Gelatica is an ice cream company that makes gelato, ice cream & sorbet. Their portfolio includes Hyatt place Hyatt Gachibowli, The Westin, The park, Farzi cafe, and a few more premium places. With a line of low fat, vegan, clean label, and non-dairy ice creams, things were not all easy, and bed of roses when Mr. Karthik Mangalampalli, founder of Gelatica, first started out.
Despite rejection from people and banks for loans and huge competition, Mr. Karthik never gave up; rather he worked hard and came up with new and exciting flavors that the market had never seen before!
We had a conversation with him a few weeks back where he took us down the memory lane of his entrepreneurial journey!
How did the concept of Gelatica come about?
I have always wanted to do a startup business and my destiny somehow led me to an ice cream business. Back in 2016, I was looking to start a food business, I tried some franchises but got rejected. Then I traveled to Canada and different parts of Europe where I came to know about the trends of ice cream which I found really interesting. I then decided to start my own icecream venture and immediately imported a small machine. I started experimenting and created more than 80 flavors.
Since we first started there have been lots of growth and expansion. We started with a 50 by 50 kitchen and now we are a 80% dairy and 20% vegan food brand with mainly B2B business. Our ice creams are available in all the premium places in Hyderabad and about 35 best restaurants in India.
“We have 63% of market acceptance which means if 100 people buy our ice cream 63 people like it. So the repeat order rate is very high.”
What do you mean when you say Gelatica is a 80% dairy and 20% vegan product food brand?
It means if we have 10 flavors then 8 are dairy-based and the remaining 2 are vegan. We also have different sugar-free options. We don’t compromise on flavor, packaging, or anything as we are recognized as a premium brand. Yes we are high priced but I assure you that you get high quality ice creams with no food adulteration.
How has the COVID crisis impacted your venture?
Actually things have, to be honest, been tough business wise.However, I would say that the crisis pushed me to think outside the box and made me realize that I needed to adapt to new ways of doing things if I were to keep Gelatica alive.
Like I mentioned we were a B2B business but that completely collapsed with the hotel industry shut down due to the lockdown. So, I adapted the B2C model. I have shifted my focus on building my own online brand while not being limited to Swiggy and Zomato.We sell our products 20 hours a day and by August 2020 we have opened 5 online branches in Hyderabad.
The COVID crisis changed our normal way of operating, we are now a chain internet-based ice cream shop. Now we are working on expanding Gelatica to 20-25 new locations. So my focus is to expand the branches, to improve my logistics, manpower, marketing, and improve the product line by adding more vegan options.
Is there any specific reason for your inclination towards vegan ice cream?
There is a huge decline in dairy consumption all across the world. There are people who are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products; animal lovers who do not want to use dairy products. So, the vegan population is increasing especially in South-East Asia. The dairy business is good for now, but I want to visualize the future as well and hence we have included the vegan options as well.
Who are your allies in running the venture? How did you initially hire the people for the team?
We have a small team of 3 people. Priya supports me with the daily administrative tasks and we have a digital marketing team at Ahmedabad.
Hiring the right people is really important especially in terms of executing your ideas and plans for your venture. We have not hired a lot of people till date but I am getting started on that with all the branch expansion that we are planning.So, I am looking for people who want to create change and challenge the process. This shows that they are willing to learn while not shying away from trying new things, which is really important in an industry we are working in.
What were the challenges you faced when you started out?
For someone who is completely new to the industry and new to entrepreneurship, the journey was definitely not easy. I started Gelatica from scratch, I visited almost 19 banks for a loan, read lots and lots of business books, books related to entrepreneurship and science of ice cream and visited 60 plus restaurants in Hyderabad to see if they would purchase my ice creams. That time the reality did hit me hard, I had no luck getting loans from the bank and fortunately got a loan from the prime minister fund. Similarly there was no way the restaurants would purchase my ice cream, they already had their own vendors. Seeing that and releasing this won’t work out I came up with unique and new flavors – Green Apple Vodka, Rum raisins, mountain dew,to name a few. Then I started getting custom orders. This journey has been tough but surely full of learnings.
When you look back at the journey, what changes do you see in yourself as a person?
There have been a lot of changes, back then I was a normal teenager who used to wake up late, hang out with friends or use social media during free time. And all of these not so good habits have changed for the better. I feel I am more mature now and I have a clear picture of where I am headed career wise.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the aspiring entrepreneurs?
Learning is something you should be continuously doing, there will be hurdles but make sure you are not blinded by it. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. So keep working hard and keep learning. Also, listening to people is also another key that will guide you through the journey. Never giving up is also what I would like to suggest. The moment you are willing to risk it, you will open new doors. In addition, the moment you start being comfortable with whatever you are doing you will never be able to knock on new doors of opportunities and possibilities.
Interviewed by Thryza, Transcribed by Riha, and Edited by Trishna