Melting hearts, the Natural way
By Priyanka Pani
“If you are in Mumbai, visiting a Natural Ice Cream parlour is a
must, apart from the Gateway of India, Marine Drive and
Siddhivinayak Temple.” That’s the announcement IndiGo Airlines
makes whenever one of its aircraft lands in Mumbai. It’s not a
paid endorsement for the ice-cream brand, which is owned by
Kamath Ourtimes Ice Creams. Rather, it speaks about the
popularity of Natural Ice Cream.
To this day, R.S. Kamath’s 25,000 sq. ft. factory in Charkop,
north Mumbai, uses hand churners to make ice-creams. Kamath
himself spends hours creating new variants. And that’s how the
company sells ice-creams in flavours ranging from cucumber and
pumpkin to turmeric and lemon grass. Mint and tulsi flavours are
in the offing.
Kamath grew up assisting his father in selling fruits. With little
interest in studies, he dropped out after Class Ten. However, his
family’s ice-cream factory in Santa Cruz certainly held his
attention. Regular visits to the factory helped him gain an
understanding of the industry.
“But it was only after the division of our family business (in 1983)
that I set out on my own with brand Natural,” says Kamath. The
word ‘Natural’ was an obvious choice as his ice-creams do not
have any preservatives and use only a handful of ingredients:
milk, sugar, dry fruits and fresh fruits. The recipes remain a secret
till date. But most of the flavours are decided after feedback from
consumers. So the shelf life for Kamath’s ice-creams is just 15
Kamath set up his first outlet, all of 300 sq. ft, in the upmarket
Juhu area of Mumbai in 1984. He and his wife would crush fruits
and churn out ice-creams at home. The turnover was Rs 1 lakh in
the first year – just enough to keep them going. The annual sales
at this outlet are now over Rs 5 crore.
“I didn’t have to spend a single penny on advertising. It was
mostly through word of mouth,” he says. Several celebrities,
including Amitabh Bachchan, Dilip Kumar and Vivian Richards,
have endorsed his ice-creams on various platforms.
Today, Natural has a chain of 115 outlets in Maharashtra and
Mamta Nahar, 32, is a regular at Natural’s flagship outlet in Juhu.
She visits the outlet every Friday, when Kamath comes out with a
new flavour that is repeated only after a year. “They come up with
some unthinkable and exciting flavours,” she says.
Natural also continues to introduce occasion-led flavours such as
malai korma for Eid, prasadam for Ganapati, and gajar ka halwa
For the first 16 years, Kamath was busy feeding the Mumbai
market. After continuous demand, he ventured out of Mumbai
with a store in Pune, in 2000.
“We plan to go national in a year, with 35 more outlets,” says
Kamath. He is also readying to export to West Asia and Europe in
about two months.
Natural remains competitively priced at Rs 40 a scoop compared
with Rs 100-120 a scoop for most of the big brands.
“All our flavours are sold at the same price. While margins in
flavours such as sitaphal, raspberry and gooseberry are very low
(due to fruit costs being high), it is adjusted in flavours such as
musk melon and tender coconut.”
To maintain consistency, Kamath continues to source milk from
the Nashik-based Noble Dairy, which has been Natural’s supplier
since the day one.
“We sourced 20 litres to begin with. Now, we require 15,000
litres a day. Even our fruit farmers or vendors have not changed
all these years.”
Yunus Patel, 54, one of the promoters of Noble Dairy, says:
“From just a few buffaloes in the 1980s, the farm now has 1,500
buffaloes. “He (Kamath) has motivated us to grow. Now, we have
modern technology to milk the cattle.”
Now, as it prepares to expand, it will be interesting to see if
Natural Ice Cream can melt hearts across the country.