Milkshakes and more

February 28, 2024 | By Rupkatha B

Aman Arora Co-founder, Director & CMO and Agastya Dalmia, CEO & Founder, Keventers

A story about how two college friends – Agastya Dalmia and Aman Arora – got together to revive an almost 100-year-old milkshake brand Keventers with an aim to expand across its home country India and the GCC.

For starters, Keventers is no ordinary milkshake brand, their journey started sometime in the late 1880s.

How it Started:

  • 1889: Swedish technologist and innovator Edward Keventer arrived in India.
  • 1894: He started producing milk and dairy goods from the Aligarh Dairy Farm.
  • 1925: As the products gained popularity, he set up his eponymous dairy business, Keventers.
  • 1937: After his demise Keventers was acquired by industrialist, the Late Ramkrishna Dalmia who ran the brand until the 1970s after which it lay dormant.
  • 2013: Enter millennials Agastya Dalmia, grandson of Late Ramkrishna Dalmia, and Aman Arora who restarted Keventers.

How it’s Going:

  • Current Footprint: 200+ outlets in India and 8 points of sale in the UAE.
  • Milkshakes Sold: Over 600,000 bottles sold every month in India.
  • Funding Status: Leveraged internal accruals to grow until January 2023 after which it received equity investment from Jubilant Bhartia Group.

Fun fact: Lotus Biscoff is Keventers’ most popular milkshake in the UAE.

A story of legacy, learnings and reinvention

One of the reasons why legacy brands often fail is due to their inability to keep up with evolving customer expectations. After all, nostalgia is not enough to keep a brand relevant. Keventers too faced a fair share of failures and roadblocks. While the brand was formally reincorporated in 2015, the journey to revive Keventers began around 2013.

In 2013 Keventers opened its first outlet in a place called Pitampura in New Delhi, India. “Given our brand positioning, it wasn’t the right location for us. From packaging to pricing, we went wrong on multiple counts,” Arora admitted. “But those were invaluable learnings for us that set us on the subsequent growth path starting 2015 when we opened our flagship store in Select City Walk  in New Delhi with a completely new look, feel and format.”

The brand continued a robust growth path until the pandemic hit, which was another period of “readjustment” for Keventers. The brand went through significant readjustments, which included shutting down stores. “Around 2019-20 we were heavily franchise focused, and a lot of the Keventers stores were owned by franchisees. In that situation, when the franchisee could not sustain the business, it led to stores shutting down, causing significant attrition. Add to that, dealing with multiple landlords for our own network of stores. We did a lot of firefighting at that time,” Arora and Dalmia shared.

Post-pandemic the brand’s growth strategy has changed. “Now we are opening our own stores, all company owned and operated in India, while it’s a joint venture model in the UAE,” Dalmia revealed.

At this point the conversation turned from roadblocks to reinvention. One thing that can be certainly said about Keventers is its successful spin on creating an aspirational brand that retains its nostalgia in many ways. “Edward Keventer, or Mr. K as we lovingly refer to him, continues to be our brand mascot,” Dalmia said with a grin.

But what does it take for a century old brand to stay relevant?

Here’s what Keventers is doing. “Since we sell a product that’s largely impulse driven, attracting lunchtime, dinnertime and certain other mealtime audience is a challenge. So, we decided to follow the food truck format for a majority of our new openings in the UAE,” Dalmia stated.

“Food trucks aren’t too CapEx [capital expenditure] intensive and the sale numbers that we record are quite similar to India. In a rapidly evolving landscape like the UAE, food trucks also afford us the opportunity to be more mobile and visible in prime locations. We also feel as if our product offerings, including milkshakes and ice-creams, fit quite well with the food truck model. Plus, the response has been overwhelming since we rolled out our second food truck in City Walk,” Dalmia added.

Adding on, Arora said, “In a country like the UAE, where the hubs keep moving especially in a place like Dubai, the economic model of a food truck works for a brand like Keventers that’s all about impulse purchase and doesn’t necessarily require a formal seating. That said, we aren’t averse to the idea of opening smaller stores in mall and non-mall locations in the UAE.”

If pandemic-driven pivots hadn’t happened, the store footprint of Keventers would have touched nearly 16-20 in the UAE. Today, the brand has eight locations across the Emirates – including stores in Karama, Silicon Oasis, Sahara Mall, City Centre Sharjah, Ajman Museum and in Abu Dhabi, along with two food trucks in Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) and City Walk.

Looking ahead, over the next 12-24 months Keventers plans to open more locations within food courts and rollout food trucks in prime locations. “We would like to add at least three-four new stores in the UAE every year, especially in the next three years, while in India the pace of expansion will be more rapid adding approximately 40 more stores by March 2024. Starting from the new financial year, we are aiming to add 50-60 new stores annually in India,” Arora shared.

Asked about expansion plans across the GCC, both said. “We’ve a store in Oman, and we’d like to expand in other countries in the GCC as well with the support of a good local partner in every country that we enter.”

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