Raghunandan Kamath was born in Mulki, Karnataka, in 1954. His financial conditions were always poor. Raghu’s father was a fruit vendor, and he earned barely enough to sustain his seven children. Raghu could not focus on studies and failed in his board exams twice.
But, one talent he had was to select ripe mangoes from the bad ones. He wondered, "If ice creams can have fruit flavours, why can't they have real fruits?
Following his love for the idea, he left his father’s business one day, caught a train from Mangalore and came to Bombay with a second-class ticket in his pocket and a first-rate idea in his mind.
The struggle was real. At just 15 years of age, Raghu started working alongside his brother in a South Indian eatery. The money was barely enough to live in a 12x12 foot chawl in Juhu, Mumbai.
Raghu wanted to create an ice cream from these ripened fruits. He wanted to go beyond chocolate and vanilla flavours to make ice cream with fruit pulp. But his brother did not like the idea, and Raghu left the eatery.
Taking some money from the eatery, he started a small shop with six tables and a 200 sq ft space in the Juhu Koliwada area in Mumbai. In 1984 - Raghunandan Kamath launched Natural Ice Cream with four staffers and twelve flavours. In the first year, he did 1.5 Lakh rs of sales, which was impressive in 1984.
The idea was simple Launch an all-natural ice cream with fruit, sugar and milk. Soon, the ice cream became a rage. So much so that Raghu stopped selling Pav Bhaji and became a full-fledged ice cream parlour. With the renewed focus, things started to change.
There were traffic jams outside his shop. Many film stars like Amitabh Bachchan and Dilip Kumar came to eat the ice cream. Cricketers like Vivian Richards loved the ice cream so much that he offered to endorse the brand for free.
But, the turning point came in 1994. When a staff member opened his ice cream shop, Kamath realized the need to create a strong brand identity to grow and sustain his business. He took a loan from Saraswat Bank and bought his own factory in Mira Road. The turnover went from 1 CR to 3 CR that year.
Cut to today, Naturals Ice Cream has over 140+ outlets in over 40+ cities. In FY 21, the brand did over 300 CR in turnover and won India’s Top 10 brand for customer experience in a KPMG survey.
PS - Raghu doesn't eat ice creams anymore because of diabetes. But his story is a sweet consumable for anyone out there.