Growing together in business
Sravani Bhagi, the brain behind the coffee shop Nirvana, in a candid chat, talks about the idea behind venturing into business and her vision for the place.
Situated in a bustling upmarket locality is a quaint Nirvana, headed by Sravani Bhagi, an engineer, who took up multiple jobs in IT companies as well as one sharing and believing in philosophy and spirituality finding her solace in Nirvana.
Being a PR herself and having worked with many food outlets, she very well understood the taste of people and nature of food as a product.
Excerpts from an interview:
What was the concept behind starting Nirvana?
There was no concrete idea except to start somewhere to follow my dreams. When I started Nirvana, I typically thought this will be a coffee shop or a bistro.
It happened after I went to Varanasi on a solo trip. When I came back, Nirvana happened like a miracle. I just went with the flow. It just started with a passion, it is a dream and I am living it.
There was a property that was on sale and I bought it from a person, who did interiors for Coffee Cup in Sainikpuri, Hyderabad.
I thought this was the time and I should just follow my dream because it was getting difficult for me to live somebody else's dream by then.
I always wanted to start a coffee shop since I was a kid, but typically I went into IT.
I understood the market of hospitality and how Hyderabad market is when I worked with Zomato and other food startups. So, when this opportunity came, I did not think twice.
What makes Nirvana a place for socialising and how it is different from other coffees shops in the city?
The atmosphere and ambience created at Nirvana are homely and cosy. At Nirvana, the feeling of acceptance and not being judged is what attracts everyone.
The only requirement you need to have is the right intention and be a little broad-minded. Nirvana is a platform where a lot of local talent is encouraged and where people get connected and have real conversations.
When people come to Nirvana, I just want them to feel positive energy and eat some 'soul food' and go back with a smile.
I also recently started 'Real Conversation' where every Friday I call artists, celebrities, actors, influential people, transgenders, politician, or any person who I think is capable of opening up, talking truth and being honest.
It is actually picking up and it's been 11 weeks since I started this.
Was there any moment for you where you thought it is not working or you were disappointed?
People say you cannot mix emotions and business and I have done that. For me, it is unimaginable how someone you trusted can try to bring you down, defame you, or talk about your character.
There is another parallel world in which I am living and fighting for the existence of Nirvana, but I promise I will never let this place down or die.
Professionally, the challenge is still the same, like people coming and ordering one tea and sitting for long hours. I don't want to encourage that attitude.
I am being a little strict around people ordering food. In Hyderabad, the market is diluted, anything new that comes up people go there.
Retention of people is one thing, but thanks to the community and the concept of Humans of Nirvana, I don't face that problem as much, but it is still there.
There are low month seasons as well, so you constantly need to do something to keep up the business and the vibe.
Your vision for Nirvana?
I want this brand, Nirvana, to become a community of people eventually, like how I say my Instagram page 'Humans of Nirvana.' The idea is to collaborate.
You cannot grow alone, you need a team and grow together, and I believe in it. I want Humans of Nirvana to grow across Hyderabad, other cities and other countries.
I visualise opening Nirvana in Vietnam and Cambodia. There should be a little art, a scope for culture, passionate human beings who really want to live in the moment, such places I think Nirvana will be constructive and taken forward for the next generation.
My vision around this project is much brighter and clearer by now where I want to see a lot of Nirvanas across the globe.
How do you connect with different artists and what is your idea about being an artist?
A lot of people especially around art started attracting to the vibration at Nirvana. I am an artist myself; I play the Sitar and I come from a background where my uncles were into acting and theatre.
I think that has made it easier for me to interact with so many artists. For me, an artist is not somebody who is dancing or painting, it does not work that way; one who is living in the moment dynamically following the passion is an artist.
I never discovered that side of me and thanks to Nirvana I understand what I am made up of even more.
Tell us about the idea behind the name Nirvana.
Nirvana means Moksh. I believe this is my last life and it had to be Nirvana for some reason. There are no thoughts around it.
I just asked myself what it is going to be, it came as "NIRVANA" period.
What do you think about what qualities a woman should have before starting her own business?
Don't completely surrender in any situation, married or unmarried, identify what really drives you and start at any point in time at any age.
Professionally, I think it is very important that you understand your targeted audience first and the nature of your product.
You need to have an idea about accounting, operation, and all the departments. Even though your strength is in one, it is very important to understand everything.
Your future plans?
Last year was around experimenting and making a note of the type of customers that are coming, the food that people are liking, what is the timing, etc.
In this industry, it is very important to sustain in the initial year, after which you get better clarity as to who your targeted audience is and what you need to do.
Initially, it was like basic food, but now the menu has been made a little broader. I am also leveraging with technology a little, like online ordering, etc.
At the end of the day, that is where your finances come from. I want to get into the profit soon, and also want to see it as a franchise, growing.