Late Satishchandra Chona, the founder of Havmor ice-cream, must have had a special liking for the song “I scream, you scream, we all scream, for ice cream.” From a humble beginning, today Havmor group in Ahmedabad is a brand with 104 company owned and franchised outlets including 10 formal restaurants, 60 ice-cream parlours and a number of eateries that offer fast food, snacks, ice-creams and beverages. This is in addition to the network of about 20,000 dealers who supply to hotels, retail shops, restaurants, ice-cream places, etc.
Satishchandra started his business by vending ice-cream from a cart in the ’50s. Ankit Chona, managing director of the group says, “While we started out being a local ice-cream maker and restauranteur in Ahmedabad, we now have a pan-Gujarat presence and are now penetrating neighbouring states of Western India in a big way.”
Ankit adds, “The story of Havmor began in 1944. My grandfather, who worked with the BOAC Airlines, learnt ice cream making while he was in Sindh and started the brand Havmor. He lost his business to the 1947 partition. He then shifted to Dehra Dun and tried to restart the ice cream business. But it was not easy owing to the cold climate of the Doon Valley.” Satishchandra then moved to a friend’s place in Indore but was cheated in a vending machine deal. In the ’50s, his friend in Ahmedabad advised him to try his luck in the city, since Gujaratis are known to have a sweet tooth.
“Initially it was not easy, fortunately he got support from Motumal Tanumal—sharbat makers who had also started out with carts,” says Ankit. He further adds, “He introduced new flavours and colourful ice creams like tiranga or tri-colour, which children loved. His maxim was ‘Achchai, Sachchai, Safai’, quality, honesty and hygiene.” After the success of his ice-cream brand, Satishchandra started a restaurant at Relief Road, in the heart of Ahmedabad. Though a Punjabi restaurant, it served vegetarian dishes that suited the palates of the localites.
The turning point came in 1991 when they established a mechanised plant at Naroda to step up production. Ankit says, “My father wanted to grow. Thus, slowly, my father, Pradeep Chona, built a new plant, investing in land, machinery, technology, management systems, human resource development and promotional strategies in order to augment production. He also created a corporate environment with branding, advertising and systems in place. He was careful through the process to maintain the original recipes and consistency, but kept introducing new flavours, packaging and advertising campaigns.”
Enter Ankit Chona, armed with a degree in management and information systems from US. “I decided to adopt the power of franchising as a growth strategy. We set up a centralised kitchen for making the spice mixes and controlling the quality of ingredients used in all the restaurants and other eateries.” They are also working on recipe innovations liked smoked paneer, Burmese Khow Suey, unusual starters like Cheesy Cigar Rolls and deserts like Waffle Sundae which has an entire ice-cream sundae in a large cone. Among ice-creams, our new products like Cookie Crumble, extruded ice-creams, sorbet-like coolers and the mixed-in-front-of-you cold stone ice-cream have caught on very fast,” says Ankit. But the Chonas do not intend to rest on their laurels; they are launching a new low-fat, sugar-free product line.