Close your eyes and say 'Manali' three times. If that's the stuff your dreams are made of, you might want to read on. Nidhi Sharma - young, chirpy and all of 27, is living the dream. She has her own cafe in the hills (Cafe Trippy Travelette), and has volunteered to share her story with The Times Blog team.
This is an exclusive interview between Nidhi Sharma and The Times Blog, as a part of the #TimesStories initiative.
Nidhi, when did you launch the cafe, and what challenges did you face initially?
I officially 'launched' the cafe on April 21, 2018. From hiring skilled workers to sourcing rations and navigating through a dim digital ecosystem (if you think your internet connection is slow, you should try running a business that depends on the internet in Manali!), I had enough challenges to keep me occupied for a lifetime. Add to that the fact that I had to ship everything from Delhi, which kicked my timelines in the shin. But it's my life's dream, so no challenge was big enough!
And how did your family react when you told them you wanted to be an 'entrepreneur'?
Wink wink! My mom had absolutely no idea about my plans. I resigned from my 9-to-5 in November last year. And at the time, without any prompts from my side, my mother just 'assumed' that I was on the lookout for my next job.
It was a whole different story with my sister. She was the one who gave me the courage to send in my resignation letter! And as far as plans for the cafe went, I confessed to mom in January. By then I already had a decent business plan in place, and I'm happy to say that mom's my biggest fan today! Working on your dreams always pays off, provided you work hard enough and see it through.
Did you ever feel scared? What kept you motivated when the cafe life seemed less-than-elegant?
Okay, so I didn't have any major savings. I was away from home all the time, and far from my loved ones. I was in a place where my comfortable lifestyle and family life were beyond a line that I could no longer see! On countless nights, I cried myself to sleep and there were so many times when I just wanted to shut shop and run home! But hope kept me going strong. I always hoped that things will turn, they had to turn. And they did!
Please tell us three things that you did not know when you started the cafe, things that you know now.
a) Believe in Murphy. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
b) Always stay calm, because panicking isn't going to solve anything.
c) Learn to channel your inner energy. That's what gets shit done!
Any advice to dreamers like you who want to launch cafes in the hills?
Look. Life in the hills is not easy. It ain't a rosy picture. It is downright cruel. Sometimes... no, scratch that - every time, you will need to put everything you've got, to the table. And if lady luck and senor hope are on your side, you will probably survive.
Are there any products or services that you wished existed in the hills, to help your business?
I mean come on! You guys and girls in cities have Amazon Now, you've got Grofers, Dunzo and what-not to deliver everything you need to your doorstep. I'd love to have something even half as efficient in the hills. It would make life so much easier!
How important are marketing and public relations for this line of business?
PR and marketing are both extremely critical for me and my business. In today's cut-throat world of hospitality, the game is all about referrals and word-of-mouth.
Anyone whom you want to thank publicly?
I want to thank my friends and my family, for believing in me. They gave me the courage to fight it out, to turn my dreams into something more than just a dream - something close enough to reality! Thank you.
The Times RapidFire
Name One book that you would recommend today, without blinking.
Answer: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.
An original quote for your loyal customers?
“You are officially awesome. Keep slaying!"
Do you operate with goals, or systems? Pick one.
Answer: Goals, within a system.
Cricket, or no Cricket?
Print, or Digital?
And finally... what comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘The Times Blog’?