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Bonding with coffee

March 18, 2005 11:59 IST

Usually no one ventures out at 11 am on a Sunday morning. However, in Mumbai a group of excited 20-somethings is waiting for the 'Backpackers Club' session to begin at Mocha, the four-year-old coffee chain that has five outlets in the city. The club brings the travel bugs together at the coffee cafe where they share their adventures and experiences.

As coffee culture begins to take root in urban India, Mocha, owned by the Rs 19 crore (Rs 190 million) Impressario Entertainment & Hospitality with nine outlets across the country, is gearing up to open 65 more.

Says Riyaaz Amlani, managing director and CEO, Mocha, "Our attempt is to create communities which would make Mocha their home and, hence, our brand statement -- "Coffee and Conversations."

Mocha has taken the community building route to strengthen its brand and sustain customer loyalty. It is adding new clubs -- music and coffee and wine appreciation -- to its existing two, the Backpackers Club and the Film Club. "Our clubs have helped in retaining customers and in creating a buzz for our future outlets," observes Amlani.

Mocha has four other outlets -- one each in Delhi, Noida, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad -- as well. In Mumbai, except the cafe at Churchgate, all others Mocha outlets have come up through franchisees.

Amlani says, the franchise model is a quick way to expand. An average of 800 people visit each Mocha outlet every day and a yearly revenue of Rs 2.75 crore (Rs 27.5 million) per store has prompted him to set his sights abroad. The first overseas Mocha cafe will come up in Dubai followed by Singapore.

Mocha was inspired by the Turkish coffee bars,  "Quahveh Khaveh" --  places where people had coffee and caught news and gossip.

To give them the same look and feel, the Mocha outlets use brick interiors, curtains, lampshades along with diwans, cushions and low tables. Explains Amlani, "The idea is to create an atmosphere conducive to conversations which are not done in a hurry."

The idea of Mocha was born on a new year's eve in 2000, when Amlani and his friends Kiran Salaskar and Varun Sahni were celebrating the occasion with coffee, hookah and lots of friend-talk.

"We realised that if we could package the moment, we had on our hands a recipe for success," he recalls. The first Mocha cafe in Mumbai came up in 2001 when the first coffee bars -- Barista and Cafe Coffee Day -- started to appear in the metros.

Among the first few to offer the hookah, wine, desserts and quick bites are also on Mocha's menu. The meals are made at its own kitchen. The holding company, Impressario Entertainment & Hospitality also owns brands such as The Donut Co (that sells doughnuts through retail and food outlets), Crème (high-end pastries, cakes and desserts) and Finale - Happy Endings (desserts, pastries, cigars, coffee and other meal endings).

Amlani is unfazed by international and national competition. Says he, "International players will only value-add to the Mocha services because they will give people a choice." He expects a shakeout in the coffee retail sector. He is sure, however, that of the two or three that will survive, Mocha will be one.
Aparna Krishnakumar in Mumbai
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