How this café studio business run by sister entrepreneurs clocked Rs 2 Cr in two years
Indians are increasingly conscious about their health and fitness. Working out, looking after one’s mental well-being, and eating healthy have put the wellness industry on a pedestal like never before in the country.
Making the best of this opportunity, Darshana Nahata and Sunayana Hiran startedcafé and studios in 2017. The co-founders, who also happen to be cousin sisters, say that most people are caught in the hustle of the city life and tend to compromise on their diet by consuming instant and processed food.
Co-founders Darshana Nahata and Sunayana Hiran
A portmanteau of the words Energy and Rejuvenate, their café cum studio ‘Enerjuvate’ provides a variety of baked and healthy food, and a studio space to facilitate an energetic ecosystem.
Since working on the venture in 2016 to opening their first café in 2017 and sustaining it, the co-founders complement well with each other’s skill.
Sunayna Hiran, 40, is armed with business acumen of managing logistics in the mining sector for nearly a decade and takes care of the finance and operation aspects of the startup. Her sister, Darshana Nahata, 39, shares that she is now living her dream of running a café. A former graphic designer, she says she is always experimental with local seasonal produce and ingredients.
At Enerjuvate café and studio, the duo claims that ingredients like maida and white sugar are never used. For instance, they have a range of momos made of Ragi (millet) and maize flours. They also claim to be pioneers in offering green and red-coloured momos, which are made from beetroot and spinach.
The price, they say, has been kept at a compatible range where young working professionals and college-going students can enjoy.
The studio attached to the café is also a popular zone, and organises events by artists, leadership coaches, stand-up comedians, and holds workshops by chefs and home cooks, and theatre professionals.
At the same time, the co-founders also conduct workshops on healthy eating for companies like H&M, Titan, WeWork, Folio, Tata Coffee, Yahoo!, and BMC Software. They have ventured into themed outdoor catering and also undertake customised orders.
To their pleasant surprise, children are loving their experience at the café and many have asked their parents to host their birthday parties there.
Darshana cherishes the fact that children are voluntarily choosing a healthy food option because they enjoy it over junk food. She says knowing that there is even a little bit of change is a good feeling.
“At the end of the day, we are showing that healthy food need not be boring. They can be tasty and be equally pleasing in terms of aesthetics,” Sunayna adds.
Challenges and future plans
Starting up and building a brand from scratch was not an easy task for the sisters.
Sunayna shares, “Initially, reaching the critical mass was difficult. While those who are health conscious would easily try our food, for people who are used to junk food, presenting our offering that was healthy and flavourful was a challenge.”
However, the café and studio quickly gained its customer base through word-of-mouth. After their first café turned out to be successful, they went on to open their second café studio in Koramangala, Bengaluru. The idea was to see if they can maintain the quality and similar practices by expanding to more outlets.
Bootstrapped so far, the duo made an initial investment of Rs 70 to 80 lakh. While the rental deposit alone cost between Rs 10 to 12 lakh for each location, the remaining amount was spent on setting up the interiors and for staffing.
The duo has now made a revenue of over Rs two crore in just two years. Speaking of future plans, they are looking to expand as a franchise business across India through partnerships.
Currently engaged in researching the various models and trends in the food industry, they are cautious to partner “with people of a similar mindset, who have a similar philosophy of taste and quality control,” they say, adding that many have shown interest in taking the business further with kiosk models and lifestyle cafes in Tier II cities.
The café-studios follow an all-women management structure, which the founders claim is an organic process. They were only looking for people who are passionate and have an entrepreneurial spirit to not only serve the dishes to the customers but ensure they experience the space as a community.
At the same time, Sunayna says, they hope to empower women by paving an entrepreneurial route for them as well as by helping them develop skills at Enerjuvate.
They have also accommodated exhibition space for several women-led enterprises like Dittoo ice creams, Ausum teas, Rimagined, and NGOs like Mitaan and Saahas Waste Management, among others.
(Edited by Megha Reddy)