A visit to Rajesh Gandhi’s sprawling bungalow in Ahmedabad isn’t complete without ice cream. As he makes himself comfortable in the large, white leather sofa in his living room, the 55-year-old Gandhi urges you to have a second helping, and a helper rushes to bring you another bowl. Most Amdavadis love their sweets but in this household, the importance of the cold dessert can’t be understated: Gandhi is the managing director of the ₹340-crore Vadilal Industries, the ice cream business started by his great-grandfather.
Gandhi and his brothers, Virendra and Devanshu, control over 65% of Vadilal’s ownership. But, like most businessmen from this part of India, there’s little about the man or his attire that gives any indication of the family’s wealth. The only visible sign is perhaps the house itself. Spread over 1.5 acres in Ahmedabad’s tony Santosh Park Society neighbourhood, storks pick their way across its lush, manicured lawns even as some half-dozen cars — including a BMW and an Audi — line up on the driveway. “We built this house a decade ago,” says Gandhi, explaining that he and his brothers believe firmly in real estate as an investment.
“Most people do not realise how difficult the ice cream industry is. It is capital-intensive in nature with a long gestation period,” he says morosely. Top that up with a mediocre 2-3% net profit margin that most players in this industry, including Vadilal, bring to the table and the result isn’t as sweet as you’d expect. “It is so challenging that there is not too much money available to the promoters,” says Gandhi with a wry smile. What is available, though, is far from insubstantial — Gandhi’s income is not restricted to just his salary or dividend from the approximately 22% stake he holds in Vadilal Industries. “There is also some money that comes through partnership firms and royalty from the Vadilal brand,” he says, without giving away details.
And most of it, since the early 1980s, has been invested in land. More precisely, agricultural land. “People might think this is an unconventional kind of investment but it is one that has worked for the family. It sta