From Rs 13,000 to an Empire Worth Rs 27,000 Crore: Arun icecream founder RG Chandramogan's story

In the competitive world of startups, Arun Ice Cream stands as a shining example of hard work, hope, and dedication. While brands like Amul and Mother Dairy dominate the North, Arun Ice Cream has captured the hearts of the South. Founder RG Chandramogan's journey from humble beginnings to building a market-leading dairy empire is a powerful testament to his unwavering passion and resilience in the face of countless challenges.

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Early life

Chandramogan was born in a small village near the firecracker town of Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu. His father was a wholesale vegetable sales. But his work did not go well and the family faced financial constraints. Chandramogan’s father moved to Chennai and set up a provision store in 1956 near the Chennai Central Station but it also failed. By 1968, the family had to close the business and go back to their hometown.

From the start, Chandramogan had seen his family struggling for basic amenities. He always knew that he wanted to be an entrepreneur because, in his village, most of the successful rich people were businessmen. But his father always wanted him to do a job and have a fixed career, he wanted him to first complete his studies.

He was enrolled at St Xavier’s College in Palayamkottai for his PUC. But he failed in mathematics subject. With the family's financial struggles mounting, his dreams of a higher education were cut short. Chandramogan’s father then found him a job at a timber depot in Viluppuram on a salary of just Rs 65. Chandramogan’s knew his heart lay elsewhere.

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First venture

After a year of working at the timber depot, He returned to Chennai with a renewed determination to change his fate. He asked his father about business. His father sold their ancestral land for Rs 13,000, providing Chandramogan with the seed capital to start his own business. 

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At just 21 years old, he rented a 250-sq ft space in Royapuram and set up a small ice candy factory with four employees in the year 1970.

He Named his brand 'Arun', derived from the Tamil word for sun rays, Chandramogan’s venture began modestly. The factory produced 10,000 ice candies per day, which were sold through pushcarts. It primarily targeted college students. The early years were gruelling, Chandramogan often slept in the factory after a hard day's work as he had no other place. His perseverance paid off as the brand achieved a turnover of Rs 1.50 lakh in its first year.

Despite the initial success, the journey was far from smooth. The ice candy business was highly seasonal, and Chandramogan knew he needed to diversify to sustain the growth. In 1981, Arun Ice Creams was launched, marking a significant shift from ice candies to milk-based ice creams. This move came at a time when the South Indian market was dominated by well-established brands like Dasaprakash, Kwality Walls, and Joy, with over 350 local competitors in Tamil Nadu alone.

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Chandramogan’s innovative approach set him apart. To save on cold storage and distribution costs, he packed ice cream with rice and transported it via trains to rural parts of Tamil Nadu, selling through ice cream parlours. This strategy not only cut costs but also expanded his market reach. By 1985, Arun Ice Creams had become the largest ice cream seller by volume in Tamil Nadu.

Building a Dairy Empire

By 1995, Arun Ice Creams had expanded into Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, solidifying its position as the largest ice cream brand in South India with 700 outlets. Chandramogan recognised the need for further diversification, so Chandramogan also ventured into liquid milk marketing with the brand Arokya. By 2001, the combined success of Arun Ice Creams and Arokya had turned into a 100-crore business.

Chandramogan's entrepreneurial spirit didn’t stop there. He also introduced premium ice cream parlours under the brand "Ibaco," which has offered unique experiences such as unlimited scoops and pre-booking services. These innovations propelled the business further, and by 2014, Arun Ice Creams had grown into a 2000 crore enterprise, eventually going public and trading on the NSE.

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The relentless drive and innovative strategies of RG Chandramogan led Hatsun Agro Product Limited to become the largest private-sector dairy company in India. By April 2020, the company’s revenues crossed 5000 crore, with a vast network of 10,500 milk banks, 50,000 employees, and 14 plants spread across 12,000 villages. Hatsun produces an astounding 60,000 litres of ice cream daily, catering to millions of customers.

Chandramogan’s journey from a small ice candy factory to a dairy empire worth nearly Rs 27,000 crore is a testament to his resilience, innovation, and unwavering determination. He ranked 99th on Forbes' India’s Richest List and 1628th on the Forbes Billionaires list, with a net worth of $2 billion, RG Chandramogan stands as an inspiring figure, proving that with vision and hard work, one can indeed rise from rags to riches.

This is the story of RG Chandramogan – the Ice Cream Man of South India, whose remarkable journey continues to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs across the globe.

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Written By Manvi