Keventers’ tale dates back to the 1890s when a Swedish entrepreneur, Edward Keventers, set up a dairy factory in what is now Malcha Marg in New Delhi. Soon, the brand lengthened its reach to other cities including Kolkata, Darjeeling and Shimla, and garnered popularity for its butter, cheese and ice creams. It is rumoured that the company came up with the widely popular cassata.
Among its distributors in the country was the industrialist Ram Krishna Dalmia, who acquired the brand in 1940. “Back in the day, the area around Sardar Patel Marg was considered the outskirts of Delhi. We continued operations there and even supplied milk powder to the Indian army in the 1960s. But we had to shut the factory when the government decided to turn the area into a diplomatic zone in the 1970s,” says Agastya Dalmia, the second generation inheritor of the brand.
While the Dalmia family let the brand lie dormant and focussed on other business ventures, an entrepreneurial stockist in Connaught Place, Delhi, decided to capitalise on the brand’s acclaim. “He started making his own flavours, put the Keventers name on it, and started selling. We tried to get him to shut down several times,” says Dalmia.
It was only in 2012, on friend Aman Arora’s urging, that Dalmia decided to consider relaunching the brand. The 27-year-olds studied together at Delhi University and had previously partnered on a sports venture called Delhi Street Football. “Building a brand requires a lot of money and time. They (the Dalmias) already owned the brand so I felt half the battle was already won. All we had to do was bring back the original product,” says Arora.
And they did. In March 2015, the duo launched their first outlet in the south Delhi mall Select City Walk. But the devotion of the Delhi milkshake drinker to the CP outlet was bound to haunt them. “So many people associated a certain kind of taste with Keventers, we had to recreate a taste that wasn’t to our liking,” says Dalmia. Eventually, they came up with thick shakes such as mint Oreo crumble and choco peanut butter, along with 18 other recipes, including classic flavours like vanilla, strawberry and butterscotch.
While they were certain of the brand’s recall value in the Capital, they were sceptical of its fate in other parts of the country. “We had no big plans. It started out as an experiment, but when it kicked off, we decided to maximise its potential. Strangely, our strongest markets are Bangalore and Chennai,” says Dalmia.