Mocha: celebrating 10 years of coffee and conversations

Syed Zafar Mehdi

One fine evening, many years back, a bunch of friends were celebrating the New Years Eve in Panchgini, sipping on coffee and smoking a sheesha. That is when one of the friends proposed an intriguing idea that was to change their lives and fortunes forever. The three friends had a brain-storming session and soon they found themselves working on what has now emerged as a hugely profitable business model.

Riyaz Matlani, CEO & MD, Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality Pvt. Ltd.’s (IEHPL), fondly reminisces about those days when the flagship brand of the group, Mocha, kick-started its journey in 2001. “I have always believe in my instincts. I was so sure that the idea would click that when I got back to Bombay, I quit my job a few months later and called up two of those friends to start working on that remarkable idea,” says Matlani. Mocha has come a long way ever since, expanding to 19 outlets in 8 cities, brewing a social revolution over endless coffees and conversations.

When Matlani started looking to expand the line in Delhi, he found an ideal business partner in Shiv Karan Singh. “Shiv was my first choice for a partner. He knows the pulse of the market and understands the city’s restaurant space better than anyone.” At that stage, Mocha had not yet started franchise options and together Shiv Karan and Matlani worked on the model and today there are six outlets in the city. The latest outlet was unveiled recently at posh Civil Lines area. Taking root over 2,200 sq feet, the outlet basks in the shade of a giant neem tree. “North Delhi did not have Mocha and most college students had to go to South Delhi to enjoy the Mocha experience. Now with Mocha at Civil Lines, just a five minute metro ride away, students can rejoice,” says Manharan Singh, the franchise partner of Mocha.

Over the years, Mocha has earned the reputation of being the first-of-its-kind indigenous and eclectic coffee chain, known not just for its menu, but also for the varied experiences it has brought to the café culture. Besides the tremendous customer feedback, it has also won many a food awards since 2003. “The journey has been exhilarating, challenging, and very rewarding. This year, Mocha will be completing a decade of operations and we have never been more energetic and ready to do more,” says Matlani.

When Mocha started out as a 500sq ft coffee shop in a rented space at Churchgate Mumbai, Matlani and his friends never expected it to become such a pioneering concept. “In the last 10 years, we’ve worked really hard to maintain and better the consistency and quality of our products, while setting benchmarks in the segment,” says Matlani.

There is an interesting story behind the quirky and mismatched furniture – a red sofa, a blue table, a lantern, a bean bag – that has become the Mocha signature across all its outlets. “Most people assume that it’s a cultivated concept, but honestly, when we were opening our first outlet, we couldn’t afford to buy new furniture. So our family and friends contributed whatever old furniture they had at their homes for the outlet. The look worked and it soon became a Mocha trademark, so we haven’t changed it since.”

What, according to Matlani and Shiv Karan, makes Mocha so different from other run-of-the-mill coffee shops, is that each of the outlets is ‘handmade’ and treated like a standalone with careful thought, new ideas and a lot of love going into its creation. “Every time we open a new space, we let the location inspire a little bit of the design. Of course, the essence of the elements that go into creating each outlet is to bring out the nostalgia, warmth and wonder that you sense each time you visit a new location,” says Matlani. Another key component of Mocha is their philosophy of community that has inspired the Mocha Clubs (like the Mocha Film Cub, Mocha Bike Association, Mocha Trip and Mocha TreeHuggers among others) in bringing people together over shared passions and interests, be it film, travel, biking or art.

After getting a renewed round of investments for its expansion, the owners are looking to work on building on and strengthening the Mocha brand. “Mocha currently has 19 outlets and we aim to open 22 new Mochaoutlets across the country by 2014,” says confident Matlani.

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At 20, Parikrama comes full circle

 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Twenty years ago, a bunch of six young music professionals came together to give wings to their dream. They came from different backgrounds with different personalities and different sensibilities. What brought them together was their extraordinary love and passion for music. Today they are known as Parikrama, one of the leading rock bands in country.

Born on the sweltering hot summer day of June 17, 1991, Parikrama turned the heat on with its record 40 gigs in the very first year. Initially started as a ‘4 month project’, founder Subir Malik was not sure if the band will survive. But, to his surprise, the band not only survived, but is going great guns even twenty years on.  “The day we zeroed in on our sixth member Sonam (lead guitarist), the journey ofParikrama actually started. It has been an amazing journey so far and there is still lot to do,” says Subir.

Unlike other rock bands in country, most of the founder members of Parikrama are still on board. Their success mantra is quite simple. “The band made a pact of playing only the music they listen to at their home and in their cars, and never surrender to the whims of the market,” says Founder and keyboard player Subir Malik. The band has done over 2600 concerts worldwide and they remain busy with their shows round the year. The band is just back from a successful USA and Canada tour, where they got a standing ovation for their performance at the Kennedy Centre, Washington DC. “It was a phenomenal feeling to get standing ovation from an audience which loves their music,” says Nitin Malik, the lead vocalist.

The high point for band came when popular rock band Iron Maiden saw their performance in Bangalore and booked them for ‘Download Festival’ at Donnington Park (UK).  Twenty years on, has life come full circle? No, says Subir. “It will come full circle when we celebrate the 50 years of band.”

Parikrama is the only band that has not cut its music album, and Subir has a point. “When we started thinking of album release in 1995, there was a miniscule english-speaking audience then, and our songs are in English essentially. It wasn’t wise to sell our CD for 350 and restrict our music from reaching the wider audience,” says the founder of band. Parikrama adopted a different strategy to promote its music. Towards the end of 1995, they launched their website on IIT Mumbai server. Two years later, they bought the domain parikrama.com and became the first band in this part of world to launch their music online, for free. “Our marketing strategy was to let people download the music for free and 14 years down the line, we can safely say that the idea worked and now everyone is doing the same thing,” says Subir.

 Parikrama has dished out some popular numbers. Its first song ‘Xerox’ in 1991 was named ‘the face of Indian rock’. “We were surprised and thrilled, because we had just started off. We performed the song in our very first concert, way back on September 15, 1991,” says Subir. Another chart-buster number and arguably their best song, ‘But it rained’ was composed after the incidents of kidnappings in Kashmir in 1996. “We read this article in a magazine about the families who did not know the fate of their loved ones. It moved us and thus ‘But it rained’ was born.”

What next? “We have three confirmed tours, new T shirts, beer mugs and all,” says Subir, with characteristic rockstar nonchalance.

I remember!

 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

When I peep into the past, I am swamped by a torrent of bitter-sweet memories. I grew up in a small-town of Himalayan valley, nestled amidst the gushing blue streams, lush-green meadows, blooming orchards and romantic houseboats. I would wake up in the morning to the trilling and warbling of birds sitting atop majestic chinar trees, the music of wind as it rustled through the leaves, the laughter of rippling rivers and cascading falls, and the smell of intoxicating aroma all around me.

I vividly remember my first day at a local primary school in Srinagar, as a little boy. It was a frosty winter day. The snowflakes were descending from heavens. Unmindful of the inclement weather and the snowstorm, I jumped and frolicked as my mother held my icy cold hands and took me at school. Teachers at school were nice and one of them even offered me a chocolate when I started crying and missing home.

As a small boy, I fell in love with Gulmarg’s sprawling meadows, where the world’s highest gondola lifts now ferry skiers up to 12,900 feet. I was fascinated by Pahalgam’s trout-filled streams, shimmering lakes, and mighty glaciers that feed the rivers below. I remember riding the shikara (canopied boats) in Dal Lake, on a moonlit night when the waters reflected the town’s glittering lights and brooding mountains.

But as destiny had it, things took a nasty turn in early 90’s. The paradise was ravaged by bullets and bombs. I remember stumbling across a barbed wire fencing just across my house, and hurting myself badly. It was very scary when the deafening sound of gunfire would break the monotony of dark gloomy curfewed night. But more disturbing was when an ‘outsider’, heavily armed military man would subject you to frisking and ask for an Identity card, in your own home.

As a young 12 year old boy, I was dispatched to a boarding school, far away from home. I remember looking down from the plane and waving my hands at those beautiful green orchards, juxtaposing the fleet of sand bunkers, occupied by‘occupational forces’.

I finally landed in an alien territory, with strange people and unusual weather. As I ran inside the school hostel, a tall, broad-shouldered man escorted me to my room. He was the hostel warden, a cross between Gaddafi and Hitler. I got clear-cut instructions of do’s and do not’s. I remember getting the first call from home and breaking into tears. I missed home. I would anxiously wait at the hostel gate every morning for newspaper vendor. The first thing I would do was check the news reports about Kashmir. I used to feel sad and outraged every-time the news was about those tender-aged boys murdered in cold-blood, for the crime of playing cricket on a curfew day. I would lose my sleep on hearing about the young, school-going girls gang-raped in the frontier districts of valley. Many a times I felt like dropping the pen and picking up the gun, but I was helpless.

I remember the Indian Independence Day, falling on August 15, when I refused to join my school-mates in saluting the tricolour, simply because I failed to identify myself with it. Every time I looked at the Indian flag fluttering high in our school campus, I was reminded of the Howard Zinn quote, “there is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people for the purpose which is unattainable”. I remember being suspended from classes, and being called a traitor, because I refused to sing the national anthem. I remember how a rebel in me was born again that day.

I remember how leaving home early in life proved a blessing in disguise for me. I remember, many years later, when I rather audaciously mentioned “Kashmiri” as my nationality while applying for a job in the capital city of India. Whether I got the job or not is a different matter. I remember the goose bumps I got, when a famous auditorium in Delhi came alive with the thunderous slogans of Azadi (freedom for Kashmir).

I remember because there is nothing to  forget. “Memory,” as Oscar Wilde says, “is the diary that I carry about with me.” It reminds me of my home, my paradise, and my people, no matter where I am. It reminds me of the cause, we are all fighting for.

“Hum dekhenge, laazim hai ki hum bhi dekhenge…” Faiz Ahmad Faiz

Much ado about schooling?

 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

How significant is school in student’s life? Is it at all required in the first place? Can one prevail without it? Arguments and counter-arguments have been going on incessantly for centuries now, but pieces of the jigsaw remain missing. One of the most ludicrous defenses of school system is the notion that Noble Laureates and other such “crack-a-jacks” are manifestations of its effectiveness. Well, let’s check out what some of the great and legendary Noble laureates themselves to womit about this.

Rabindra Nath Tagore,  hailed as “greatest English poet of the contemporary India” by none else than Yeats, grabbed the coveted honor in Literature in year 1913. He was never a big aficionado of school system. In “Personality: Lectures delivered in America” (London, 1921), he is quoted as saying, ” School forcibly snatches away children away from a world full of mystery of God’s own handiwork, full of the suggestiveness of personality. It is a mere method of discipline which refuses to take into account the individual … my mind had to accept the tight-fitting encasement of the school which being like the shoes of a mandarin woman, pinched and bruised my nature on all sides and at every movement. I was fortunate enough in extricating myself before insensibility set in”. Tagore has the dubious distinction of failing to surmount the high school ( 10th ) “stumbling block” some 16 times on trot, so these harsh words should not come as a shocker.

Tagore however has got the unlikely supporter in Albert Einstein, 1921 Physics Noble prize co-winner. There is a special aura surrounding this genius even today. Einstein sans mincing words sticks a knife into school system, saying ” Its in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry, for this delicate little plane, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom, without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail”. “Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist” Albert Schilpp (1951).

Another person in this anti-school brigade is 1928 Noble laureate Gigrid Undset, who candidly admits, “I hated school so intensely. It interfered with my freedom. I avoided the discipline by an elaborate technique of being absent-minded during classes”. ” Twelfth century authors” Kunitz and Haycraft (1942). Shakespeare in his masterpiece “Hamlet” says, ” to be honest is to be one man picked out of ten thousand”, and Gigrid surely cuts the list.

George Bernard Shaw a 1925 Noble Prize winner in literature was yet another vocal critic of school system. Equating school with prison, GBS in “Bernard Shaw: Collected plays with their prefaces” Vol IV (1972), bluntly puts across his views, ” There is on the whole, nothing on earth intended for innocent people so horrible as a school. To begin with, it’s a prison, but in some respects crueler than a prison. In a prison, you are not forced to read the books written by warders … and beaten or otherwise tormented if you cannot remember their utterly unmemorable contents. In prison, you are not forced to sit listening to the turnkeys discouraging without charm or interest in subjects that they don’t understand and don’t care about … In a school you have none of these advantages”.

Bottomline:

Now, it’s for you to be convinced or confused, choice is yours. “Truth” remarked Henry Haskins, ” would become more popular if it were not stating ugly facts”, but sadly we cant help it either.

Students might be over-animated by this, while parents and educationists in all likelihood would quiver with rage, but rest assured, the views espressed by these great Noble Laureates are about “sick” school system, not the ideal one. You may either indulge in considering your school ideal, or hope for the better in days to come.

Eyes on art galleries

 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

MF Hussain’s gorgeous women peep out of the imposing canvas, commanding a price in crores. Anjolie Ela Menon’s artworks sweep you off your feet and Jatin Das’s pieces simply leave you mesmerized. Art can do wonders to your senses, and what better place than an art gallery to experience a new high through the realm of colours, forms and mediums.

Art scene in city has moved beyond the traditional cultural hotspots like India Habitat Centre (Visual Arts Gallery), India International Centre (IIC), Alliance Francaise et al now. Many art galleries in South Delhi are increasingly becoming the talk of town.

With art galleries mushrooming, art has assumed the status of serious business now. Whether it’s a prospective buyer thinking of investing in a piece, an art lover checking out new stuff, or simply a college goer trying to while away time usefully, the scene at various galleries is quite exuberant. The market for contemporary Indian Art has grown enormously in recent years.

Beyond cultural hotspots

The 25-year old Vadehra Art Gallery at Defence Colony is a prominent name in the international art circuit for its concerted efforts in introducing Indian art to the western world. The gallery promotes Indian contemporary art through exhibitions, retrospectives & publications.  Manager Sonia Belani feels these art galleries are driven by the motive of raising awareness about art and doing business in the process.

Vadehra is famous for having heralded the trend of active collaboration between private and public art sectors. Founded in 1993, Hauz Khas Village based Delhi Art Gallery houses numerous mini galleries showcasing a very comprehensive selection of 20th century Indian art. They have entire or at least exhaustive collections of most important Indian modern artists over the decades.

The gallery is popular among scholars who come here for research and use library facilities, curate shows and look for trends and themes in the works of early modern to modern to senior artists of over a hundred years.

Marwahs Fine Art Dealers at Safdarjang Enclave provides aspiring collectors and buyers an opportunity to purchase original works of young and visionary artists. At Hauz Khas Village based Gallery Pioneer, focus is to take Indian art to international markets. They promote and present experimental cutting edge work as well as the traditional art.

Aryan Art Gallery in Defence Colony is into buying and selling artworks, besides evaluating works, preserving and restoring them. It sources art for all leading auction houses like Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Osians, Saffronart, etc. They have the best of art collections, which is a sheer treat for any art buff.

But there are some galleries who have hit the rough patch in last two years. Sanjay Sachdev of Domus Art Gallery at Hauz Khas Village has no qualms in admitting that his gallery hasn’t sold a singe art work ever since recession hit the market.

Blitzkrieg of news channels

                           

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Welcome to the fast, smart, snappy era of 24*7 news channels. Here Darwin takes a beating. It’s not ‘fittest’ but only the ‘fastest’ that survives in its struggle for existence. Here everything is instant: News, Background, Analysis, Commentary, and Prediction. Here the strange beast called ‘current affairs’ encompasses everything from Amir Khan’s hairdos, Sania Mirza’s injuries, Sonia Gandhi’s saris to Vajpayee’s poetry.

Era of “Breaking News”:

It’s an era of “Breaking news”, with barrage of news channels hitting the block, competition has got stiffer. Every channel wants to be “first” to “break” the story. The trend is somewhat new in Indian media circles while it has a fairly long history in the West. Walter Cronkite, a legendary TV personality in west, who passed away recently, confesses in his autobiography that the pinnacle of his illustrious career remains his announcement of Jack Kennedy’s assassination “30 seconds” before the rival channel. That is how it goes in today’s hit-and-run media which solely relies on speed, while tossing accuracy to the winds. Breaking news is broken into fragments and aired dozen times a day.

Truth becomes Casualty  

In the process of being ‘first”, these speed-infatuated news channels overlook some critical nuances of the trade. They indulge in brazenly unfair frauds by reporting stories even when they never happen, and often exaggerate them to the extent that ‘truth’ gets sponged down the drain.” The term “exclusive” is willfully misused today, just to boost TRP’s and inch ahead of rival channels.
Hyper Activism:

In the recent times, professionalism has has been swept aside by the bug of sensationalism. Sting operations and other forms of ‘yellow journalism’ have hit the floor, depriving high-profile masses of their precious doses of sleep. As veteran journalist, Christopher Thomas said, “It brazenly rummages into other people’s closets to smell their duty socks. The stronger the smell better is the copy. Sometimes roses make a good story but dung is what sells”.

Media today banks solely on North-cliff formula; hence obscenity, sleaze, sex in the form of nail-biting exclusives are selling like hot cakes. Newsrooms have turned into courtrooms, with issues discussed from Ajmal Kasab’s trail, hullabaloo over Sach ka Saamna reality show, or ‘Serial Kisser’ Hashmi struggling to find home in Mumbai.

Honey, Its about Money:

The institution of journalism turns into a profit-making venture when journalistic standards are sacrificed for the sake of viewer-ship. The more intriguing the news, the more eye-balls it invites and ultimately the weightier ad revenues it generates. This is the simple magic stick of today’s hit-and-run media mill.
News, Fuddy Duddy stuff

News today has become fuddy-duddy information. Marauding TV reporters ferociously chase “Manglik” Aishwariya Bachan as she throngs temples from Siddhivinayak to Tirupati. Sonia Gandhi’s asthama is snowballed into a “national tragedy” and every update on here health is instantly flashed as “breaking news”. Mukesh Ambani’s lavish Birthday present to his wife becomes the subject of prime time news story. MS Dhoni’s dog and his latest prize catch: Hummer strikes hedlines. French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s supermodel wife is given more prominence than the bilateral issues between India and France. Then add to it the spunky SMS debates and opinion polls on nauseating issues.
I Me Myself Syndrome  

To avow their self-proclaimed supremacy these news channels carry periodic ads asserting their dominance over rival channels. In this “I-Me-Myself” race, all claim to be topping the charts, ironically at the same time. There is no genuine yardstick to gauge the dominance of any particular news channel at a given time. Its just a ploy to woo the advertisers.

Tailpiece:

Looking at the overall picture, notwithstanding its pitfalls, New Media, led by 24*7 news channels are catching the imagination of people. Purists are within their rights to feel offended, but TV scribes argue that it’s the need of hour, to survive and sustain in the face of cutthroat competition. Objection sustained.

Yeh dil maange less ads!

 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Switch on TV, flip pages of newspapers, glance around to billboards, advertisements are jam-packed everywhere. Our choices and tastes are dictated by them today. “Find wants and fill them” was the marketing mantra in past but in today’s cut-throat scenario, marketing calls for “creating wants and filling them”. It doesn’t strive to make what will sell but goes out of its way to sell everything it makes.

Emotions call shots:

Nowadays ads bank heavily on hyper-emotional appeals rather than rational ones to entice customers. Negative emotional appeals dominate largely. It’s the cheap emotional blackmailing gimmick to lure customers. Take the cases of tooth paste ads which warn against tooth decay or bad breath through negative emotional appeals. Positive emotional appeals are used mostly in Soft drink ads.

Chauvinism at its best or worst:

Headlines form the decisive part of an ad copy. Then there are catch-phrases called “slogans”. They are supposed to draw attention of consumers to the strength of the firm or its products, but in practice they are used to brag about product’s quality or exaggerate it no bounds. These chauvinism-smelling slogans have become buzzwords in today’s hardcore marketing era.

BPL is sloganeered as “Believe in the best”, Kelvinator claims to be “the coolest one”, Dish TV cries from “wish karo dish karo” from rooftops, while Onida is happy to be “neighbors envy and owner’s pride”.

Celebrity virus:

Advertisers are increasingly roping in celebrities to endorse their brands. Endorsement copies are a huge hit today. These celebrities are made to sell everything from TV, tyres, textiles, coffee, toilet soaps etc. The customer’s perception is heightened by the celebrity endorsement of the product or service.

Shahrukh endorses for Videocon, Sunfeast, Amitabh Bachhan for Dabur, Reid n Taylor, Sachin for MRF, Pepsi, M S Dhoni for Siyarams and plethora of bikes and the list goes on. Their shops are doing pretty well, and they need not rack their brains on post-retirement plans now.

Kinds of Ad copies:

Though endorsement copies are a rage, there are other copies equally in demand. There are scientific copies, like for Saffola “low cholesterol edible oil”; Narrative copies, where fictional stories are narrated; Humorous copies for Mosquito coil ads and Amul butter ads are also in vogue. Creativity and innovation has been introduced into ad making, paving way for different copies for different products.

Good or Bad:

There is nothing intrinsically good or bad about ads. They are mere tools, which can be used either way. However, ads of today show deep inclination towards the latter. Ads today have become tools of “phenomenon of consumerism”, as Late Pope John Paul II delineated it saying “It is not wrong to want to live better, what is wrong is style of life which is presumed to be better when it is directed towards having rather than being”. Today most ads today tend to be “vulgar and morally repulsive, appealing to motives like envy, status seeking, and lust. Ads today seek to manipulate their priorities and desires. In a country, where an average child’s per capita consumption of milk is 10% less than the nutritional requirement, how ethical is it to target and lure them with 2-minute noodles and fizzy drinks?

Bottomline:

Advertising being a persuasive form of communication leaves an indelible impact on target consumers. So, ad concepts must meet minimal ethical standards set.  Tailpiece: let’s not sell what we make, rather make what we sell. That’s the bed-rock of ethical marketing.