Sswirls of sweet and sweet cotton candy ice cream evoke childhood memories of family shopping sprees, ending with a treat of hot pink and pinstripes budhiya ke baal (Daddy’s beard). Melted, gooey ice cream provides a surprisingly salty kick, alongside echoes of a plate of perfectly seasoned nachos and ridiculously thick cheese, a crucial part of the movie-going experience of nearly every movie buff.
At Papacream, almost every flavor exists to recall the years gone by in the form of a healthy pot of rich ice cream. This is the idea of Tanvi Chowdhri, 33, a resident of Mumbai who left behind an illustrious career in New York to start from scratch and follow her passion.
Comfort in an ice cream jar
Tanvi’s childhood was spent in Calcutta in a family who liked to eat together. “We traveled a lot and one thing that was always on the agenda was to try the local cuisine of the region we were visiting,” she recalls in a conversation with The Better India. “Food has always been an important part of our household and we always looked forward to the next great meal we were going to have. During this time, living in Kolkata, I developed a natural sweet tooth. We are all hearty dessert people in my family.
For college, Tanvi traveled to the United States to earn a degree in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, and eventually began working for a financial firm on Wall Street. Her love for food, not diminishing with age, followed her to New York. She embarked on an ongoing quest to try out anything that spoke delicacy to her.
“Over time it became more and more clear to me that I wanted to pursue a career in the culinary arts. I was sure I wanted to be an entrepreneur. My weekends were free, so I was going to meet different chefs to understand their cooking style or the interesting things they were up to, ”she says.
In 2015, Tanvi returned to India to follow her dreams. She adds that risk had been a pervasive factor in her career, given the nature of her job. “I have always found it a thrill. It was just a leap of faith, ”she says.
Towards the end of the year, she launched Papacream with the idea of offering customers a “world class experience” and “something different”. This included original flavors like pani puri sorbet, nacho-cheese ice cream, ice cream sushi, etc. “We wanted to instill a sense of curiosity in potential customers, while also appearing to be approachable,” she notes.
Back then, the trend in the industry, Tanvi says, was to use exotic French names for brands like hers, so she decided to go for something that stood out, but with a sense of comfort. and familiarity. “We wanted the name to bring you home,” she says. And so, Papacream was baptized.
Tanvi used her savings from her time in New York City to start an ice cream parlor and eventually branched out into Fast Turning Consumer Goods (FMCG). “We wanted to expand and move the whole of India. So we started selling our ice cream in a packaged format, ”she explains.
Whirlwinds of nostalgia
Tanvi says she is a firm believer in the concept of “made in India” and that customers deserve top quality ice cream on par with brands like London Dairy or Haagen Daaz, minus the soaring prices. “I want to let people know that you can also have quality manufacturing in India,” she says.
Today, Papacream offers around 15 flavors of gourmet ice cream in different ranges such as vegan, indulgent, gluten free and more. Beside, they sell sorbets and frozen cakes. Flavors include French vanilla, vegan chocofudge cake, vegan and regular raspberry sorbet, salted caramel and more, as well as ice cream cakes such as vegan coffee chocolate, vegan mango vanilla , biscoff, etc.
Reiterating how each flavor is influenced by one memory or another, Tanvi explains, “We used to have this ice cream called cereal milk, and the idea was to incorporate the flavor of leftover milk once that you are done with the cereal. Cookies and cream aim to replicate the flavor of the whole cookie dipped in milk, not the simplest variations you will find on the market. It’s like having a whole bowl of milk and cookies.
There’s also the Ferro Crunch, reminiscent of our childhood spherical hazelnut chocolate, the first “premium” chocolate most of us have had the luxury of tasting. Tanvi has incorporated all the layers you find when taking a familiar bite – the chocolate coating, the thin wafer, the nutty crunch, and the gooey chocolate inside.
During the COVID-19 lockdown last year, Papacream collaborated with film producer Rhea Kapoor to present four new flavors based on Kapoor’s own childhood memories. These include After School Sundae, Brown Butter Biskut, Hazelnut Cold Coffee, and Chocolate Influencer. Ice creams are sold from Rs 375, while cakes cost around Rs 1,500 and more.
Papacream ice cream is available in 15 cities in India including Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Pune, Ahmedabad, Dehradun, etc. They are also available online and offline – in stores like Foodhall, through their website, or on platforms like Swiggy Instamart and Big Basket.
Tanvi says that over the past year or so, their income has increased fivefold.
‘An act of faith’
Running her own business is certainly never easy, and Tanvi admits that she has had a very steep learning curve, given that she had no previous experience in the hospitality industry. At the same time, running a business as a woman presented additional challenges, some that she never imagined she would face.
“For things as small as, say, setting up a business contract or legal agreement, I would be asked to bring a man, like my father or my brother, to close the deal. It was surprising that there wasn’t an immediate sense of credibility, considering I was a young woman starting out on my own, ”she recalls. “Despite the professional experience I had, there was a certain unwarranted attention that manifested itself during my early days.”
Tanvi also notes that given his young age in his early days, there was a level of difficulty when it comes to authority. “A lot of the people I had hired were my age or older, so it was a bit difficult in terms of support. “
COVID-19 gave Tanvi a wider opportunity to market its ice cream and expand its reach, as people visited grocery stores less and moved to the online world.
As of now, Papacream is working on developing new flavors and opening new outlets, kiosks and carts around Mumbai.
Meanwhile, for women looking to start their own businesses, Tanvi says, “It’s always about taking a leap of faith. If you have any apprehensions or fear of failure, remember that there will be a silver lining and keep going.
For more details or to place orders, you can visit Papacream’s website or Instagram page.
Edited by Yoshita Rao