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Indu Ice Cream is making swirls — we got the scoop on why

In a summer exclusive with TheLabMag, founder Saloni Kukreja talks about the business of ice cream making, the power of packaging, and more.

During our midnight doom scroll, we found ourselves drooling over food content creator Saloni Kukreja’s recipe where she makes an affogato with her pistachio baklava ice cream. This combination of ice cream is among the few from Kukreja’s second stint with Indu Ice Cream — her ice cream band.

Last year, the Mumbai-based food content creator started Indu Ice Cream as a pilot project because she wanted to do a test run while being a full-time content creator. Unlike last year, Kukreja now doesn’t outsource the production of the ice cream. With Indu Ice Cream 2.0, she took a leap to start her own little kitchen and production space in the bylanes of Bandra.

As we walked through the labyrinth of cloud kitchens near Pali Hill’s Candies in Bandra, we found multiple sign boards the led us to Indu Ice Cream’s factory on the first floor. With the space divided into two parts — one for production, and the other with a huge refrigerator, we were excited to be in an ice cream factory in our very own Bandra. A small white board gave a glimpse into the production schedule of Indu Ice Cream with a calendar on when the bases for a particular flavour would be churned. A to-do list of flavours — something a usual corporate task list would never look like.

We caught up with Kukreja in her ice cream factory on what it means to be a premium ice cream maker in the country, the research for new and exciting flavours, how to position her brand globally, and ensuring the buzz doesn’t fade away.

 Indu Ice Cream

Photos: Indu Ice Cream

We scream for ice cream

Kukreja was one of many to have a dream of having a pastry shop. Kukreja moved to India from Vancouver at the end of 2021 with the main aim of starting her own business. “The idea initially,” shares Kukreja, “was to do pastry with alternate ways where I wanted to explore different kinds of grains that people don’t usually use in pastry such as the different types of millets we get.” She also realised the importance of using local ingredients during her time in Vancouver, but ice cream was always something she wanted to add to her menu. “When I studied and worked with it [ice cream], I found it to be a blank slate where you can play around with it. You can go sweet, savoury, or any other direction,” she states.

Making of Indu Ice Cream 2.0

It was only when she started working, she realised how capital and labour intensive a process ice cream making is. Her brief pilot project last year also allowed her to test the waters in terms of what flavours worked, how to manage this with her full-time content creation, and also to have a better understanding of the market research and flavour profiles. A year on, Kukreja has retained the flavours that have worked well with customers and also built a schedule in her new ice cream factory.

Upon hearing the name Indu, it initially struck us to be some sort of a pet name — something a mum would call her child but Kukreja shared the meaning behind it. “It (The aesthetic of the brand) was supposed to be Indian flavours and the heritage of India. I also wanted to go back to the Indus Valley and that is where we got the name from. It also means cooling in Sanskrit,” she shares.

The curious case of a matka

Currently, Indu Ice Cream 2.0 is serving in three different size options. A matka, a sundae with an extra textural element, and a 500ml tub. Kukreja’s sister, Akansha, is the woman behind all the branding — right from the text, font, placement, and more. The approach was to incorporate Indian roots and heritage and thus matka seemed like an obvious choice. However, her ice cream is covered in a quintessential Jaipuri block print cloth, making it as desi as they come. “One thing my sister didn’t want was the cloth,” recalls Kukreja. “We argued for two months,” she laughs. “But I am obsessed with block print so I wanted it. I love the idea of getting such a package and the whole experience of opening it.” The block print cloth has now become a souvenir of sorts for many customers. It also became a reason for an argument in our office because people wanted to take it home.

Indu Ice Cream

Photo: Indu Ice Cream

Positioning nostalgia in the market

Indu Ice Cream 2.0 has flavours with roots steeped in Indian nostalgia. They are also taking on your regular drinks, flavours consumed by most households in the country such as a Kokum sorbet, masala doodh, mango malai, strawberry lassi, pista baklava, mango lassi, filter kaapi tiramisu, and more. 

These flavours come with a price that is slightly steeper than most commercial ice cream brands we see in the market. The matka — the smallest one — starts at ₹186. How does a few-month-old Indu Ice Cream position itself in the market with other ice cream giants? “It is a premium brand and that’s how I want to keep it for around five years,” she says. What makes Indu Ice Cream stand out is that they “bring back a lot of Indian flavours but not make it too traditional.” She uses her passion for pastry and expertise in her ice cream as well. “We also bring out modern pastry elements to our ice cream,” she adds. The pistachio ice cream has a baklava twist with sheets of filo pastry on top of it, giving it a nice crunch and texture to the ice cream. 

Photos: Indu Ice Cream

However, the pricing has been a challenge, she admits. “With ice cream in India, people are used to walking into a store, tasting everything, and then picking what they like.” This acts as a drawback for Indu Ice Cream because they don’t offer this service as their ice creams are not scooped but instead set. To overcome this, Kukreja says her smaller matka size comes to the rescue, where people can try and then come back for a bigger size.

She is aware of the ice cream industry in the country and is not competing with the commercial brands or even the international brands that have gained popularity in the country. “These brands take years to create a brand value and I don’t think that is going anywhere any time soon but I feel that now people are more aware and are supporting smaller brands,” she says. “At the end of the day, it is about what you are bringing to the table. A commercial brand of ice cream is never going to do filter coffee ice cream. It is about a comfort product, and I think nostalgia is an important part,” adds Kukreja.

Keeping the buzz going

One look at Kukreja’s Instagram page or even Indu Ice Cream can confirm that her social media game is on point. In terms of content, she manages to have regular strategy calls every week to ensure how they are positioning the product, and what approach they want to take. “I also do a lot of recipe content on my page and we plan collaborations accordingly,” she adds. 

Her research is exhaustive where she first tries to find ingredients that are grown locally, for example, Kokum. But at the same time, she plans on working with Indian farmers for local produce, chocolate, coffee, and more. 

Going forward, expect to see Indu Ice Cream at more events and pop-ups as Kukreja scales up her business.

While the mango malai ice cream is exclusive to the summer, we are excited to see what other flavours pop up on Indu Ice cream’s menu in the coming months.