Updated: Jul 19
By Aditi Sahu
It's been more than a year since the pandemic hit us. While everyone was battling the situation in their ways during the first lockdown- many used that time to create something no one had seen. One such person is Vandita Kedia Purohit- the woman behind Mauji - India's first & biggest Time Cafe.
I had heard of book cafes or art cafes but I never heard of anything like a ‘Time Cafe’. I was curious to know about it, hence decided to interview the creator herself. Make sure you read it till the end because it will surely leave you inspired, just how it did to me.
Aditi: What is a Time Café and why did you choose to create one?
Vandita: I had always dreamed of working in a café, and when the country went into lockdown, I saw it as an opportunity to bring that dream to life. With plenty of time on my hands, I began to delve into the idea of creating a café that offered more than just food and drinks. I was curious about why people choose to spend time in cafés and started asking others about their motivations.
To my surprise, I discovered a common theme among the responses. Most people didn't visit cafés solely for the culinary experience; they sought a place to meet others, work, or simply enjoy their own company. This realization sparked a fire within me. I saw a gap in the market and knew I had to design a space that catered to these needs.
That's when the concept of Mauji - The Time Cafe, was born—a café where customers pay for the time they spend, allowing them to relax without the pressure of having to leave their table. I wanted to create a community-driven space where people could feel at home, spending as much time as they desired.
During those uncertain times, working on Mauji became my anchor, providing a sense of purpose and stability. It wasn't just about building a café; it was about personal growth and resilience. The process of bringing Mauji to life kept me grounded amidst the chaos of the world. It became a source of inspiration and motivation, pushing me forward even when things seemed challenging.
Mauji became more than just a physical space—it became a reflection of my own journey. It embodied my passion for creating a welcoming and inclusive environment where people could forge meaningful connections, be productive, and find moments of relaxation and joy.
Today, as I see Mauji thriving and witness the smiles it brings to people's faces, I am reminded of the power of pursuing one's dreams and the impact a community-driven space can have. Mauji is not just a café; it's a testament to the resilience, determination, and unwavering belief in creating something extraordinary.
2. How would you describe Mauji today?
Mauji is not your average café. It's an extraordinary blend of various elements that come together to create an unforgettable experience. As soon as you step into Mauji, you'll be enveloped in its artistic vibes and the cozy feeling of being at home. Here, you have the freedom to shape your time according to your desires.
Need a productive space to work? Mauji welcomes you with open arms. Want to unwind and have fun with your friends? Mauji is the perfect spot. Craving a peaceful corner to lose yourself in a captivating book? Mauji has got you covered. It's a versatile space that caters to your needs and allows you to choose how you spend your time.
But that's not all. Mauji goes beyond expectations by offering much more than just a place to hang out. It's a hub for creativity, a venue for events and photoshoots, a sanctuary for workshops, and even a potential office space. The possibilities are endless, and it's up to you to explore and make the most of your time at Mauji.
And let's not forget the perks! Enjoy complimentary beverages that keep you refreshed and energized throughout your visit. Stay connected with high-speed WiFi that enables seamless productivity and connection. Plus, you have the opportunity to meet new people and expand your network, adding an extra layer of richness to your experience.
So why settle for ordinary when you can embrace the extraordinary at Mauji Spaces? Come, immerse yourself in its vibrant ambiance, unleash your creativity, and make every day a Mauji day.
3. When did you begin working on the café?
The journey of Mauji Spaces began in July 2019, embarking on a quest to find the perfect location. After an extensive search, we stumbled upon a hidden gem—a beautiful bungalow nestled in a tranquil lane of Bhoslenagar, Pune—in February 2020. With the space secured, our creative gears started turning, and we dove headfirst into designing an experience like no other.
This bungalow provided us with ample room to dream, innovate, and bring our ideas to life. It became the canvas on which we painted our vision, transforming it into a harmonious blend of 8 unique elements. We crafted a space that transcends the boundaries of a typical café, encompassing a time café, a community hub, a member's retreat, a creative studio, a versatile events venue, a dynamic office, and even an art store.
The excitement was palpable as we embarked on the on-site work in March 2020, ready to breathe life into our vision. However, our journey faced unexpected challenges as the nation experienced a series of lockdowns. Despite the setbacks, we remained steadfast in our commitment to bring Mauji Spaces to fruition. As soon as the restrictions eased, we resumed our work, fuelled by determination and an unwavering passion.
Throughout this journey, we have poured our hearts and souls into every detail, ensuring that Mauji Spaces becomes a sanctuary where people can truly be themselves, find inspiration, and forge meaningful connections. The challenges we faced along the way only strengthened our resolve and fuelled our creativity.
Today, Mauji Spaces stands as a testament to the power of perseverance and the beauty that can emerge from adversity. It is a testament to the countless hours of hard work, the unwavering belief in our vision, and the desire to create a space that sparks joy and wonder.
We invite you to step into Mauji Spaces and experience the culmination of our passion and dedication. Let the vibrant ambiance, the carefully crafted elements, and the warm embrace of this bungalow envelop you. Welcome to a world where imagination knows no bounds, where connections flourish, and where every moment is infused with the magic of Mauji.
4. What were your initial thoughts when the first lockdown was enforced?
Any negative thoughts?
During the initial days of the first lockdown, I admit to feeling a sense of nervousness. The uncertainty surrounding the situation and the potential impact on businesses made it challenging to anticipate what lay ahead. Initially, I had hoped that the lockdown would last for no more than two months, but the severity of the pandemic soon became apparent.
I remember reading an article about a café owner who struggled to survive the lockdown and ultimately had to close their business. This caused me to question my decision to open a new space. However, I found solace in the support of my investor and the landlord, who instilled confidence in me and reaffirmed my belief in pursuing this dream.
Despite the doubts and uncertainties, I was quite determined. I meticulously analyzed the pros and cons, I remember filling my diaries with numerous calculations. Each time I assessed the situation, I felt a strong conviction in my heart that I must proceed with the plan.
Ultimately, the passion, resilience, and the unwavering support I received helped me overcome any negative thoughts and be more sure of creating Mauji - India's first and one of its kind Time Cafe.
5. What was the one thing that kept you going?
Amidst the chaos and uncertainty of the pandemic, I found solace and inspiration in the unwavering support of my teams and family. As everything around me shut down and the world seemed to be going crazy, working on Mauji became my beacon of hope—a way to emerge from the gloom and navigate through the challenging times. It became a personal journey of growth, resilience, and self-discovery.
Building Mauji was not just about creating a physical space; it was about my own development and inner strength. The process of bringing my café to life became a source of motivation and drive, keeping me grounded and sane amidst the tumultuous circumstances. Mauji became my anchor, providing stability and a channel for my creative energy.
Throughout the journey, I faced numerous challenges and uncertainties, but Mauji became my guiding light. It was more than just a café—it became a symbol of my determination, resilience, and ability to find positivity even in the face of adversity. The process of building Mauji mirrored my own personal growth and evolution, as I discovered new strengths within myself and learned to navigate through difficult times.
6. Can you recall any challenges you faced?
The lockdown presented me with numerous challenges that tested my determination and resilience. Sourcing materials and supplies became a major obstacle as the restrictions made it difficult to find what I needed. With a shortage of manpower, I found myself taking on multiple responsibilities and working tirelessly to keep the project moving forward.
Being on-site constantly was physically and mentally exhausting, especially as I had to navigate the uncertainties of the pandemic. Falling ill during such a critical time was the last thing I wanted, but I knew I had to push through. I had to remind myself constantly that all the hard work and effort would be worth it in the end.
Amidst the challenges, I had to find ways to stay motivated and enjoy the journey. It required a strong belief in the vision I had for Mauji and a steadfast determination to overcome any obstacles that came my way. I had to dig deep and find the strength to persevere, knowing that the end result would be something truly remarkable.
Looking back, I am proud of how I tackled those challenges head-on and found solutions amidst the uncertainty. It was a transformative experience that taught me the importance of adaptability, resourcefulness, and resilience.
7.How many days did it take to finish off everything?
It took me about two and a half months to complete the work, which was longer than my initial target of 45 days. Despite the extended timeline, I firmly believe that the extra time and effort were worth it in order to achieve the desired result.
8. What are your goals/ plans with Mauji?
At Mauji, I have several goals that drive my passion and vision for the future:
Expansion to New Locations: I aim to take Mauji beyond its current location and bring its unique concept to different cities. By expanding to new locations, I want to create opportunities for more people to experience the Mauji magic and be a part of our vibrant community.
Creating a Solid Business Model: I am dedicated to developing a robust and sustainable business model for Mauji. This involves fine-tuning our operations, optimizing efficiency, and ensuring that we deliver exceptional experiences to our customers while maintaining financial viability.
Cultivating the Best Work Culture: A key aspect of Mauji's success lies in fostering a positive and inclusive work culture. I am committed to creating an environment where every team member feels valued, motivated, and empowered. By nurturing a supportive and collaborative atmosphere, we can collectively thrive and bring our best to the Mauji community.
A Space That Transcends Boundaries: Mauji is more than just a physical space. It is a hub of creativity, connection, and inspiration. My goal is to continue evolving Mauji into a space that goes beyond expectations, where people feel a sense of belonging and can freely express their unique ideas and passions. I aspire to create an environment that sparks innovation, collaboration, and personal growth.
Through these goals, I envision Mauji as a place that not only provides exceptional experiences but also becomes a driving force for positive change and meaningful connections.
9. If I ask you to go back to March 2020, what would you tell yourself?
If I could go back in time and give myself advice when starting Mauji, I would say, "Just go for it and keep believing in your idea." Starting a venture like Mauji can be challenging and filled with uncertainties, but it's important to have faith in your vision and trust your instincts. Embrace the journey, face the obstacles head-on, and don't be afraid to take risks. Remember that setbacks are just stepping stones to success. So, stay focused, work hard, and most importantly, go build it!
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