There has been an increasing number of people working out of cafes in Mumbai.
This trend is here to stay with the number of people trying to strike it out on their own instead of working out of an office.
Café and restaurants owners have had a mixed reaction to this. Some places such as Gostana and Bagel Shop in Mumbai make a virtue out of the fact that their cafes are used by people to work out of. They offer free wi-fi and let you work undisturbed. Others tend to breathe down the neck of those working at their premises especially during busy hours. In fact, the menu of an organic café in Mumbai’s Bandra actually tells customers not to treat the café as an office!
Riyaaz Amlani’s Impresario Group of restaurants has come up with a café concept called the Social Offline which recognizes the phenomenon of people working out of cafes and offers a solution for it.
I spoke to Amlani who said that he had made a conscious effort to develop a space for folks wanting to work out of a community space which would not require the compromises required in coffee shops.
He said, “Social is a response to the needs of today. India is a young emerging super power full of youthful exuberance and entrepreneurial zest. Coffee shop clones which have been projected as the “Third Place”, a place away from home and your work/college, no longer completely address the needs of their audience. They have become monotonous and uninspiring. With Social, for the very first time in restaurant history we have introduced the Second Place concept, an inspiring space where you can both work and play."
The Social Offline concept has come to Mumbai after its launch in Bengaluru and Delhi.
Mumbai’s first Social Offline opened at Colaba. The work out of a café concept didn’t work too well there though. This is a pretty small property and the attractive F&B pricing meant that the place is perennially packed with people who have come here to eat and drink. This doesn’t leave much place for those who want to work out of here.
Mumbai’s second Social Offline, the Todi Mill Social, was launched at Todi Mills in Central Mumbai last Friday. Todi Mills looks like a bit of a disaster zone but also houses the pretty popular Blue Frog and Café Zoe already.
Rents are cheaper here than in South Mumbai and space is more readily available. This means that the Todi Mill Social is way bigger than the Colaba Social.
The Todi Mill Social is a two-storied area. The upper floor is going to be reserved for those who want to work out the café from 9 am to 6 pm.
The ‘Social Offline’ concept encourages people to work out of the café and even offers it as a venue for people to collaborate and make new work connections. They have free wi-fi, stationery and offer printers and even a 3-D printer which are a boon for those who don’t have an office. The way the concept works is that you pay Rs 5,000 (plus taxes) a month to enroll for this and that amount is redeemable against F&B purchases.
I checked out the property during a preview evening. The idea of having a floor dedicated for people who want to work at peace seems good. They even have a little enclosure in case people want to hold meetings. The chairs didn’t look too comfortable to me though and this could be an issue given that almost all of us have a bad back these days.
It will be interesting to see if this is the beginning of a new trend of ‘freelancer friendly’ cafes and restaurants in Mumbai.
Todi Mill Social is open for regular patrons too but currently doesn’t offer table bookings except under Social Offline
Kalyan Karmakar authors the popular award winning blog, Finely Chopped and is an authority on the food of Mumbai. His extensive knowledge of the city's food scene has been featured in publications such as Femina, Mumbai Mirror and BCC Good Food. He was one of the founding critics of EazyDiner's Mumbai team.