An Idea is Born

Part Two (2)

It began with an idea. A small group of entrepreneurs, decided they wanted to make an impact on the Indian market, introducing real Italian Espresso coffee to a traditionally faithful tea society. The plan was to provide the exclusive drink, for aspiring cosmopolitan Indians. (You can read the beginning of the story here in Part 1 – Being Entrepreneurial)

Until this date only South Indian restaurants served either Madras Café or a coffee, spelt very proudly as Expresso (pronounced as exs-presso) in India. Essentially Expresso is an Indian invention to only Indian coffee drinkers and is a milky coffee which smells like coffee but doesn’t look anything like the drink Italians would call Espresso. To make it even more interesting, some restaurants just continued to use the coffee powder straight out of the Nescafe bottle. Even in these restaurants it was still an elite thing to do and was more expensive to drink than a straight Chai (tea).

Then came our idea. It appeared to be quite a gamble.  A vision which was ambitious and partly cultivated outside of a 7 Eleven store in Mountain View, California.  After a late-night restaurant shift in the middle of the dot-com boom of the late 90’s, one friend exclaimed:

“Let’s start a coffee shop in India. At least that will make more money than what we currently are making in the middle of Silicon Valley”.

Indeed, my friends laughed it off but I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head and I couldn’t see myself continuing to work in an environment where my job could be lost at any moment. With no option of getting my permanent work permit in sight, the only choice for me was to do something radical, which in those days was to leave a job in the US and go back to India. So, I did just that.

Back in India, after regretting the decision for about three months, I finally met with a group of like-minded people who were talking about starting a coffee shop company. They had initial plans to open 100 coffee shops over 2 years – which sounded very ambitious at the time, but I lept to the opportunity and very quickly proved my ability to the group.

I moved in to managing the western region, essentially Mumbai (Bombay), to create the brand for the rest of India. I quickly joined the group with very little or no paperwork in place. Mostly a lot of hand shake arrangements. Alarm bells right? But actually as you will later find out, worked to my advantage. In this new position, I had to prove myself to be an entrepreneur first before I could look at making a difference to the companies gains and losses.

I was taking a chance but it was to be my first taste of an entrepreneurial lifestyle, one I had been wanting to venture into for a while, an opportunity I could really sink my teeth into! It was about this time, I felt my life begin to shift.

Read on for Part 3 of my Being Entrepreneurial Series, Developing the Strategy, to find out what happened next.