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‘I Moved To Delhi With Rs 1200’: A Man’s Startup Dream & a Popsicle Biz That Earns Rs 8 Crore

Gagan Anand moved to Delhi when he was 17 and picked up a job at Pizza Hut. Starting with a salary of Rs 1500, he now runs a dessert cafe called Scuzo Ice-O-Magic, which serves popsicles and gelato. Here's a look at his entrepreneurial journey.

‘I Moved To Delhi With Rs 1200’: A Man’s Startup Dream & a Popsicle Biz That Earns Rs 8 Crore

The bell of the ice-cream seller was one of the most anticipated sounds in most of our childhoods. As soon as Gagan Anand would hear the bell back in the 90s, he would rush to his mother to borrow Re 1, run behind the ice-cream man down the roads of Jharkhand (then Bihar). Other summer treats included ‘barf-ka-gola’ (snowcones). 

The love for ice-creams, ice-candy and gola continued well into his adulthood, and became ‘all-weather friends’ for the 37-year-old. He rose from being a team member at Pizza Hut to managing big brands like Gloria Jeans Coffee and Rasna, and now runs a successful ice-cream company. 

The youngest of four siblings, Gagan grew up in a middle-class home with lofty dreams of becoming an actor. However, his father retired when he had just completed Class 10, which propelled him towards making his own life through sheer hard work.

With Rs 1,200 in his pocket, he moved to New Delhi to pursue acting at just 16. He soon realised that making a name for yourself in this field was rather difficult. Roaming around Connaught Place in Delhi, the doors of Pizza Hut beckoned him towards a more stable career path. 

Starting as a part-time team member at 17 after completing his Class 12, the ambitious young man rose through the ranks to become a restaurant general manager at 21. From there on, he worked with international and Indian brands for over 18 years before deciding to build a company himself.

Gagan Anand, Founder, Scuzo Ice-O-Magic
Gagan Anand, Founder, Scuzo Ice-O-Magic

And the business idea was a no-brainer. It had to be something in ice-cream – but with a twist. 

Launched in September 2020, ‘Scuzo Ice-O-Magic’, a dessert cafe, serves ‘live’ popsicles and gelato. Over the past four years, the company has grown to having over 30 stores across the country with a turnover of Rs 8 crores in the last financial year 2023-24.

From not having money to afford rent to providing employment to over 140 people today, here’s Gagan’s journey.

Big dreams, humble beginnings 

Gagan’s father worked as a block agriculture officer which meant frequent transfers and postings in rural Bihar/Jharkhand where electricity was a luxury. 

Scuzo specialises in ice popsicles and gelato
Scuzo specialises in ice popsicles and gelato

“We rarely had electricity growing up as we used to stay in Naxal areas. It was a precarious situation and as safety itself was such a big issue, lack of electricity didn’t seem to be a big problem then. The first time we had uninterrupted electricity was when I was 12 years old,” Gagan shares with The Better India.

Despite this, they had a happy childhood, he shares, as they had each other’s company. 

While in Delhi, he became a shift manager at Pizza Hut in 2006. This was quickly followed by the restaurant general manager post in 2008, at the age of 21. 

Interestingly, when he was chosen as the best manager, the video was circulated to Pizza Hut stores across the world, which led to his next stint at one of its centres in Afghanistan at the Kandahar airfield.

“I was handling Pizza Hut, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) stores at Kandahar as a general manager for 2.5 years,” he adds.

This stint propelled his career, leading to his next stint at Gloria Jeans coffee in Dubai. He returned to India to build a company called Honey Hut, which gave him a ground up idea into franchising. 

“I had to build their franchise vertically. I created 15 stores in two years and developed their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), how to work, what to do and what not to do,” he adds.

From here on, he worked in other franchising verticals at the Chocolate Room and Rasna.

“I created the food and beverage verticals at Rasna as they wanted to make cafes. We opened over 70 stores for them,” he adds.

After creating brands for others, Gagan desired to create his own brand. “Despite being in a high position, I couldn’t make my own decisions. I wanted to create my own brand where I could have the liberty to do whatever I want,” he adds.

Taking a trip down memory lane

His childhood memories, coupled with the continuing craze for popsicle sticks across the world, led to an idea of creating a ‘live’ popsicle brand. 

If pizzas were being made in front of customers, why not popsicles?

“In the US, there are many brands selling popsicle sticks. In India though, I found that it’s still being sold on the streets. I decided to work on making it an immersive experience, taking people down the memory lane,” he adds.  

The idea was implanted in his mind since 2016-17 and Gagan worked on it for over four years before launching the venture.

The first wave of COVID-19 and the lockdown gave him the perfect opportunity to experiment and create these popsicles. In an attempt to provide a healthier alternative to ice-cream, he worked with chefs to create recipes made out of fruits. He also got his team ready. 

Most importantly, he worked on developing a popsicle machine that would freeze them in a matter of minutes. Months of trials and four prototypes later, he had the perfect machine ready, which “freezes a popsicle within 7 to 8 minutes in front of you with a temperature of minus 31 degrees”.

His experience in the franchising business and QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) led him to develop a string of processes that can easily be replicated across stores. 

Investing Rs 70 lakh of his savings, Gagan started the first Scuzo Ice-O-Magic store in Netaji Subhash Place, Pitampura, New Delhi in November 2020. 

Understanding that just popsicles might not work, he also developed gelato, an Italian frozen dessert, in a manufacturing unit. In order to cater to a wider audience, the dessert cafe serves waffles, milkshakes, hot beverages, sundaes in addition to popsicles and gelato. 

The store had a great response, according to the founder, with people enquiring for franchisees in the first three months itself. The first franchise store was opened in March 2021. 

Today, Scuzo has 30 stores in 25 cities across the country, of which 27 are franchisees and 3 are company-owned. 

The popsicles start at Rs 65 a piece while the gelato starts at Rs 110. Their bestseller is the chatpata jamun popsicle. Gagan shares that the popsicles are made from ‘100 percent fruit’. Additionally, they are served with edible rice straws. 

The journey has been far from smooth as the second wave of COVID-19 brought a halt to his growth. The first store, which was in a mall, had to be shut down and moved to Noida. 

Delivery too, is a big challenge, according to Gagan. Most food delivery companies don’t provide the cooling pouch, which has led to just 5 percent of sales from online channels. To combat this, Gagan hopes to start his own delivery service to ensure proper delivery of the popsicles.

So, what was his happiest moment? “My father told me that he was very proud of me because I achieved so much without taking a single rupee from him. He passed away in 2021, but he got to see all this,” he shares.

Edited by Padmashree Pande; Image Courtesy: Gagan Anand

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