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Vadilal Gandhi: From Selling Fountain Soda to a Rs 650 Crore Ice Cream Empire

Vadilal, an ice cream company started by Vadilal Gandhi in 1907 Gujarat, is now run by the fifth generation and continues to have a stronghold in India and 45 other countries.

Vadilal, an ice cream that had humble beginnings in Gujarat in 1907 — even before India attained independence, is a well-known brand today all across the country.

Having begun making ice creams using the traditional Kothi method, in which a hand-operated machine was used to churn milk, ice and salt, the company today offers their customers over 200 different flavours of ice cream made at their state-of-the-art manufacturing units.

The Better India caught up with Kalpit Gandhi, a fifth-generation entrepreneur of the family, who takes us through the rich legacy of Vadilal.

Handmade With Love

Vadilal soda Fountain a brand started in 1907.
A brand with a legacy of over 100 years.

In 1907, Vadilal Gandhi, a resident of Ahmedabad founded the eponymous brand. He started by selling soda and gradually added ice cream as well. It was this small but fast-growing business that Ranchod Lal Gandhi, Vadilal Gandhi’s son, inherited.

It was under Ranchod Lal Gandhi’s leadership that Vadilal started to focus more on ice creams. Vadilal opened its first ice cream outlet in 1926. In the same year for the very first time, an ice cream making machine was imported from Germany. By the time of India’s independence, the company had opened four outlets across the city. In the early ’70s, when Ramchandra and Laxman Gandhi, sons of Ranchod Lal Gandhi, also joined the business, Vadilal had grown to 10 outlets in Ahmedabad.

Vadilal always seems to have a warm and unique relationship with its customers. A company that could always place its fingers on the pulse of the consumers, one of its USP’s was that all their ice creams were 100 per cent vegetarian and were advertised as being fit for consumption even during religious fasting periods.

Having established its brand in Gujarat the company started looking for ways to expand into other states, and in 1985 started its expansion. By the 1990s the fourth generation of the Gandhi family had joined the business. This included the three sons of Ramchandra Gandhi, Virendra, Rajesh and Shailesh Gandhi and Laxman Gandhi’s son Devanshu Gandhi.

In 1990 the company was listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) under the name Vadilal Industries Ltd. In the same year, a split in the family resulted in two names getting listed on the BSE. Having clocked a revenue of Rs 650 cores in financial year 2019-20, the company continues to be positive of a larger revenue amount this financial year.

A ‘Green’ Ice Cream Brand

An advertisement featuring Rashiben
Using innovative memes to market the ice creams.

Kalpit Gandhi, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the company has perhaps grown up hearing stories of the brand’s expansion and challenges. From a company that wanted to grow outside Gujarat, today Vadilal has a flourishing exports business.

He says, “In the early ’90s, the company forayed into the processed food space and launched Vadilal Quick Treat. In 1995, Vadilal became the first Indian brand to bring frozen vegetables to the US market.”

“Today, Vadilal is the largest selling Indian ice cream brand in the US and our brand has reached 45 countries of the world,” he claims. Kalpit adds with pride that while conducting the business ethically is of great importance to the brand, they are equally conscious about the environment and working towards protecting it.

“One of our facilities, in Pundhra (Gandhinagar district, Gujarat) is the largest fully automated facility in the country and is also accredited by the Export Council of India and from the British Retail Consortium, which adds a lot of credibility for us in the international market,” says Kalpit. Along with this, he adds that each of their facilities has a green cover of almost 60 per cent and all the wastewater is sent to a treatment plant and used for the lawns and gardens within the facilities.

“It is a matter of pride to be in a company which has so many firsts to its credit,” says Kalpit. Vadilal was the first ice cream brand to launch ice cream dollies, cones and sundaes in India and was also the first in India to establish a fully automated candy manufacturing line. It also introduced Cassata ice cream in the 1950s and they would offer home delivery of ice creams in specially made thermos boxes.

In November 2001, Vadilal broke its record and featured in the Limca Book of Records by making ‘The Largest Ice Cream Sundae’. This ice cream sundae was made using 4,950 litres of ice cream, 125 kg of dry fruits, 255 kg of fresh fruits and 390 litres of various kinds of sauces. This sundae was put together by 180 people in a record 60 minutes.

This sundae, the brand claims, was then relished by over 50,000 people.

Rajbhog family pack and Cassata ice cream.
Some of the bestseller.

Today, while a slice of their famous Cassata ice cream costs Rs 40 for 120 ml, the family pack of the Rajbhog flavoured ice cream costs Rs 360 for a 700 ml pack. The brand has ensured that they cater to various segments and also have a premium range of ice creams which start at Rs 50 for a 140 ml tub of ice cream.

And even though Vadilal is a brand that has been around for more than a century, they have kept up with the times. Kalpit says, “We have always put a lot of emphasis on marketing and keeping a very close tab on consumer feedback. While we use various social media channels for advertising we need to have direct communication channels open with our customers as well.”

(Edited by Yoshita Rao)

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