Learning lessons of success and failure from your teachers while snacking at a sandwich or sipping on to a ‘Capriosch mocktail’ may seem a dream too good to be true, but not anymore. Zen Café, started by Ashish Parikh and Hema Parikh in November 2008 near Amdavad ni Gufa in Ahmedabad, serves as a place where students and professors and even bosses and their employees meet up for a freewheeling conversation over a cup of hot cappuccino coffee. The culture, more pronounced in the US, Europe and Australia, took some time to take roots in India, but now its getting as popular here as anywhere else.
Ashish and Hema started the café knowing that the trend was new and would pick up steadily among the people. “During my college in Berkeley, USA, I visited a lot of European cities, especially Paris, and came across this café culture where students-teachers, students-professors and employee-bosses meet up, have a cup of coffee or a fresh drink and discuss various issues,” said Ashish.
A small comfortable café with live and light music, a café that is more than just a food joint, is not very commonly found in India; precisely why the husband-wife duo opened Zen Café.
“At Zen, we try to create an ambience that helps one get into easy talking and generate new ideas for businesses and study related projects. It’s a place of casual meetings and is open to all,” said Hema.
When Ashish and Hema started the café, there were only four tables, and now, even after expanding, they are finding it difficult to accommodate all the customers. “Think big, start small; that’s what we believe in. We have always paid more attention to serving customers good quality food and providing them with a comfortable environment,” added Hema.
Ahmedabad is one city that has one of the country’s top education institutes. While the café is close to the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (Cept), it is also accessible to students of Indian Institute of Management (IIM-A) and National Institute of Design, one of the finest design schools in Asia and Europe. However, students from these institutes are mostly confined to the campus and find it strange outside their world. “At Zen we create an environment conducive to the growth of creative ideas. It’s a place where one can relax, enjoy the music and unwind their mind,” she explained.
Their effort is not just to make the place more worthwhile for its patrons, but also to ensure that it serves the purpose for which it has been started. “The café is also attracting a huge crowd because of the memories of BV Doshi and MF Husain attached to the place. We strongly believe that it’s a place where we all can learn, share and grow together,” asserted Ashish.
Their vision for 2010 is to see the café grow and play host to people from all walks of life, and to those who plan to take up similar venture — ‘Think big, start small’.