A cow within a fenced-off area in front of Super Milk Products' registered office on New Delhi's Man Singh Road, set on a four-acre estate owned by the Ram Krishna Dalmia family, is a rustic reminder of company's core product of milk shakes. For the three promoters of the recently resurrected 91-year-old brand this semi-rural image may be a world away from their target market of aspirational urban youth. Yet it's not an inappropriate one, since it is Keventers' retro appeal that they are trying to milk as they seek to re-establish and expand the famous milk shake brand.
Last year, the company, floated by Dalmia's grandson Agastya Mihir Dalmia, Aman Arora and hospitality consultant Sohrab Sitaram, made a tentative start by opening its first outlet in south Delhi. That marked the formal re-launch of a brand that R K Dalmia had acquired from Swedish dairy technologist Edward Keventer's estate in 1940. It has been all but moribund since the 1970s, when the land on which the dairy stood was requisitioned for the city's diplomatic enclave. Thereafter, the brand retained a vague recall via several unauthorised standalone outlets offering pre-mixed shakes. For Dalmia, 26, and his college mate Aman Arora, 25, resurrecting Keventers was part of a discussion of what to do after their Delhi Street Football venture wound down.
That was when Sohrab Sitaram, 40, who has worked with the Taj hotel chain, came on board and the plan took shape in 2014. The model is to provide a standardised look for the outlets that would be provided with the milk, via a tie-up with Mother Dairy, flavouring syrups, from an in-house R&D outlet, and customised glass bottles, through an exclusive tie-up with a vendor.
With a start-up capital of Rs 2 crore - the Dalmia family owns 80 per cent, Arora and Sitaram 10 per cent each - the new incarnation of the old Keventers opened shop in Select CityWalk in March 2015, followed by a kiosk in Promenade, part of DLF's upscale mall complex in Vasant Kunj, in June 2015, when Super Milk Products was registered as a company, and Mall of India in Noida in January this year.
The idea was to retain the brand aesthetics without diluting its heritage. "We had a certain brand pedigree, so we couldn't be too modern, and the question was how to retain the legacy and build on that," explains Sitaram. The company hired Som Sengupta of Zeppelin Design and Environment for the makeover.
The old, squat Delhi Milk Supply bottle acquired a sleeker line. The cursive flourish and font of the original logo were retained but the term "Since 1925" was added at the top, the tagline "The Original Milkshake" appeared at the bottom, and the outline of a milk bottle was placed within the logo. Heritage is the lynchpin of the Keventers branding strategy in a business in which the entry barriers to competition are extremely low.
That is why the milk bottle lies at the heart of the new Keventers' brand values. "We're trying to make the bottle a collector's item," says Dalmia. A smaller 300 ml size will shortly be added to the current 500 ml standard. With the youth as the primary target, social media remains the preferred mode of communication but newspaper and billboard advertising is also being considered. Serving at weddings and events is part of the branding exercise and that business now accounts for about 10 per cent of revenues. The partners are also working on adding newer, contemporary flavours to the classic four of vanilla, strawberry, butterscotch and chocolate.
Currently, Super Milk has five operational kiosks and another six are coming up under a franchisee model, including at the giant Epicuria food mall in Nehru Place. Over this year, it aims to open 35-40 outlets, including in Jaipur and Hyderabad.
Arora explains that the franchise model, which started this year, is extremely scalable, requiring the franchisee to have 100-120 square feet of space and involving a modest cost of Rs 18-19 lakh (including a one-time fee of Rs 4.5 lakh). If the location is right, it is possible to break even in six months. Super Milk provides the vendor management service - staff hiring and training and marketing support. Right now, the promoters say they are flooded with requests and are exploring options outside India too, Kenya and Indonesia being immediate options. In a sense, Keventers is milking the opportunities of globalisation too.