| 'There's one of yours,' points out film-maker Mrinal Sen to author Amit Chaudhuri at the inauguration of Corner Bookstore at Barista's on Park Street on Monday. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Just like the right blend of coffee, milk and sugar needed to make the perfect cuppa, coffee shops are trying to hit the right combination of coffee and add-ons to make perfect business sense. And for the moment, they seem to be finding it in books.
Mrinal Sen and Amit Chaudhuri welcomed Corner Bookstore's entry into the city with a small corner in Barista's Park Street outlet and a 'browse while you sip (or bite)' mantra.
'The idea is to offer an overall experience to the customer,' says Jason Jacob, city business manager for the coffee chain. 'With similar book corners in our other outlets across the country, we have even seen the customer profile expanding to older people,' he adds.
The Park Street shop is a start, but the book bug is set to bite other Barista outlets, too, and soon. 'We will have shop-in-shops in at least two other Barista outlets of the 10 bookstores we're planning in Calcutta,' offers Aalok Wadhwa, CEO, The Corner Bookstore.
According to Wadhwa, the presence of Oxford Bookstore bang opposite is no cause for concern. 'In Delhi, one of our stores is located in a place that has 12 other bookshops around it, but it's still doing well.'
Corner chain has a major presence in Delhi and Chennai, but Calcutta is big on the map of 'India's fastest-growing bookstore chain', which opened outlets in six cities in the past two months.
The Barista corner has a stock of 3,000 titles with a focus on Indian authors.
Bookstores are also in the pipeline for another national coffee chain in the city.
'Our 2,000-sq-ft outlet, coming up on Southern Avenue, will have one,' confirms Arnab Pandey, regional head for Caf' Coffee Day. 'Books and coffee are a great combination,' assures Pandey, citing successful examples from the chain's outlets in Delhi, Amritsar and Mumbai.
Caf' Coffee Day is planning four new outlets in the city and six more in the eastern region by December. At least some of them are to contain Book Cafes ' as the book section will be called.
Book is not the only bait at Barista's. Soon, customers can surf (virtually, at least) while sipping coffee.
Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) will bridge the gap between the two Javas, as Barista gears up to offer wireless Internet access to everyone coming in (and to a pedestrian or two on Park Street with Wi-Fi's inherent spill-over properties).
Some of Barista's other new initiatives include a complete menu makeover and a bid to include Barista in the diet of some professionals in their office. 'We have approached a few offices for supplying lunch and dinner,' adds Jacob.
The motif at Caf' Coffee Day is merchandise but the message is always coffee. Coffee powder, mugs and T-shirts (with 'fun, coffee-theme lines') are currently available in the Caf' Coffee Day outlets.
According to Mrinal Sen, Calcuttans need no excuse to make an event out of another bookstore's entry. Store-owners would hope that translates into cash-register rings as well.