women: female entrepreneurs set up new-age themed cafes in Kolkata

Female entrepreneurs in Kolkata are taking over the male bastion of cafes and creating new-age themed outlets offering a wide range of choices to customers.

At the head of the tribe is actor-turned-entrepreneur Swaralipi Chatterjee, who runs the popular ‘Abar Baithak’ cafe in Kolkata’s Jodhpur Park district. It’s the first cafe in town themed around Feluda, Satyajit Ray’s immortal detective character.

“After our first startup cafe in Rabindra Sarobar area failed in 2010 due to faulty planning, we established this cafe a few years later but now I have to run the show alone as I am divorced with my husband,” Chatterjee, who was a popular face in Bengali soap operas until 2014, PTI said.

Chatterjee said she and her ex-husband started the cafe out of a passion for adda, good food and ambiance. He was a good cook, which contributed to their decision to start the business. Plus, she wasn’t getting “meaningful roles” on the big screen.

“However, after our divorce, it became my responsibility to run the house, raise our daughter as a single mother, and keep my business afloat,” she said.

Chatterjee claimed his was the first themed café in the eastern metropolis. “We had to temporarily close the cafe during the 2020 lockdown, but reopened it after the restrictions were lifted. Slowly over the past few months people are flocking to the cafe again,” she said.

Chatterjee, who plans to resume her acting career this year, said a woman has to prove herself every step of the way and courage and determination are very important to achieve this. She has also opened another outlet in the Narendrapur area on the southern outskirts of the city.

Amrita Annie, the owner of ‘Pancham er Adday’, a popular hangout in the Hindustan Park area themed around the works of RD Burman, said she had always dreamed of a music-themed cafe of the 1970s and 80s, and brought it to fruition in August 2019.

Annie said she had to sell all her jewelry to restart the cafe after the lockdown. “I was determined not to let it sink in,” she said.

Aarunima Dhawan, the owner of ‘Hola’, a popular cafe in the Vivekananda park area, said she was passionate about food and had received her husband’s full support in the business.

“It’s been four years and we’re still learning. We didn’t have a lot of knowledge about the food and beverage industry when we started,” she said. Rajreeta Sen, co-owner of ‘Ttoniq’ tea bar, said entrepreneurship has traditionally been a male domain, but things have started to change.

“We, the three women, have made a foray into the café segment. We left last October after a delay due to the second wave of the pandemic, and frequenting our tea bar located opposite the South City Mall, as we offer varieties of tea suitable for all budgets. We plan to open two more outlets in the suburbs,” she added.

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