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Keventers – Resurrecting a 100-year-old legacy

May 13, 2018

Sepia-toned buildings, horse-pulled carriages, uniformed British soldiers and muddy lanes no longer dominate the streets of India. The change that has taken place over the course of all these decades is nothing short of dramatic. And yet, some brands have endured through those decades, carrying on legacies spanning over four generations. The world around them changed, with them witnessing history as it played out, and yet, they survived. They survived through countless highs and lows.

One such brand is Keventers. The journey of Keventers can be traced back to Edward Keventers, who had landed on the shores of India in 1899. It was in 1900s, that he had started the Aligarh Dairy Farm and built it into a profitable business.

But the real journey of Keventers, in its present form, began in 1925, when Keventers established the private label Dairy Products Company in Chanakyapuri, Delhi. Soon becoming synonymous with quality dairy products, the brand expanded to Aligarh, Simla, Darjeeling, Lahore and Kolkata.

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A changing world

“It is a legacy that is over 100 years old. And we just wanted it to survive. Keventers had an Alfa Laval cream separator since the olden days. And the popular cassata and coconut biscuits you have are all discoveries of Keventers. It wasn’t something that we wanted to see disappear,” says 26-year-old Aman Arora, who, along with Agastya Dalmia and Sohrab Sitaram, worked to resurrect the brand.

The ownership of the company changed hands in 1940, with Ram Krishna Dalmia taking over the reins.  Those were turbulent times, with the country fighting for her independence. But despite the chaos of those days, Keventers thrived, and already had over 48 distribution outlets across Delhi, including the famous Connaught Place.

By independence, Keventers had started producing a wide range of dairy products, from shakes to milks. However, in 1960, there was a shortage of milk, and while the White Revolution was another ball game entirely, Keventers did their part and began providing milk powder to the Indian army.

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Closing and resurrection

“Malcha Marg, our main factory, however, had to be shut down during the 1970’s due to the government’s reacquisition of the land. The land had become a diplomatic zone and the 22 acres had to be given away,” says Aman.

But the Dalmias continued to own the Keventers brand, and those who had tasted their milkshakes remembered their name. Although there were many outlets running, with the main manufacturing unit having shut down, the management began to lose interest in the brand. And everything started going downhill.

There were others using the brand name and continuing to sell. But in 2015, Agastya Dalmia, the great-grandson of Ram Krishna Dalmia, along with his college friend Aman, decided to resurrect the brand and keep the legacy alive.

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The duo began by starting their first outlet in March 2015 at Select City Mall in Delhi. By January 2016, there were four outlets. While the outlets were set, the duo knew they had to grow faster, and hence, they decided to take the franchising route.

“We are expected to open at least eight to 10 franchises per month. Currently, we have about 50 locations signed/under construction, along with master franchisees sold for all of India, as well as countries like Kenya and Nepal,” says 26-year-old Agastya.

Building a strong team

Currently, 60 outlets are operational, and the brand is planning to open 230 outlets before the end of this financial year. They have even sold a master franchise in the US. However, the duo realised that they had to bring in someone with more experience and knowledge, and that is when they roped in Sohrab.

(L-R) Sohrab Sitaram, Agastya Dalmia and Aman Arora
‍(L-R) Sohrab Sitaram, Agastya Dalmia and Aman Arora

Having been associated with restaurants and bars like Shalom Goa, Smoke Signals, Tabula Rasa, Chi Asian Cook House and Laid Back Waters, Sohrab brought his 16 years of experience and expertise to Keventers.

“I joined Keventers looking at the legacy, and the whole process of establishing and resurrecting something from scratch was a chance I just didn’t want to miss,” says Sohrab.

Sohrab, Aman adds, brought in some much needed direction and expertise. He says that when they started, the idea was to begin with a pilot model.  But then, they saw that they could possibly expand the brand further.

The growing market

The business seems rather lucrative. According to a report by India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), a trust established by the Department of Commerce, the Indian food and grocery market is the world’s sixth largest, with retail contributing 70 percent of the sales. It is projected to grow at the rate of 104 percent year-on-year, touching $ 482 billion by 2020.

The Indian food processing industry, meanwhile, accounts for 32 percent of the country’s total food market, 14 percent of manufacturing GDP, 13 percent of India’s exports and six percent of total industrial investment. The Indian food service industry is expected to reach $ 78 billion by 2018.

The team knew that they had to retain the old world charm of Keventers while appealing to the newer audience. They, therefore, decided to keep their legacy of glass bottles, and began focusing on developing and creating more flavours.

The team claims to have had a turnover of Rs 2.5 crore since June 2015, and intends to touch Rs 40 crore by the end of this financial year.

Bringing the new with old

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Aman says,

“We retained the original recipes and created newer flavours. But we knew we had to create a legacy and aspirational value. This meant transforming and redesigning the product packaging, outlet design, creating campaigns and ensuring that the outlets looked different. It was Sohrab who brought in an understanding of business to this madness we had going.”

Apart from milkshakes, the team is also looking at Super Milk Products, a new line of products, as they go deeper into international markets.

Sohrab believes that developed markets are a different ball game altogether; you need to have a game plan in advance, especially when you are looking at a product like milkshakes. The Keventers shakes are very different from what you get there in those markets adds Sohrab.

Coupling old world charm with modern boldness, the team at Keventers looks all set to do their legacy proud and take the iconic brand into a bright future.

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