The Kulfi Man

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Summers have arrived and it entices me to write about the cooler delights like the kulfi- the desi dessert or the traditional indian icecream. Amid the sweltering subcontinental summer there is nothing more refreshing and rehydrating than sweet Kulfi. Kulfi is an all time favourite for everyone. As a child, we all grew up eating Kulfis which we used to relish all through our long summer vacations. I remember enjoying kulfis (ignoring the hygiene factor) from vendors, carrying it in large earthen pots. I am sure some of you would have joyous memories attached to it. Even today each bite of Kulfi reminds me about childhood days which is irreplaceable.

With passage of time everything has changed, Kulfi business has come a long way. Team Coffee Bytes spoke to the homegrown and popular kulfi maker, Nitesh Narula on his business journey.

How did you start up with Kulfi?

I just wanted to do something different ,the idea of Kulfi allured me so I thought of following my conscious decision and went ahead with this venture.

Tell us about the journey of Narula Kulfi from a small venture to a well-known brand?

I used to deliver the Kulfi myself everywhere and now there are people who are doing it for me. I started this venture with two people in the year 2000. Those days, I had one refrigerator of 500 ltrs and one 100 ltr refrigerator which was placed at Market Building, the first retail counter in Bhubaneswar. The production unit was in a single room in the ground floor of my house. The initial phase was mostly on trial purposes but it clicked and started growing. At social gatherings our Kulfi was greatly appreciated for the authentic taste and quality. We even used to put up stalls in Bali Jatra. Gradually when customer base expanded, it became a necessity to set up a large production unit to cater to the market demand. That’s how the production unit started in Lingipur near Dhauli. After building a name in Odisha, I expanded my business to other states like Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. The business journey has not been smooth but yes! the struggle has definitely taught us a lot and has been showing results! I have been doing this business for the last 15 years, my younger brother Siddharth Narula was growing up then. Now since three years, Siddharth has joined me and is a strong support to me now.

What are the latest flavours of Narula Kulfi? Are there any diversifications from main product such as sweets, chat etc?

Undoubtedly Kesar Pista, the original flavour has won many hearts and has been our main strength but besides that we have other flavours in Kulfi such as anjeer, paan, sitaphal, alfphonso mango, litchi, black current, rabdi etc. We don’t use essence but all natural fruits for the different flavours. For the last two years, we have been working on ten new flavours of Kulfi. Few of them will be added this year like roasted almond, jamun, chocolate brownie, tender coconut. We have Sugar Free Kesar Pista which no other brand makes. We do a lot of research work for the new addition and once we are satisfied with the taste and texture of the product, then only we launch it in the market. Besides that Kulfi is a healthy product made purely of milk. It caters to all age groups. We have also diversified into the sweets market. We have two sweet shops running successfully in Bhubaneswar with authentic North Indian taste.

How have you positioned the pricing of your products?

Our product is of premium quality. Our prices are slightly higher than other big brands of the same line. Even though it is premium, it has never turned into a hurdle for market penetration in cities and townships. Customers enjoy the taste and the consistency in our quality

Narula branded Kulfi is available everywhere. How do you operate?

We operate from our production unit in Bhubaneswar and deliver them through cold storage/refrigeration vehicles . The sales and marketing officials take care of selling the product as well as promoting the brand.

What has been the mool mantra of your business success?

Keep your products clean and stick to your ethics. Most importantly, we have never compromised on our quailty, despite the changing market our quality of the product has been consistent. We also give priority to customer relationship and customer feedback that made us switch from paper cover kulfi to a more standardised packaging.

How is the monthly consumption of Narula Kulfi in the twincity?

It will be on an average consumption of Rs.7- 8 lakh per month. Kulfi is in demand always. In the twin city, we have around 350-400 selling counters currently and still adding. As far as the State is concerned, our product is available at Berhampur, Rourkela, Sambalpur, Balasore, Bhadrak, Dhenkanal etc. We have market penetration in all urban cities and semi urban townships of the state.

What are the next future plans?

We are first trying to penetrate into more states of Eastern India. We are also looking forward to a nation-wide presence. Implementation of digital ways such as website/apps and cold storage chain for prompt and safe delivery of product to different states which are indispensible business tools of the trade, are the few points which we are looking forward to.

Any adv ice to budding entrepreneurs?

Be true to what you’re doing. Hard work never goes waste!

The big companies of same trade are into aggressive and innovating marketing of their product. How do you position yourself in the highly competitive market?

In Odisha, Kulfi was a rare product for a big market. We have been pioneers in this industry, nobody gave an identity to Kulfi prior to us. After our success story, there are around ten local companies who have started making Kulfis and now all big companies too have started marketing and advertising aggressively. For us the marketing tool is the word of mouth and goodwill that has led us into doing good business in Odisha and Jharkand.

Any memorable moment during the journey, you would like to share.

When Narula Kulfi started winning millions of heart in the city and state, all started taking credit as a product from the Narula family. It was a moment of pride for me. Besides that, we have seen tourist from United States and Europe who come back to us on their trips to enjoy our Kulfi. That gives me immense pleasure and fills me with joy. There are people who have been our regular customer for the last 17 years. What else could be more memorable thing for a business house.

How do you want the customer to recall or remember the brand?

I would want if people think about an icecream, they should prefer Narula Kulfi. It is more so because Kulfi is an authentic Indian desert since the royalties of 16thCentury. As such, we are simply promoting or celebrating the rich traditional Indian culture of sweet tooth.

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