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“How I managed to build a Time Cafe during the lockdown?” ft. Vandita Purohit

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 personality is Mrs. Vandita Kedia Purohit- the woman behind Pune’s 1st 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 Cafe and why did you choose to create one?

Vandita: I always wanted to work in a cafe. And when the country went into lockdown it gave me a lot of time to focus on creating one. And while I was building on the concept, I happened to ask a question to a lot of people- “ Why do you choose to spend time in a cafe?” I got many answers and most of them had one thing in common- they didn’t go to a cafe to just have food. Either they wanted to meet somebody or work or just spend some time alone. I identified a gap here and decided to design a space where you pay for the time you spend, without worrying about vacating your table. I also knew that I wanted to build a highly community-driven space where people could spend as much time as they want- a place where they could feel at home.

2. How would you describe Mauji today?

Mauji Spaces is not just a cafe, but an interesting combination of various elements all under one roof. When you come to Mauji you will instantly connect to its artistic vibes and the feel at home feeling. You could come and work here, spend time chilling or playing with your friends, or find a quiet corner and read a book, have a client meeting, host an event, conduct photoshoots or workshops, or set up an office- in short, it is you who chooses how you wish to spend your time. It’s a place you’d want to come every day, meet new people along with the benefits of free beverages and high-speed WiFi.

3. When did you begin working on the cafe? The process itself began in July 2019 and after rigorous property hunting, we found this beautiful bungalow in a quiet lane of Bhoslenagar, Pune in Feb 2020. Once the space was finalized, ideas began flowing and I started innovating more on the design. It is a fairly huge bungalow and that allowed us to innovate more and actually turn it into a combination of 8 elements- time cafe, community space, member’s space, studio, events space, TraWork office and an art store. The work on-site began in March 2020 but it went on hold multiple times due to the nationwide lockdown. However, we resumed as soon as the lockdown was lifted.

4. What were your initial thoughts when the first lockdown was enforced?

Any negative thoughts?

Honestly, I was very nervous. It was difficult to predict things and what repercussions businesses would face due to the pandemic. I was hoping it wouldn’t last more than 2 months but I underestimated the pandemic and its severity. I remember reading an article about how a cafe owner found it difficult to survive the lockdown and shut it down. It made me rethink the decision of opening up a new space. But my investor and landlord were very supportive and infused confidence in me. I remember filling my diaries with numerous calculations to assess the pros and cons and I would do that over and over again. And every time I did, I knew it in my heart that I wanted to do this.

5. What was the one thing that kept you going?

The people around me- my teams and my family. With everything shut and the world going crazy- working on Mauji felt like the only way to emerge out of the whole pandemic gloom. And I had no reason to look back. I guess as much as I was working to build the cafe, it was building me internally and keeping me sane amidst all that was going on in the world. That was exactly the kind of push I needed.

6. Can you recall any challenges you faced?

The lockdown was the biggest hurdle as it was difficult to source things. Due to a lack of manpower (since most people had left for their hometown), I had to take up a lot of things. Being on the site continuously was exhausting, and falling sick during a pandemic was the last thing I wanted. I had to sit and tell myself that it was going to be worth the effort and that all I need to do is just enjoy this ride.

7.How many days did it take to finish off everything?

It took about two and a half months to complete the work. My initial target was 45 days- though I took twice the estimated time, I guess it was worth the result.

8. What are your goals/ plans with Mauji?

The goal is to set the operations in the Pune branch right and then expand to different cities. We have multiple elements in one space like a cafe, a studio, our office, a store, etc. But the larger goal is to build a sense of community in Mauji. I want it to become a place that gives an opportunity for creative professionals, entrepreneurs, freelancers, or anyone to meet people with similar interests or thoughts. Every time I see two strangers becoming friends in our cafe, or when the same set of people visit us every day because they like working here, or when someone comes up to me and says they really feel at home in Mauji- that’s when I feel my goal has been accomplished.

9. If I ask you to go back to March 2020, what would you tell yourself?

Oh gosh, this is a tough one. I think I would tell myself to just go for it and keep believing in the idea. And finally, go build it!


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