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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What else to do in a Barista in Dhaka?

Pretty much like aggressively growing mushrooms, I was not surprised to see Barista coffee shops in happening locations in Dhaka. Having walked into the shops in Uttara and Gulshan on two different occasions, it reminded me of my good old days of under-graduate studies in Delhi, India, when hanging out in Baristas with my yaars during 2000-2003 was a cool thing to do. Other than the great coffee experience and checking out coffee lovers of the fairer sex, there were also that acoustic guitar waiting patiently round the corner for a gentle strum, board-games such as chess and Scrabble for people to play and pass away their time sipping over great blends of coffee.

I wonder why I only found guitars in the Barista outlets in Dhaka. There were no board games made available. Is it because that the Barista franchisers think that the Bangladeshi customers should only be limited to doing a karaoke-harikiri of themselves at their premises and limit the damages? Or is it because they are convinced that the coffee sippers in Bangladesh don’t have the required level of grey matter of being able to handle a game of chess? Or may be it is because they think neither the Bangladeshi wanna-be upclass customers have the basic level of English skills to play Scrabble inside Barista shops? The final assumption is that local market research must have advised them not to keep loose board games on the premises, as coffee loving customers may be in so much love with Barista and everything about it that they might walk away with the chess board and Scrabble when they leave. So why take risk? Neither they have the brain to play chess nor can they think in English – so make them sip our coffee and let them strike a few out of tune chords while we charge 200 taka for the beans.

Jokes apart, I think there are innovative new ways to attract new custom to your retail outlets, especially if it is a lounge, coffee shop or even a restaurant. So other than you going to Barista and playing guitar or listening to people you don’t know playing guitar – imagine how it would sound if Barista could arrange ‘free guitar lessons’ for those who are interested or first 20 enthusiasts in one of their outlets near your neighbourhood? Similarly, there could be ‘free language learning sessions’, ‘CV writing’, ‘Presentation skills’, or anything which would have cost you money to go find elsewhere. During times when Bangladesh is fast becoming a western economy in terms of price inflation, anything related to ‘freemium’ should be most welcome, don’t you think so? It is very likely that if you are able to position your lounge or coffee shop as a place where young Bangladeshis don’t idle away and burn their cash sipping coffee and talking shit, you can very well start inviting a fresh new bunch of potential customers inside your premises who would not have otherwise bothered to find out what your business is all about.

This is nothing entirely new as there are numerous examples of restaurants and lounges in Bangladesh and around the world where you have live entertainment (singing, belly dancing, theatre) as you dine and drink. However, rather than being the passive recipient of entertainment which is sometimes charged as a premium on top of your food bill, wouldn’t it be nice to be actually able to learn a new skill in the same premises where we used to just hang out, chat, drink and do nothing else much earlier?

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