19 February 2015 13:37:15 IST

Scooping up a gift of love

Engineering ice-cream to strike a chord

Bijoy, Business Line’s photographer, was up against a tough subject. His efforts at trying to convince entrepreneur Deepak Suresh that he had to click him – and only him – for the profile story were all rebutted.

Suresh wanted his entire team clicked together. It was all or nothing, he said. Bijoy held out for a while longer but then gave up, and herded Suresh and the seven others who run Amadora Gourmet Ice-cream and Sorbet into the frame.

Suresh later explained why he insisted that the team be photographed together. He believes sharing credit is one of the ways India can fix its labour problem, since retaining workers, especially those at the bottom of the pecking order, is very difficult.

“It is like what they teach you at B-school. Every semester you are in a team and your grade depends not just on you but on the others with you. If you want to build something special, you’ve got to do it like that. The moment I start thinking this is about me, (Amadora) will start to crash.” If nothing else, Suresh is on the money about B-school. A software engineer who moved to the US to study and then work in 1998, he has an MBA in entrepreneurship from Madrid. His specialisation wasn’t in selling ice-cream; not even food or hospitality.

“The idea then,” he explains about a time that must now seem like a lifetime ago, “was that I would help companies cut their carbon emissions and trade in carbon credits. I even did two internships based on that. But once the Republicans took control of the House, I knew they were not going to tax businesses for carbon. So it was a kick in the gut that I had based my MBA on that.”

What came in handy was the time he had spent drinking wine and eating in Madrid. The experience, he says, made him look at food in a completely different light. Making ice-cream (the idea struck him after watching a TV show on the subject) appealed to the engineer in him. Suresh is a self-proclaimed poor cook, but ice-cream making, like engineering, he says, is about “process, process, process”. One thing led to another and two years ago, Suresh came back home to Chennai to open Amadora (Spanish for ‘gift of love’). The welcome reception he received should strike a chord with anybody who has tried to start a business in India. “People thought I was nuts.”

The store is housed in Suresh’s grandmother’s home on Wallace Garden Road, an extension of Chennai’s high-street for fashion and dining. (“I do pay rent,” he clarifies.) In the one-and-a-half years that Amadora has been up and running, Suresh has created 130 flavours of ice-creams and sorbets. He uses fresh fruit, bought mostly from Chennai’s wholesale market at Koyambedu, and doesn’t add flavour, colour or essence. The pasteurising, homogenising and aging are done in a spotless kitchen using local brands of milk and cream. Suresh gets honey from Kodagu, peanut butter from Kottayam, and vanilla from a cardiologist who grows the vine in Pollachi (western Tamil Nadu). He won’t say how much he has invested or how fast the store is growing. He plans to open a second store in Chennai by the end of this year or early next year. There’s also the possibility of franchising an outlet in Bangalore, and Suresh has been approached to expand overseas as well.

Despite the pricey ₹200-a-scoop label, the store is definitely high on the curiosity count, with customers coming back for more. Suresh wants to model Amadora like the nimble Spanish retailer Zara, where there’s something new and surprising for customers every week. “The key,” the 36-year-old entrepreneur says, “is to create a brand. But you’ve got to put in the time.... When I am not making ice-cream, I am reading about it. What I want is to make you happy. Because we are in the business of pleasure.”