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Women entrepreneurs set up new-age theme cafes in Kolkata

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Women entrepreneurs of Kolkata are storming the male bastion of café business and setting up new-age theme-based outlets offering a wide array of choices to customers.

Leading the tribe is actor-turned-entrepreneur Swaralipi Chatterjee, who runs the popular café ‘Abar Baithak’ in the Jodhpur Park area of Kolkata. It is the city’s first café themed on Feluda, the immortal detective character of Satyajit Ray.

“After our initial startup café in Rabindra Sarobar area failed to click in 2010 due to faulty planning, we set up this café a few years later but I have to now run the show alone as I am divorced with my husband,” Chatterjee, who was a popular face in Bengali soaps till 2014, told PTI.

Chatterjee said that she and her former husband had started the café for their passion for ‘adda’, good food and ambience. He was a good cook, which contributed to their decision to start the venture. Also, she was not getting “meaningful roles” on the silver screen.

“However, after we got divorced, it became my responsibility to run the household, raise our daughter as a single mother and also keep my venture afloat,” she said.

Chatterjee claimed that hers was the first theme-based café in the eastern metropolis. “We had to temporarily shut down the café during the 2020 lockdown, but reopened it after the restrictions were lifted. Slowly, in the last few months, people are thronging the café again,” she said.

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

Amrita Annie, the owner of ‘Pancham er Adday’, a popular hangout in Hindustan Park area themed on R D Burman’s works, said that she had always dreamt of a café themed on the music of 1970s and 80s, and materialised it in August 2019.

Annie said that she had to sell all her jewellery to restart the café after the lockdown. “I was determined not to let it sink,” she said.

Aarunima Dhawan, the owner of ‘Hola’, a popular café in Vivekananda Park area, said that she is passionate about food, and has received full support from her husband in the venture.

“It has been a four-year-long journey and we are still learning. We did not have much knowledge about the food and beverages industry when we started,” she said. Rajreeta Sen, co-owner of tea bar ‘Ttoniq’, said that entrepreneurship was traditionally a male domain but things have started to change.

“We three women made a foray into the café segment. We set off in October last year after a delay due to the second wave of the pandemic, and there has been a steady rise in the number of customers at our tea bar located opposite the South City shopping mall, as we offer varieties of tea suiting every pocket. We plan to open two more outlets in the suburbs,” she added.

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