Starting a business can be scary and intimidating. Coming from a service class family with no business connections, Fateh Bajwa worked with Reliance Retail before opening his own venture. He was part of their launch team in Punjab and left it back in 2009.
“I always wanted to start something, but I didn’t know what”,
says Fateh Bajwa.
On speaking with a friend, he realized that since he is fond of reading, music, and eating, he wanted to find something which revolved around his interests. Coincidently, one day, he saw a picture of a Facebook friend where he could see him standing in the middle of a street on a hill station, with boards behind him. One such board read something which was not clear in the picture, where Bajwa could figure ‘..ok café’.
“It had to be a book café”,
so he asked the friend about it and indeed it was a book café in Mcleodganj. He ended up commenting on the post saying that he would like to do something like this and started receiving responses from people encouraging him and being interested in joining him. Three months later, one of those people on Facebook messaged him asking if he was still seriously thinking about the café. On discussing it, Bajwa started exploring the idea with two friends and so started his research. However, both the friends backed out, while he was deep into his research.
A Good Project needs intensive Research
Using his Operation Manager skills, Bajwa did on-ground research. He started spending a lot of time in various cafés in the Tri-city, hearing the guests as to what they are ordering and what would their average billing size be.
“Funding was an issue, so I didn’t want to do it alone.”
He then contacted the first friend who had initially replied to his comments on Facebook regarding starting his café. Despite her living in Doha, Qatar, she agreed, and they decided to open a ‘book café’. He was thrilled to mention that despite having never met her before, her funds had reached him before she did.
“Chicken burger is still a burger; everyone is serving that. Books came in as offering something more and became a USP for us.”
– Fateh Bajwa
Books and the Service
Anyone can come read and borrow books. The books are not part of the décor at the Hedgehog Café (1). There are a lot of people who go there are read, despite the apprehension that people don’t read so much anymore. Keeping the theme of the café in mind, the names of the dishes are as unique as the name of this café, where every dish’s name is based on a book, such as ‘The Catcher of the Fry’, ‘Gone Grill’, ‘Alfredo in Wonderland’ and so on.
Another important aspect of running a café for Bajwa was the service offered. Unlike other food restaurants, the server doesn’t hover after handing over the menu to the guests, neither does the staff continuously bother the guests. One can sit and not order anything. The Hedgehog Café also offers PCs and free unlimited data.
The Hedgehog Story
Naming a café can be challenging. To come up with a new name, Bajwa, along with his small circle of friends came up with typical names relating to books or derivatives of coffee, such as beans or roast.
However, on asking a friend running a restaurant in New Zealand called ‘The Last Train to India’, the name of the bestselling café around his restaurant, he said it was ‘Bicycle Thief’. Bajwa was surprised by the name and asked what kind of a name was that. The friend then explained that it was for exactly this reason, the surprise, that people wonder and are intrigued. Hence, he decided to name the café something different and that’s when his then-partner came in with a quote.
“The fox has many tricks. The hedgehog has but one. But that is the best of all.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
This quote spoke to him, as to how he has to fight for his place in the business and therefore came to the name ‘The Hedgehog Café’. “Fighting against the big bad world and still surviving, that’s the idea. I like the thought”, says Fateh Bajwa.
The Creative Encouragement
Bajwa wanted to make it a casual place, and the décor caters to that idea. The café has a chill and easy vibe, where one can spend the whole day, studying, working, or hanging out with friends and family.
The café also helps upcoming artists by conducting art exhibitions on its wall. The sketches and paintings keep changing, allowing a number of budding artists to showcase their talent and avoid paying a large sum of money, which they may not be able to afford. One can also find youngsters playing music and performing for small amounts of money. Bajwa is also enthusiastic about hosting book launches in the café.
What the Future Holds!
The pandemic has hit hard on the food industry. People still have apprehension in dining out and so the sales have dropped significantly. Fortunately, Bajwa closed down the café 15 days before the lockdown and sent all his staff home on time. The Hedgehog Café opened 1.5 months after the restaurants were allowed to open by doing a thorough research and ensuring the safety of their guests.
Bajwa hopes to spread his wings in the future. He mentioned that there were people wanting to open franchises of the café last year and by the time Fateh Bajwa felt prepared, the pandemic hit. However, the proud owner is positive and hopeful to expand his wonderful venture soon.