The relationship between Rajesh and Aastha has various facets: father-daughter, mentor-tutor, and even business rivals observes Priya Adhyaru-Majithia.

Traditionalist Rajesh Gandhi of ice-cream manufacturing giant, Vadilal, and trendy Aastha Gandhi, both match and mismatch like their sweet ice-creams and sour gelatos. They share a unique relationship, that of being a father-daughter who are also business rivals.

The daughter dreams big and the father has the expertise to translate her intangible visions into solid and tangible models. “I sent her to Italy to understand more about ice-creams,” says Rajesh, but contrary to his expectations, Aastha explored gelatos –ice-cream’s latest rivals in the Indian market. Aastha dared to do what she wanted and her gnawing hunger to do something differently garnered her father’s backing. He succumbed to her firm love for gelatos and lent her the support to foray into the market as his own rival — a fact that he hates even today.

SHE’S DIFFERENT

“She is innovative and visionary but is equally restless and dreamy,” says Rajesh pointing out how Aastha was adamant about the business proposal to re-launch a product that has already “failed” once in Amdavad.

Rajesh decided to guide her and translate her dreams into reality even though it meant defying his own business strategies. But why? “Simply because I love that she dares to be different and firmly stands for what she believes in,” he adds. The candid conversation that happened at Aastha’s trendy and posh dessert joint Melt-In on Judges Bungalow Road revealed the hot ‘n’ cold chemistry and rough ‘n’ smooth texture of their relationship.

Enjoying the ambiance, which is teeming with an eclectic mix of visitors from curious kids to health-conscious moms, from noisy collegians to quiet couples, Rajesh says, “Aastha had fixed idea about the interiors, design and open-kitchen concept. And I am happy to see that she has been able to solidify her vision. When I joined business in 1979, we never had room or liberty to dream. Joining the family business and expanding it was the only option.”

Aastha, who grew up watching her father toeing the strict line drawn by the family, always refrained from following the set pattern. She says, “I never understood ice-cream making though I visited our plants 10 times a year. I always felt it is a long and laborious process. And that unnerved my father. But he has a virtue called patience and hence he allows me to be myself.”

“We are opposites,” chirps Aastha, dressed in an informal casual black tee. Happily confident and yet aggressively polite. she adds, “I don’t let go of my dreams and visions, but my father adjusts his thoughts to understand my aspirations and directs me in practical ways to attain to my dreams.”

EXPERT AT HAND

Aastha, who wished to join civil services, pursued a degree in economics and politics from England. Before joining public service, she went to Italy to understand how ice-creams are made. “While I was packing my bags for Italy to do a 2-month course on ice-creams, my father warned me that he didn’t want me using the time to learn about gelatos. However, the warning did not stick. I liked gelatos and learnt how to make them. I also decided to get gelatos back in Amdavad. I am happy and impressed that my father could alter his thinking and help me get what I want.”

Aastha who today can boast to have set up one of the most frequented and talked-about dessert joint in town, says, “It is thanks to my father that I could successfully re-launch a failed product and bring it back in vogue. There were risks, but those hurdles were skillfully tackled by my father’s expert and experienced hands.”

SOLID EXPERT

“I had to support her as I could see a perfectionist in her,” says Rajesh. “In our times, we had no room to do something different. I am happy that the new generation has fiery will, wild dreams and liberty to experiment.
I respect Aastha’s struggle to become what she wished to be,” says Rajesh. Besides making desserts, the duo share interests for mountaineering and rappelling. “I have been mountaineering and rappelling for years. However, when Aastha tried it for the first time in 2009, she was better than me. I was amazed by her agility and energy. I feel the same every day when I see her using her positive energy to experiment and blend new tastes to create new flavours of gelatos. She has potential, energy and dreams. However, her only drawback is her impatience. She needs an anchor that can keep her grounded,” says Rajesh. “And I am fortunate to have found that solid anchor in the form of my father,” quips Aastha, bubbling with laughter.

The write up appeared on page 8 of Ahmedabad Mirror on August 25 as a part of special Sunday column Relative Values

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