On April 21st, 2018, I felt like I had achieved the biggest dream of my life and I had absolutely no clue about what I was supposed to do next.
Nidhi Sharma is the owner and proprietor of Cafe Trippy Travelette in Manali, and the embodiment of a postmodern, irreverent woman entrepreneur who writes her own column on The Times Blog.
It was a big day, nay, night.
The opening of cafe trippy travelette, was... well, more than perfect. The food, alcohol and the live band performances were all captivating. It was overwhelming to see so many happy souls around, pouring in nothing but good wishes (and of course, some kickass dance moves). It must've been past 2 AM - I was standing on the terrace, looking at the maddening crowd and wondering...
I felt like the commander of my own hill - after all, not everyone gets to follow that crazy dream of running a cafe in the middle of their own fantasy vacation spot! I was there, and yet, I did not have the slightest idea about how to keep it all going. All I knew, was that I wanted to give every second of my life to this cafe.
And that's exactly what I'm busy doing today. Yes, there are challenges and struggles but they keep me going. They add a lot of chaos to my otherwise 'calm' life, but they are the reason why I still get up everyday, thinking, “what now?!”.
My commandments as a "hill commander"? Here goes...
1. Sourcing food and 'stuff' - To 'err' is human.
It might sound simple, but trust me - it is one hell of a task. Negotiating a deal with the ration waala, the sabjiwaala, or the thekewaala – is basically a crash course in networking and sales. Managing both efficiency and profitability from regular purchases, is an everyday task. The market here is closed on Sundays, and the irony is that we mostly realize that we're short of stuff on Sunday. we at times end up remembering the most important of items only on that day!
2. The customer is always right...ish?
A few weeks back, we hosted a couple who were in middle of a serious fight. They were already informed that we make everything fresh, so the order was supposed to take at least 20-30 minutes to be delivered, and they had agreed to it too.the food was served on time, but then the lady started screaming at the staff. In complete contrast, her partner seemed to be enjoying the food thoroughly. So she started fighting again, thankfully with her guy and not our staff. We're still trying to figure out how to deal with this kind of stuff.
3. All hands aboard!
In differenyt types of 'situations', including the one mentioned above, it becomes a priority to handle your staff the right way, so that they don't contribute to the problem. I need to take care of their food, their lodging, manage their leave requests, and on top of everything else, keep them motivated! I need to ensure that they are driven to be at the top of their game every day, and that includes learning about their likes and dislikes, their families, figuring out what makes them happy. This is all a part of my to-worry/to-think-about list.
4. "Cafe waali madamji mera gaana baja do!"
There's no formula for the kind of music that will keep all my customers happy. Enter aux cables! I've setup a system that allows my customers to plug their phones in, and plat their own music - so I'm off the hook! Plus, it's kinda cute, when people groove to their own tunes.
5. Praying to god, against acts of god
The business of being in the hills, it's got a lot to do with the weather. With the rains in July/August/September, I just keep praying that there are no natural disasters. I want everyone around me to be safe!
6. Staying consistent with quality of service and food
There can be no jokes here - one of the primary reasons why my customers keep coming back, is that we take great pains to ensure that they get the same amazing experience in terms of cuisine and ambience every time around!
I'm the captain of this ship, the commander of my hill, and I am here to say with some amount of certainty that I may still be the same person who set out to find a hidden reward in her dreams, but now that I'm here, I realize that it is the journey which needs to be cherished.
Till next time!
Note: Nidhi runs this as an original guest column on The Times Blog. If you wish to contribute your own column, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Lastly, Please share the story with someone you think might enjoy it!