During their childhood, like all other kids, Shivanie Mirchandani and Gayatri Rattha from Delhi would gorge on ice cream. The flavours, however, were not those sold by desert chains but rather vegan ice cream prepared in their very own kitchen by their mother who was a chef and loved experimenting with new tastes.
“We would send the ice cream to many of our friends and families. That’s how we stumbled upon the idea to sell it,” says Shivanie. Gayatri was always fond of cooking, and interested in ice cream making and went to Italy where she could learn the art of gelato making from the maestros themselves. When she returned to India, the pair worked on the flavours of the homemade ice creams and decided to launch the brand Minus 30 (as gelato freezes at -30 degrees celsius) in 2016.
The artisanal, homegrown gelato brand boomed during the pandemic and witnessed a staggering 300 per cent growth in revenue, translating to orders amassing 90,000 litres of ice cream per month.
A Palette For Risk & Experimenting
The business began in a home kitchen with a small machine and a delivery guy whom the sisters had hired.
Despite its humble beginnings, the sister duo noticed that their customer retention rate was high, currently at 80 per cent. “We noticed that our customers kept coming back to us, and seeing our Delhi-based clientele who were around five years ago continuing, keeps us going,” says Shivanie as she goes on to describe how she and Gayatri spent the first two years understanding their customers, what they wanted and made their focus the product.
“The consistency of the ice cream was our priority. We were selling a temperature-sensitive product and we took it upon ourselves to figure out how even last-mile deliveries could sustain and how the customer could get the product intact. These factors were prime.”
The venture started to grow and the duo witnessed a doubling growth rate every year. “By the second year we’d grown out of our home kitchen and moved into a small facility which was our first small factory and we grew out of there in a year. We then moved into a bigger facility and we continued to focus only on Delhi-NCR,” says Shivanie. But just when the duo expanded their retail presence into Mumbai, the pandemic hit.
However, what they assumed to be a roadblock in their success map, turned out to be a gamechanger. At the beginning of this year, they launched in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Goa, and Dehradun, and opened a manufacturing unit in Chennai where they sell gelatos. With plans to expand in Hyderabad, Kolkata and Pune, the brand wishes to take the concept of vegan and sugar-free gelato all over India.
This USP proved to be a great alternative for the country’s population that looks for deserts with these qualities. “Our vegan and sugar-free products are doing exceedingly well and they’re super healthy. The simplicity of the ingredients we use reflects in the taste and the product as a whole. Moreover, our [other] gelato flavours have 30 per cent less sugar than what’s available in the market. Thus all our products are extremely healthy,” claims Shivanie.
Minus 30 is now a loved ice cream brand among its customers, with over 18,000 followers on Instagram. Their vegan and sugar-free flavours include Coconut, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter, French Vanilla, Green Tea Matcha, Strawberry, Pistachio and Mint Chocolate. One happy customer wrote on Zomato, “One can have their sugar-free and vegan flavours guilt-free! The coconut and hazelnut sugar-free are a must!”
etteMinus 30 ice cream (Picture source: Shivanie Mirchandani)However, it isn’t always smooth sailing, as Shivanie explains that there are times when business is slow. They take their time to perfect the product before it is out in the market. Testing the pulse of the market before a new launch is crucial for them. “Last year we only launched one product, hot chocolate, as a way to battle the cold. We got a great response from that. We like to get the product right so we don’t want to rush in and flood the market with products,” she says.
But considering the niche space that vegan and sugar-free ice creams occupy, does the brand plan on widening the scope of these? Shivanie says with 80 per cent customer retention, they like to think that they’re doing something right. “Yes, we do customer editions and we’re very conscious if people have medical conditions or anything where they can’t eat the gelato as we’re selling, when they have even more issues, then we manage that. We make special products for them.”
During her time in Italy, Gayatri says she learned stringent quality control. “One thing that I observed in their processes of gelato making—that we have also implemented in the brand—is consistency. The product needs to be consistent from one batch to the next. It is after all a science,” she says.
Now handling the recipes and the flavours of the brand, Gayatri also speaks of how she learnt to try new flavours based on locally available ingredients. “What makes a good gelato is ingredients that are well balanced,” she adds.
The sister duo believe that while they are growing the company, they are also growing the brand. “We have seen the ice cream industry boom in India. What we aim to do is give the customer great flavour,” says Gayatri.
For budding entrepreneurs, Shivanie has a message. “If you work hard and if you give it your best then nothing is impossible.”
The vegan ice cream is priced at Rs 1,000 for a 500 ml/tub. If you are looking to try their ice creams, you can order here.
Edited by Yoshita Rao