In the year 1984, the son of a fruit vendor from a village near Mangalore borrowed around Rs 4 lacs from friends and relatives to start “Natural Ice-cream” – a small 250 sqft outlet at JVPD Scheme – Bombay, where most of the Bollywood celebrities reside.
Raghunandan Kamath, came up with a unique idea of serving an unusual variety of ice creams made with real fruit pulp and pieces and no artificial flavour or preservatives. He introduced ice-creams made from sitaphal, litchi, tender coconut, jackfruit, musk melon, cucumber and chikoo, which instantly became household names and captured the market so rapidly that today Natural Ice-cream has more than 150 stores across India.Anyone living in Bombay, who loves ice-cream, must have tried atleast one of their exotic favours.
Raghunandan’s eldest brother, G.S. Kamath, 20 years his senior, had come to Bombay from Mangalore (hometown) in early 70s. The elder sibling ran a Hotel business given to him by a usal pav vendor he worked for at Santacruz. He then developed it under the name of Gokul Refreshments, serving south Indian food and ice cream made in-house. Raghunandan began to help his elder brother at the eatery, where he noticed that customers especially enjoyed eating ice cream and sharing it with one another. The idea of starting something like Natural’s came to him then. Nobody took his business idea seriously, but Raghunandan waited for the right time and opportunity and when the eldest brother offered him his share in the family inheritance, Raghunandan bargained for a one-time sum of 1 lac instead of smaller monthly pay-outs. With this amount plus 3 lacs borrowed from friends and relatives, he started an independent business in 1984 called Natural Ice-cream, which is currently valued at 3,000 crore rupees, with his niche product idea.
We say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and today, we can find several clones of Natural Ice-cream and I found couple of such clones in Bangalore, acting as franchisees. But later on I found out that they have no connection with the original Natural Ice-cream started by Raghunandan Kamath at Bombay.