When one thinks of Juhu, an upmarket suburb of Mumbai, one thinks of the beach, Bollywood and the bungalows of the rich and famous. But over a quarter of a century ago, one dreamer gave Mumbaikars with a sweet tooth another reason to flock to the locality that a number of Bollywood celebrities call home.
The man in question is none other than Raghunandan Kamath, founder of the very popular Natural Ice Cream chain. Before sharing his journey with the readers, it would only be fair to take them through his background in brief.
The youngest son of a fruit vendor, Kamath would at times offer suggestions to his elders, only to be snubbed. However, that only made his resolve steelier, and when the time was right, he broke away from his family business and established his own ice cream parlour.
In the initial days, the going was far from easy. Firstly, ice cream was considered a rich man's treat back then, and the masses didn't go out to eat meals, let alone desserts. And then there were cheaper alternatives such as ice candy.
The ambitious youngster wanted to tickle the Indian palate with a unique array of flavours and that's how Natural Ice Cream was born. Today, the chain that was established in suburban Mumbai in the mid-80s, has spread to other metropolitan cities across the country.
The next big challenge was to find skilled labour and machinery to make the kind of ice cream Natural is renowned for. Since the machinery had to be imported, Kamath had no choice but to go for labour-oriented operations.
Incidentally, he counts the former West Indian cricketer Sir Vivian Richards as one of his celebrity endorsers, and unlike this generation of celebrities who charge fat fees for their appearances, the cricket legend talked about Natural Ice Cream absolutely free of cost, and that too on television.
And like Richards did on so many occasions in his glittering career, Kamath scored a century recently. We are talking about a 100 outlets. And over the next three years, he hopes to open about 250 more outlets.
Over the next couple of years, Natural also plans to go overseas, starting with outlets in the Middle-Eastern countries and the subcontinent. Also in the pipeline are more flavours and new offerings like kulfi and milkshakes.