Why this ex-Googler and mother of 2 started a cafe in Bengaluru
Every lane in Indiranagar, Bengaluru, is lined with restaurants, cafes, and breweries. And if you happen to visit any of these places, don’t be surprised to find an engineer or ex-corporate professional at the helm of things. Vibha Ghorpade too quit her cushy job at Google to start the cosy YoMama Cafe known for its hearty weekend breakfasts and continental food, with her savings.
A Bachelor of Arts, Vibha, 38, pursued a part-time MBA while working with leading corporates like New Wave Computing, TESCO, IBM, Accenture, and Google. Right in the midst of her successful and satisfying corporate career, Vibha became a mother.
This gave rise to a never-ending conflict within her and she was torn between choices. She couldn’t decide if she should attend to her child who was sick or that important team meeting. This made Vibha sit back and contemplate. She had to make a decision.
It was then that she was reminded of her father’s advice,
He used to tell me, ‘when in doubt, always use your common sense’.
As a child, she was always inspired by her father, a first-generation businessman, and had always lived by his principles.
She then started her own interior design firm, The Insider. This venture gave Vibha all the initial confidence she needed and helped her learn some early lessons. It also helped her realise the importance of flexible timings, setting boundaries, solely handling projects and managing time.
Why a cafe?
Living in a city meant eating out often, and on most of these outings, Vibha and her husband would often end up discussing how much they wanted to own a place. Then a second baby happened.
You know what they say: when you are really passionate about something, the universe conspires to make it happen, and it sure did for Vibha. She chanced upon a cosy place in Indiranagar in Bengaluru which was just right for the place she was intending to start. While ideating and saving for her passion project, she had also built a small network of hotel staff from all the visits to various food joints with her husband.
The team then spent a lot of time and effort curating a continental menu, based on their skills, as well as doing food trials and getting feedback from close friends and family.
Although things were falling into place, Vibha was anxious.
I wasn’t confident at all when I started out. There were many internal doubts and questions that I had. My biggest concern was spending too much time away from our kids.
It was her close friends and family, who she calls her champions, who cheered her on and kept her going.
“They made me ask myself, what’s the worst that could happen. And when the answer didn’t seem that daunting, I gained more confidence,” Vibha recalls.
Vibha bounces off most of her new ideas on close friends and family. However, in the initial stages she had to deal with a lot of criticism.
“Most people mean well even with criticism, and I learnt to stay calm, not take it personally and use their suggestions constructively for our business. Sometimes, behind every criticism is a great idea that you may have never even considered,” she says.
Working on her passion project also led Vibha to newer revelations and she realised that passion alone was not enough to build and run a successful business. Vibha had to learn to delegate, manage and trust her team to ensure successful day-to-day operations. She says,
I am most comfortable being creative, and I find numbers, data, accounting and stocking mundane and challenging, but I had to step out of my comfort zone and do these tasks as well. I learnt to embrace technology and the important role it plays in the food industry.
Vibha’s initial focus was on setting up systems, processes, standardisation, quality checks and making the business self-sustainable. She also paid special attention to building her team and making it self-sufficient.
Vibha thinks that any business or enterprise is only as good as the people who work with us, and it is important to carefully put together a team of like-minded people who believe in the same ideas.
All this meant long hours, and a lot of time away from family and home, but as she looks back, she feels it was all worth it.
Apart from the scrumptious homely continental fare, YoMama is also known for its friendly and caring staff.
“The best compliment I received was when a customer reviewed us, complimenting our staff as the owners of the café. This was such a proud moment for me, it meant ownership was at every level,” she beams.
Keeping at it
Her cafe is fast becoming popular for its weekend breakfasts and quick sophisticated continental takeaways for office goers on the weekdays. But doesn’t Vibha feel threatened about working in the highly competitive F&B industry in a choc-a-bloc neighbourhood like Indiranagar, where a new place pops up every other day?
“I believe in the old-school idea that a restaurant should simply focus on serving delicious food! Its very easy to get drawn into competing with other cafes, especially with all the reviews and ratings. But our focus is to compete with ourselves, we innovate and create new dishes for our menu every quarter, this is completely chef-owned,” she says.
Being a mother of two young children while running a popular cafe has enabled Vibha to manage her time better and set an example for her kids.
I want to show my daughter that motherhood and a gratifying career can go hand in hand. And to our son, that he must support the women in his life to help them succeed.
Her mascot, YoMama, is a tribute to all women out there, who, like herself, are always balancing so many things at a time and yet are managing to make it look easy.
Vibha is currently working on expanding Yomama’s operations to different locations this year and is looking forward to all the new challenges that are going to come her way.