CHENNAI: Vegan dark chocolate, toasted coconut, banana surprise, berry crumble and filter coffee — as exotic as they may sound, they are products of a homegrown ice-cream operation helmed by a 15-year-old. While many people — across the age spectrum — have taken to kitchen experiments during the lockdown, Tarush Ramdas’ enterprise ‘Get The Scoop’ is one birthed out of his love for gelato and chemistry.
While he has been able to find immense joy from the entire process of ice-cream making — be it the churning, playing with flavours, finding ways to make it healthier, picking up costing and marketing skills along the way, Tarun has also managed to share this joy with businesses that are not doing as well as his by donating the proceeds. And to think all this started with a well-spent vacation! More particularly, it started with a gelato-making class in Rome — the birthplace of gelato, points out Tarush. “We went to Italy for a vacation in January. I’ve always been fascinated with ice-cream; so, as a birthday present, my parents got me into a gelato-making class.
There my interest really peaked. And so my dad got me an ice-cream maker from the UK,” he narrates. With the machine in hand, the experiments began. The first to get ticked off the list was vanilla, he says. The entire family gathered to witness the process and was subjected to the end results too. And it turned out to be quite a success. Fuelled by his maiden attempt, Tarush tried his hand at a few staple flavours — chocolate, mango, pistachio. “Slowly, we started giving it out as gifts and taking it to parties and the response was amazing. So I started making more,” he recounts.
When the lockdown rolled in, it turned out to be the perfect time to keep up his experiments. “I dived in. I changed the recipe and made something new. My dad helped me in the process too. I’m really interested in engineering and this felt like a chemistry experiment,” he explains. While this seems like a lofty ideal, he had bigger plans: a mission to create guilt-free pleasures. “We like ice-cream because it makes us happy. But it comes with the tag of ‘too much sugar’, making us guilty. My objective was to make it healthy as well. I didn’t want to compromise on taste or texture. So I used I different organic ingredients — even sugar supplements and prebiotics — to make it a healthy, guilt-free dessert range,” he shares.
Even as all was well, it was for want of a Kindle that turned the personal project into a money-making one. “Just before the lockdown, my Kindle broke. I’m an avid reader and wanted to get a new one. So I thought I could raise money for it. That’s how it started. After the lockdown, I wanted to donate to local businesses that were struggling due to the consequences. And one of them was the iconic institution that was local and literally right next door — the Madras Crocodile Bank,” he details. Given that the institution is dependent on ticket sales and visitor engagement for their revenue, they were one of the badly affected reserves soon after the lockdown.
Tarush managed to raise `20,000 from his ice-cream sales. His dad was only happy to match the amount and they donated the entirety of it to the Bank, Tarush shares. Not one to lose interest in a project, Tarush plans to volunteer at the Bank when the lockdown is lifted. On the ice-cream side of the operations, it has come down to a well-oiled routine, he reports. With online classes having started for the class 10 student of KC High International School, it does get a bit hectic but there’s still enough time for everything, it seems. “The most time-consuming task is the churning. But for that, I only have to put the ingredients in, set the timer and wait,” he shrugs.
As much as it has been fun (and will continue to be for his fan base is only getting bigger), it’s helped him pick up valuable entrepreneurial skills, he says. “I have learnt how to cost. At first, I wanted to charge a random price and make a lot of money. Then, my parents pointed out that it can’t be sustained and I need to charge based on the cost of the ingredients and the power required to run the churn. So I had to come up with a proper pricing sheet,” he explains.
Tarush has his eyes set on a career in engineering but he doesn’t see himself dropping this ball either. While he has only been able to make the people of East Coast Road happy with his creations (given the lockdown restrictions and delivery agencies’ reluctance to handle orders from that side of the city), post-lockdown he might go all out. And there are certainly more flavours in the making, he says. We’ll have to wait for them, it seems. Or move to ECR.