Ice Cream – Anyone?

It gives me ultimate pleasure to offer you an insight into the experiences and challenges of successful restaurant owners of Hyderabad. So, here I am with the second Episode of Konnect with Kiran – Restaurant Backstories. This time my guest was the owner of Cream Stone Hyderabad, Mr. Viren Shah. Now that’s what I call a ‘Cool Man,” for reasons more than one.

Viren comes from a family that has been into the hotel business for 40 years now. They have three hotels in Hyderabad equipped with a total capacity of 250 rooms. Apart from this they also run their traditional business, which is outdoor catering. They cater food to industries as well as for events such as weddings and parties.

How it all started

The ice cream business started in 1989 with the introduction of Scoops. The brain behind Scoops was Viren’s father whose main idea was to start manufacturing 100% vegetarian, fruit-based Ice creams for his hotels and catering purposes. The initial response was excellent and very soon the catering orders started pouring in for ice creams. This laid the foundation for the establishment of an ice cream manufacturing factory under the name Scoops, in 1992. Today, Scoops is an ISO-22000 (2015-16) Certified and HACCP Certified Ice Cream Manufacturing Facility with world-class production techniques and state-of-the-art equipment brought straight from Italy.

Within a few years of its incorporation, Scoops went on to become the undisputed leader of the Parlor Segment, capturing a significant portion of the market pie. Apart from establishing parlors in major 5 star hotels, shopping malls, IT companies, and tourist places, Scoops also distributed franchisees, thereby expanding to a network of 5000 outlets, 36 distributors, 26 cold storage rooms and 2 production units. A joint-family venture, Scoops has successfully covered the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka. By introducing Temptation Concepts they made available new products and flavors to their ever-growing line of customers.

Even after Scoops and Temptations, there was still the need to address another segment of audience – the premium segment. This called for the introduction of an exclusive ice cream boutique that served exotic and creamy flavors of ice cream, customized to the unique tastes and preferences of customers – Cream Stone Concepts.

What Makes Cream Stone Concepts so Special

Unlike other ice cream joints, Cream Stone manufactures Ice Cream right from the scratch. 25 years into the ice cream manufacturing business, they know what it takes to prepare different varieties of ice cream bases, perfectly. The varieties and flavors available are just amazing and the taste, mouth-watering. In fact I never knew there were 15 varieties of chocolate ice creams until Viren told me so.

Cream stone boutiques are well-designed with a warm and calm ambience. The ice cream here is hand-mixed and beaten on a frozen cold stone, with quality ingredients tossed in, all in the right proportions. The end result is a perfect dessert that a person of any age, taste or preference can relish. I can say this from my heart as I am one of the biggest fans of Cream Stone. I don’t miss any opportunity to go there and have a blissful ice cream experience.

What it takes to make Ice Cream

As per Viren, anyone can make Ice Cream; but to make sure it tastes good you need to use all the right ingredients in the right proportions and adhere to strict manufacturing procedures.

“Making ice cream is not about sourcing different ice cream flavors from stores and mixing them on a frozen stone with a couple of ingredients thrown in,” he said while I conversed with him. “There are many factors to be considered. For instance, there is the water content that we need to check for especially while adding a particular fruit into the ice cream. We will have to first remove all the water to make sure no ice crystals are formed while mixing.”

The Competitors of Cream Stone

The competition of Cream Stone is with big ice cream plants that have limited menus and products. Unlike Cream Stone they cannot play around with their inventory as they are mostly into commercial production. There are also the retail outlets that source Ice Creams from other places, store them, mix them and serve. And then there are the push carts where people stop by to have their share of ice cream. The target audience differs from one segment to the other. Cream stone caters to an altogether separate segment of audience – the premium one. They are the ones who crave for variety and don’t mind trying out new flavors every time they walk in.

How Cream Stone Benefits from outdoor catering

While catering to parties and weddings, Cream Stone gets to reach out to a new set of target audience which is ready to try out their products and flavors, irrespective of the weather conditions. If they like what they taste, they end up visiting the store for more. Outdoor catering, for Cream Stone, is the best way to test new flavors and acquire new customers.

How Cream Stone Overcomes the Challenges of the Ice Cream Industry

Perishability of Ice cream is the biggest challenge that Cream Stone has had to face. In response it has established cold chains in a couple of places across India. This includes cold storage areas in manufacturing units, cold storage vans for transportation, cold storage warehouses and refrigeration units at stores. Apart from hiring places and establishing facilities, Cream Stone has also made appropriate back-up plans and arrangements to overcome the challenges of electricity and power cuts.

What it takes to start a Cream Stone Franchise

Cream Stone is always looking out for highly motivated, budding entrepreneurs outside Hyderabad, who are committed to build retail brand at their area. Nevertheless, there are a few factors that Cream Stone considers before signing off the agreement with the Franchisee:

  • Location: Cream Stone encourages people to open its Franchise units in premium locations of their cities that offer good visibility and parking space. It is the parent company that takes the call on the location after looking into the logistics.
  • Commitment: Cream Stone works only with those people who wish to own and run the show as their full-time business. The individual should reside in the city where he opens the store and should devote a minimum of six to seven hours per day to the business. Franchisees are not given to Partnerships, joint ventures, LLPs and private limited companies.
  • Lease Period: 9 years is the minimum lease period required to open a Cream Stone Franchise. The agreement would be signed between the land lord and the parent company. The franchisee would only be entitled to pay the rent on the premises. The store would be owned by the parent company and not by the Franchisee.

Apart from the above, there would be a minimum capital requirement that would have to be fulfilled by the Franchisee before opening up the Cream Stone Franchise. Also, the Franchisee will have to build his own team and infrastructure for the implementation of the business. Nevertheless, assistance would be provided by the parent company in terms of training and marketing, along with technical and advisory support.

Take away Tips for Budding Entrepreneurs

  • Never get carried away with messages given by hoteliers. The risk of starting your business is entirely yours and you will have to take it in a calculated manner.
  • Always do your homework before setting up your business. Do all your costings properly and come up with a breakeven analysis to establish the feasibility of your business idea.
  • If you are taking in a partner or two, make sure everything is on paper and you are absolutely transparent in your dealings. More than two partners can make the journey very tough.
  • Devote maximum time to your business. It is a full-time job. If there are two of you (as partners), both of you should invest your time equally. It is not fair if one is doing all the work while the other is just counting the money. Instead you can take charge of different aspects of your business, such as finance and marketing.
  • If you are taking a property on lease, make sure the lease period is at least for 3 years (9 years would be ideal). Get your lease deed registered at any cost. If things don’t go as expected make sure you can leave the property by giving a two-month notice.

Viren’s inspiration in business

“My inspiration has always been my father,” says Viren, the owner of Cream Stone Concepts. “When my father started his first 10-room hotel in Koti, we were not all that financially sound. We had to go to the railway station to get customers for the hotel. Nothing came free of cost then. He made us understand the real value of money.”

Viren Shah’s Opinion about ‘Konnect with Kiran – Restaurant Backstories’

“This platform can add in a lot of value for young budding entrepreneurs who have no idea what they have to do and how they have to take their business forward. It gives them an exclusive opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others and understand the best industry practices, without having to lose their money.”

From a single store in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, Cream Stone has grown up to owning 57 stores across 16 cities of India, including Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Coimbatore, Kochi, and Vizag. I wish them all the luck and hope to see them in the other countries of the world, soon.