Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bangalore’s new yuppies get their kicks from coffee

Bangalore’s new yuppies get their kicks from coffee
Daily News and Analysis

Pubs lament falling business as the city which once had a thousand pubs now has only a little over 100

BANGALORE: Enter a Café Coffee Day outlet on Bangalore's Brigade Road and find 24-year-old Infosys employee Rohit Misra working on his laptop. The place teems with youngsters aged between 15 and 30.

Rohit checks and responds to his mail while sipping café frappe. "A cup of coffee and a bite of multi-grain vegetable sandwich is my choice.'' The cafe, which he visits every weekend, ``is a good place to hang out and catch up with friends or steal some good moments with a girlfriend," he says, tapping his feet to soft rock.

It's sipping coffee at the all-new snazzy café and not guzzling beer at the noisy pub that's the new fad in Bangalore.

The famed pub culture of Bangalore, India's pub capital and tech city rolled into one, seems to have given way to a coffee culture. Not surprisingly, the pub owners are lamenting that they are losing customers because the `gossips' - the gadget-obsessed status-symbol-infatuated professionals who are the new version of yuppies - prefer to rendezvous at snazzy coffee bars instead.

"Pubs are only an occasional boy zone party for me," says Rohit Misra.

Industry studies indeed show that an estimated 70 per cent of youngsters between the ages of 15 and 30 frequent the city's mushrooming coffee bars.

``One reason for this is that pubs close early while the cafes are open beyond midnight,'' says Ashok Sadhwani, the owner of Pub World and the general secretary of Bangalore's Pub, Bar and Restaurant Owners' Association.

The new trend is hitting the pubs hard: The city had, a decade ago, a thousand pubs, but their number has dwindled to just over a hundred now and even if you include the ones attached to bars and restaurants the number goes up to barely 300. Most have closed shop or branched into other businesses like lunch homes.

Café Coffee Day, which opened its first café in Bangalore in 1996 and today has 60 outlets across the city, says that 72 per cent of its customers are aged between 15 and 18 years. ``Add-ons like internet browsing and good music coupled with the cost factor are attracting young people,'' a spokesperson says.

Cashing in on the trend, another leading café chain Barista plans to add at least 20 new cafes to the 17 outlets it now has. Barista's Chief Executive Officer Parthadutta Gupta says the new youth culture is sipping coffee.

Pubs are trying to woo their clientele back by adding on hip-hop music and bringing in a bit of the discotheque and nightclub ambience. ``This is meant to attract customers during afternoon hours when our business is usually the least,'' says Sadhwani but regrets: "Families would rather go to restaurants than visit pubs in the afternoon."

Admitting that the cafés are the favoured new places for meeting up and chatting, Sanjay Chabbra, owner of Zero-G Pub says, ``We are trying to retain our customers by enabling our customers to relax and let their hair down."

But for the time being, it's the soft music, warm coffee and junk snacks that are big hits. "It is a decent environment for chatting with your friends," says 26-year-old geek Raghavendra Putti, an employee of GE Electronics. "I go to pubs only when I party with friends."


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