Meet Raghunandan Kamath, Founder of Naturals Ice Cream, Son of a Mango Seller, Rs. 300 crore turnover

By Ronit Kawale 6 Min Read

There are many businessmen who had humble beginnings and worked hard to establish themselves. But they have one thing in common and that is their passion for their dream and never letting go of it. One such person is Raghunandan Srinivas Kamath, founder of Naturals Ice Cream.

Raghunandan Kamath, fondly called the Ice Cream Man of India, had humble beginnings. From a small village in Karnataka to the city of dreams, Mumbai and then to his multi-crore business, Mr Kamath had an inspiring journey. Raghunandan Kamath died on May 17, 2024 after a brief illness and his funeral took place on May 18, 2024 in Amboli, Andheri West.

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Read on to know how a fruit vendor’s son became the creator of one of the most popular ice cream brands, Naturals.

Raghunandan Srinivas Kamath, son of a poor fruit vendor

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Born in 1954 in Mulki, a small village in Mangalore, Raghunandan was the youngest of seven siblings. The family’s life was very simple as Raghunandan’s father was a mango vendor and earned very little money, barely making ends meet for his seven children and wife. Soon he fell in love with fruits and learned the art of plucking ripe fruits. He differentiated between fully ripe mangoes and less ripe mangoes.

Raghunandan left his studies and joined his brother’s restaurant.

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Raghunandan was not very good in studies and his family sent him to Mumbai to help his elder brother who owned a South Indian restaurant in the city. Financial conditions were still bad and he lived in a chawl in Juhu. While working in his brother’s restaurant, he came up with the idea of ​​serving a unique dessert with a mixture of fruits. However, since he was the youngest in the family, his idea was rejected.

Raghunandan Kamath’s wife encourages him to start his own ice cream business

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After working with his brother for 10 years, Raghunandan parted ways with him and decided to start his own venture. However, it was a difficult task for him as he lacked the capital to start his business. However, his wife Annapurna supported him and he borrowed Rs. Raised Rs 4 lakh from his friends and relatives and bought a 250 sq ft outlet in Juhu. This was the first outlet of Naturals Ice Cream, launched in 1984, and was called ‘Juhu Scheme’s Ice Creams’.

Raghunandan Kamath started selling pav bhaji to increase ice cream sales

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When Raghunandan Kamath started the first outlet of Naturals, there were hardly any ice cream outlets, and only rich people would go for sweets. So to increase his customer base, Raghunandan started selling pav bhaji and then he also sold his special ice cream. Within no time, their ice creams gained a huge fan following due to the natural fruits in them.

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Raghunandan wanted to go beyond the usual flavours of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate and serve a variety of flavours like jackfruit, coconut, custard apple and mango. Within a year, Raghunandan stopped serving pav bhaji and focused only on ice cream. In the first year, his business generated a turnover of just Rs 200. 1 lakh, but despite being disappointed, he kept working hard.

Multiple outlets of Naturals Ice Cream

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Despite the growing popularity of his ice cream, Raghunandan faced many challenges. For example, in 1994, one of their key staff members left his job and set up his own ice cream unit. Realizing the competition in the market, Raghunandan decided to increase the outlets of his brand and purchased another outlet in a suburb of Mumbai. With 15 to 20 people working in making ice cream, Raghunandan opened five franchises of Naturals in Mumbai.

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With 135 outlets across the city, today Naturals Ice Cream has reached an annual turnover of over Rs. 300 million. Not only this, Raghunandan’s determination and self-confidence paved the way for his success and KPMG listed Naturals among the top 10 brands in 2021.

Raghunandan never spent a single penny on advertising

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Despite being such a big brand, not a single penny was spent on its advertising. Yes, you read it right! The popularity of Naturals came through word of mouth. Speaking about the same in a conversation with Economic Times, Raghunandan said:

“In 1986, I was watching The Sunny Days, a TV program presented by cricketer Sunil Gavaskar. During the interview, former West Indies cricket captain Vivian Richards mentioned that he had visited the Natural Ice Cream outlet and he loved the sapodilla (sapudi) and custard apple ice creams. It was such a thrill for us, such an unexpected back-thumping.”

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Ronit Kawale has been an entertainment journalist for the past three years. Being a cinephile is not just a part of his profession; it's his passion. Alongside being an avid follower of Bollywood and television, he possesses a treasure trove of interesting gossip and insights about celebrities. He's well-versed in understanding what readers are tuning into on the website. After all, he became a journalist to stay close to the heartbeat of the world.
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