The Fro-Yo Men: Robin Chatterjee and Viral Jhaveri of Yogurtbay
Mumbai is obsessed with frozen yoghurt. That’s the only plausible explanation for the unprecedented proliferation of fro-yo shops in our city during the last year and a half. Since Fro Yo opened in December 2010, four frozen yoghurt stores, Yogurtbay, 6th Street Yogurt, Sugadaddy, and Yogurberry, have cropped up between Kemps Corner and Juhu. Two more, Smooch and Yogurtland, are slated to open this summer. Cocoberry, a nation-wide chain, which opened in Mumbai in 2009, was the first to introduce us to the frozen dessert. However, fro-yo fever didn’t quite catch on in the city until the opening of Yogurtbay in March 2011. The stand-alone store in Khar, helmed by 25-year-old Robin Chatterjee and 26-year-old Viral Jhaveri, got Mumbai to take note of the treat by concertedly promoting frozen yoghurt as a healthier alternative to ice cream. Using Twitter and Facebook, Chatterjee and Jhaveri bombarded followers and friends with information on the ingredients they use, the flavours of the day, and facts about the health benefits of natural yoghurt.
When Yogurtbay opened, either one or both the friends-turned-business-partners made sure to attend to and interact with the customers at their 200 square feet store off Carter Road, asking them their flavour preferences and winning them over with the occasional free topping and complimentary cup of fro-yo. Although they had no prior F&B experience, the boys had anticipated that fro-yo’s summertime appeal and low fat content would get takers, and so they abandoned their first business plan of opening an organic pizza restaurant chain, to start Yogurtbay. Eight months into the launch of their perpetually crowded first fro-yo store, they were ready with their second outpost, which opened in Breach Candy in November 2011.
The Indian packaged yoghurt market was valued at Rs650 crore in 2011. Such is the mania for the dessert that even dairy giants Amul and Mother Dairy have ventured into the packaged fro-yo market. Despite the similarities Mumbai’s many fro-yo shops share, from the ingredients (natural yoghurt, fresh fruit pulp and no artificial sweeteners) to the toppings and the making process, Yogurtbay remains, arguably, the most popular purveyor of the dessert. This is largely thanks to its range of innovative flavours, which in addition to five regular ones, rotate through about 40 others from French vanilla and blueberry cheesecake to tiramisu and PB&J. In May, the partners will launch their first outpost in Bangalore, following which they intend to open an outlet a month, in Mumbai and across India with the help of an investor who has only recently come on board.
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