate is an ideal market for us. There is also strong Indian population in Middle East which means the brand penetration should not be difficult. We are looking at Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Sharjah and Jordan as a potential market where we will first enter and from there we will expand to other big cities in Middle East.
NB: Could you share the Middle East/UAE expansion plans in terms of number of locations and number of outlets?
RSK: Well we are still at a planning stage, therefore, it is difficult to share any plans. But at the same time, it is crucial for us to decide which franchise route to take, for e.g. we may opt for Master Franchisee or Regional Developer etc. We are looking at both the options closely.
NB: What qualities do the brand seeks in its franchisees? What kind of training and support does the company provides them?
RSK: The first and the most important quality we seek is whether the franchisee has a 'leadership and entrepreneurial skills' to take the brand forward. Other important qualities include good communication skill and networking. Before opening of any stores, we provide onsite training to the managers and scoopers at any of our existing outlets, provide list of documents which acts like a ready reckoner for all details of vendors and people to contact etc. We also help in providing marketing materials during the launch and any sort of launch campaign is supported by the company.
NB: How would you manage the product supply chain for the franchisees in the Middle East? Or will you set up the manufacturing facility there?
RSK: For initial few outlets, we will be supplying ice cream directly from India. We also have to check with the respective countries laws pertaining to food product, especially for a dairy product like us. Different countries have different laws and are stringent when it comes to export and import of dairy products. If the response is good, we would definitely think of setting up a manufacturing unit there.
NB: What kind of competition you anticipate in the foreign markets? How would you handle it?
RSK: Every market has a local player who is already established and successful, so it will be a challenge for us to create awareness of our brand and how different we are. We are quite hopeful that the brand will do well especially in UAE and Middle East, where there is a brand awareness because of strong Indian population.
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