New Delhi: Mumbai-based ice cream parlour chain Natural will invest 50-75 crore to add 100 stores in cities across north, south and west India over the next five years, said a senior executive at the company, which on Wednesday opened its first store in the capital.

Natural Ice Cream is seeking to build a retail footprint as it moves away from a franchise model to a company-owned and operated one.

The two-decade-old family-run business has 118 parlours across south and west India, selling 19 flavours of ice cream including tender coconut and jackfruit. It also has 116 franchise-run outlets. Srinivas

Most new additions will be company-owned, said Srinivas Kamath, director, Natural Ice Cream.

“Over the years we’ve realized that cost of opening a franchise outlet has gone up dramatically, owning to expensive real estate," said Kamath. “Plus we want to control quality over our products and supply chain."

“We will see the demand in new markets and then decide if we want to open franchise stores," Kamath added.

Delhi remains a popular market for the company that claims to have flown in 2,400 scoops of ice cream a day during the peak wedding season in winter last year. It will open its second store in the capital in November.

Half of the new stores, Kamath added, will be in north India in cities such as Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Lucknow and Kanpur. Another 50 will be in existing markets in south and west India.

Kamath said the company will gradually look at cities such as Kolkata and Guwahati in the east.

“Logistics remains a challenge to service these markets right now, but we might look at them at some point," he added.

Kamath said that the company was being courted by private equity companies, but said he maintained a conservative approach towards PE funding. “We find equity more expensive than debt, so we are not actively considering any deals."

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