Cafe is a very competitive business, with very little room for error

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Her love for reading was what drove Radhika Timbadia, proprietrix of Champaca, to entrepreneurship. She realized that there was a need gap for a space for curated, diverse books. And Champaca was formed – an independent, women-run bookstore, children’s library and café which combine a love for reading, food, events and a strong community too. So, if you are based in Bangalore and have a strong bonding with books, head for this café.  Interestingly, she was first winner of the Futurepreneurs Grand Challenge organised by Global Alliance for Mass Entrepreneurship (GAME), in collaboration with Facebook.
Catch her as discusses with Shree Lahiri,  about her journey, the challenges, competition, the point of differentiation and more….

  • How did you think about becoming an entrepreneur?
    For the last decade, I worked mostly with wildlife and conservation NGOs. It was deeply satisfying work and I got to travel and meet the most amazing people and landscapes. I have always been a reader, and I started doing some library work with children and attended this excellent course called the Library Educator’s Course by Bookworm Trust, Goa. I realized that I really wanted a space for curated, diverse books with personal recommendations, and a lively community around books to exist in Bangalore – so I decided to start it. I enjoy the work, even when it is challenging, and I am most pleased that I can determine the culture of my organisation, hire more women and create a safe and friendly space to work in for our employees and to enjoy for our customers.
  • What are some strengths that a woman entrepreneur should possess?
    Women are underrepresented in certain industries and outrightly discouraged in others. While I believe these strengths are useful for people of all genders, I have found it particularly useful to cultivate them: Resilience and tenacity, and a supportive network of people – they could be friends, family, peers, employees and customers, anyone who believes in your vision and supports it.
  • Could you tell us about the challenges faced by you?
    As a new entrepreneur with a small team it was challenging for me to see the high flux of employees in the F & B sector. When even a single member of my team quit, all of us felt demoralised and we had to absorb the cost of training new employees. We try to resolve this by having stronger processes and creating an environment where people want to stay. We were also dealing with everyday challenges like the vendors/distributors not taking me seriously to the rain coming in due to old tiles, that we are now learning to manage better as we go along.
  • How do you find competition in your business area?
    We are a bookstore, library and cafe. Bangalore has wonderful bookstores, and I respect them deeply for creating and sustaining a culture of reading in the city. I also believe that there is space for more. Our children’s library, which we hope to build into a community library in the near future, is now a tiny space for everybody, and through its work we run weekly classes in a small school in Pottery Town. We host events every week that are free and open to the public, both online and offline. We ensure that we bring engaging and meaningful discussions for free – we do not make any money from the library and we are not trying to compete with anyone.
    Cafe is a very competitive business, with very little room for error. Competition is tough and we are constantly trying to ensure that we do the best we can.
  • How did you try to make your business different?
    At Champaca, we are a community of readers and we like stories. We choose the books we shelve with care. We believe that a good bookshelf should hold a world of voices and stories, from across time, place and experience. We also enjoy the whimsy of a bookshelf, and hope that our customers discover something fresh and interesting each time they visit—a new way of looking at the world.  So we are much more than a cafe, bookstore or event space, we try to create a holistic and calming experience for our customers.
  • What are your future plans?
    This is a challenging time for all small businesses. We have built a community of readers through our physical bookstore and cafe – we would further like to strengthen our local connections, and also cultivate a thoughtful online presence through online events, writing and sales of curated books. For now, people can support us by buying a gift voucher from our website (https://www.champaca.in/gift-vouchers). They can be redeemed at the store anytime in the next year. With this support, we can cover rent, pay salaries, and continue doing the work that we do: bringing good books and conversations to people.
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