From selling rabri faluda in Delhi to opening over 200 stores: the story of how Giani Ice Cream went national
Did you know that many ice creams we eat are actually frozen desserts?
Keeping hold of a legacy spanning more than six decades, Taranjit Singh, Director and the third-generation entrepreneur of Giani Ice Cream, in an exclusive interaction with SMBStory, explains what differentiates the brand from the mass players.
“People need to understand that there are two markets — ice cream and frozen desserts. Ice cream is made of milk, cream, and butter unlike the latter that uses vegetable oil,” he said.
Giani Ice Cream was started in 1956 amid the busy lanes of Fatehpuri, Chandni Chowk in Delhi after Giani Gurcharan Singh migrated from Pakistan. The business started in a small shop with a handful of money, and by making rabri faluda to calm the sweet cravings. Now, the brand stands out for its name across India with more than 210 stores – with 40 of them in Delhi/NCR alone.
From Fatehpuri to selling nationally
Taranjit recalls how his grandfather used to make rabri faluda manually and serve customers amidst the busy bazaar of Fatehpuri.
“There were no machines back then – all he had was a piece of equipment to make desi sweet (rabri faluda). I have grown up seeing people cherishing my grandfather’s recipe and he made a name for himself just because of his love and dedication.”
Besides rabri faluda, Giani also became popular for its shakes, and Taranjit says that it was an era when ministers and celebrities such as Raj Kapoor and Mohammad Rafi would visit the shop to taste Giani dessert.
The man behind Giani Ice Cream — Giani Gurcharan Singh
In the mid-1960s, when second-generation entrepreneur and eldest son of Giani Gurcharan, Gurbachan Singh entered the business, the father-son duo purchased a second-hand ice cream batch freezer for the first time to meet the increasing production.
For around 30 years, Giani-di-Hatti operated out of its old shop and expansion was a much-needed step that happened after Taranjit entered the business.
Since its inception, Giani-di-Hatti had been operating in the wholesale market where the demand for low-ticket and high quantity items was high. Taranjit wanted to expand the wings of the business by catering to a premium category of customers at an affordable price.
“My training was done in Fatehpuri. My father taught me the art of procuring quality raw materials, mixing and making ice cream. After I stepped into the business in the 1990s, the foremost step I took was opening another outlet in a residential area,” Taranjit says.
So, he set up an ice cream parlour in Rajouri Garden, and since then, it has been an upwards journey.
Now, Giani has 40 franchisee-owned stores across Delhi/NCR, serving over 100 flavours of ice creams.
“For the first time, we bought machines from the US and Italy in the 90s and hired more staff to make new flavours of ice creams. That time, Nirula’s was our core competitor, which had captured a major share of the Delhi market,” Taranjit recalls.
Opening up a shop in a residential area gave a new opportunity to Giani as Taranjit says that in Fatehpuri, most of the customers included passersby and local businessmen, but in Rajouri Garden, they saw families stepping in and trying out new flavours – which was a sight not familiar in Fatehpuri.
“When the demand for new varieties increased, our innovations in flavours increased, which simultaneously led to our growth,” he adds.
In the mid-2000s, Giani moved out of Delhi/NCR. Today, Giani Ice Cream is present across Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, West Bengal, etc., and operates on a franchisee-based model. According to its RoC filings, the total revenue of the company stands at Rs 18 crore for FY 19-20.
In the mid-2000s, Giani Gurcharan’s sons decided to part ways in the business where Taranjit and his father retained the business with the legacy name and Taranjit’s uncle opened another business under a new name Giani’s Ice Cream.
Making the best use of COVID-19
Taranjit says that Giani Ice Cream takes pride in calling itself a ‘middle-class neighbourhood ice cream destination’ as they serve quality ice creams to niche customers at affordable prices. This strategy has let them build a loyal customer base in the market now dominated by Havmor and Natural.
“Business was running smoothly until COVID-19 hit us. All businesses suffered losses, and so did we. The closures gave us a setback but we also got enough time to think and plan, which normally doesn’t happen,” he adds.
The pandemic gave Giani time to rethink their packaging and menu. They brought in sealed glass jar packings and leveraged their menu to bring in more choices for customers.
Giani Ice Cream now serves ice cream cakes, gelato ice creams, shakes, stoned ice creams, waffle ice cream etc, which Taranjit says are on the menu for quite some time.
One of the flavours of Giani shake and ice cream
Giani Ice Cream also leveraged its delivery services as Taranjit mentions that the pandemic led to a spurt in the growth of online orders. Even when the lockdown lifted, they witnessed more online orders than store footfall. COVID-19 enabled Giani to digitise its payment and contactless menu for customers.
The new scoops
Talking about the challenges, Taranjit says that the increasing costs of raw materials such as milk are hampering the price points in which they offer their ice creams to consumers. “If the high price persists, it will be difficult to operate at the costs that we have now,” he explains.
Even though the frozen desserts market eats out the potential share of the ice cream market of the country, according to an IMARC Group study, the ice cream market in India is set to grow at a CAGR of 17.3 percent during 2021-2026.
With the plan to enter into the masses segment, Taranjit says that Giani is preparing to enter supermarts with a handful of SKUs, given the changing consumer trends due to the pandemic.
It is also looking forward to expanding its franchises to Karnataka and other states by the end of the year.