Serial entrepreneur Vandita Purohit’s entrepreneurial endeavors all have a dash of creativity and a touch of the unusual.
Otherwise, how would you explain the old Bajaj Chetak scooter that became the reception desk at the entrance to his café du temps? Or his carpentry business that turns cupboards into bottle racks and old drawers into stools? And what about his travel agency TraWork, which specialized in organizing “workations” even before it became a buzzword?
There is a definite creative zeal in everything Vandita ventures into.
A coffee in advance
Mauji Time Café in Pune, run by Vandita, is based on the Russian concept of anti-cafes. These are establishments where people can grab as many cookies and drinks as they want and pay for time spent in the cafe by the minute.
Vandita started working on Mauji Café in March 2020, but, 15 days later, when the COVID-19-induced lockdown was announced, she had to put the idea on hold. She returned to work when things started to return to normal and the cafe launched in October.
The cafe with an Indo-bohemian vibe is housed in a sprawling two-story bungalow spread over 5,500 square feet. Guests gather at the bustling cafe for events like business showers, open mics, game nights, and musical concerts.
In 2021, when the pandemic forced a second lockdown, Mauji’s business was affected but once the lockdown was gradually lifted, people were back at the cafe in hordes.
“It was more difficult during the second lockdown because we had overheads and salaries to pay. But, of course, slowly and steadily, we managed to pull through,” says Vandana.
Mauji Café’s design is built around the theme of sustainability. Vandita enlisted Shivani Vyawahare, a friend who had just graduated as an architect. The two have put their heads together to create unique interiors and quirky furniture and decor items for the café by recycling and renovating old items.
For example, the cafe wall art is made of newspaper clippings that Vandita had picked up on her travels around the world, which she had framed. An old Bajaj Chetak scooter bought from a junkyard has been transformed into a nifty reception desk. The café’s yellow sofa, a huge hit with customers, was found in a torn state, ready to be thrown away, before becoming the comfortable sofa it is today.
“When I was a child, my mother bought utensils in exchange for old clothes. It was such a great way to recycle old clothes. I understood why I couldn’t adapt the same idea for furniture,” says the entrepreneur, explaining the logic behind reusing old objects in her café.
While designing the cafe’s interior spaces, Vandita thought about her next entrepreneurial idea – Kalapentry, which she launched in partnership with Shivani.
Kalapentry renovates, refurbishes and recycles old furniture to create a line of bespoke and sustainable furniture. No two pieces of furniture made by Kalapentry are alike, and they are sold at garage sales held every three months.
With the help of carpenters, Vandita and Shivani transformed small cupboards into wine racks and redesigned chairs that were falling apart into modern seats.
“We’re very conscious of keeping it small now because we’re a limited group of people working on it. We want to be funded before we do it on a large scale, because it’s a capital-intensive business and we don’t want to get stuck because of money,” says Vandita.
The duo plans to open a store eventually.
Travel while you work
In 2018, Vandita launched TraWork, specializing in working holidays at a time when they weren’t so popular.
A serious traveler herself, Vandita enjoys exploring places extensively, visiting local cafes and coworking spaces, and soaking up the experiences. She met a lot of co-travellers on her travels, and that’s when she got the idea for TraWork.
“It started out as a passion project, and I thought taking people on work vacations meant I could travel too. I liked the idea so much that I quickly thought of making a business out of it,” says -she.
Vandita has taken quite a few trips to TraWork, but the company has taken a back seat during the pandemic. She is now looking to relaunch her travel startup as post-pandemic work has seen growing interest from those weary of lockdown.
Her travels also brought her to the idea of the cafes of the time, which were popular in Russia.
A long entrepreneurial journey
Vandita’s entrepreneurial activities began in 2009, when she and her husband co-founded Mint Tree, a company that engaged in outsourced sales services. After that, the entrepreneur founded The Daftar, a coworking space in Pune.
Next on his plate is an event in December modeled after a massive garage sale and flea market. For this, it seeks to collaborate with other sellers and sponsors of furniture and interior decoration. She also wants the event to allow people to auction their old furniture or donate it to NGOs working for the poor.
What does she learn as an entrepreneur? “One thing I’ve learned over the past two years is that you have to be extremely patient, especially when you’re working on something new and unique. You can’t rush into things. If you set unreasonable goals, it will only create anxiety,” Vandita points out.