This creative serial entrepreneur runs a time café and designs quirky furniture


Serial entrepreneur Vandita Purohit’s entrepreneurial endeavors all have a penchant for creativity and a touch of the unusual.

How else would you explain the old Bajaj Chetak scooter converted into a reception desk at the entrance of their time cafe? Or her joinery, which transforms cupboards into wine racks and old cupboard drawers into stools? And what about her travel company, TraWork, which specialized in arranging “workations” even before it became a buzzword?

There is a clear creative zeal in everything Vandita ventures into.

Mauji Cafe

Mauji Time Cafe in Pune

A cafe ahead

The Mauji Time Café in Pune, operated by Vandita, is based on the Russian concept of anti-cafes. These are places where you can eat as many cookies and drinks as you want and pay per minute for the time spent in the café.

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Vandita began work on Mauji Café in March 2020, but 15 days later, when the lockdown caused by COVID-19 was announced, she was forced to pause the idea. She resumed work when things returned to normal, and the cafe opened in October.

The café, with an Indian-Bohemian vibe, is housed in a sprawling two-story bungalow that spans 5,500 square feet. Customers gather at the hip café for events such as business showers, open mics, game nights and music concerts.

In 2021, when the pandemic forced a second lockdown, Mauji’s business was hit, but as the lockdown was gradually lifted, people were back at the cafe in droves.

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“The second lockdown was more difficult because we had overheads and people’s salaries to pay. But actually, we slowly and steadily made it out of there,” says Vandana.

The design of the Mauji Café is based on the theme of sustainability. Vandita hired Shivani Vyawahare, a friend who had just graduated as an architect. The two put their heads together to create unique interiors and whimsical furniture and decor pieces for the cafe by recycling and renovating old items.

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The wall art in the café, for example, consists of clippings from magazines that Vandita took and framed on her travels around the world. An old Bajaj Chetak scooter bought from a junk dealer has been transformed into a snazzy reception desk. The cafe’s yellow couch, a huge hit with customers, was found in a torn state ready for disposal before becoming the cozy couch it is today.

“When I was a kid, my mother used to buy supplies for old clothes. It was such a good way to recycle old clothes. I wondered why I couldn’t implement the same idea for furniture,” says the entrepreneur, explaining the logic behind the reuse of old objects in her café.

MAuji

Mauji Time Café in Pune with an Indian bohemian vibe

refurbish furniture

When designing the cafe’s interiors, Vandita thought of her next business idea – Kalapentry, which she launched in partnership with Shivani.

Kalapentry renovates, refurbishes and recycles old furniture to create a range of bespoke, sustainable furniture. No two pieces of furniture Kalapentry make are the same, and they are sold at flea markets every three months.

With the help of carpenters, Vandita and Shivani turned small cabinets into wine racks and repurposed chairs that were falling apart into modern seating.

“We’re very aware of keeping it on a small scale 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 for money,” says Vandita.

The duo plans to open a shop at some point.

Kalapentry

Before and After: An old chair gets a makeover at Kalapentry

Travel while you work

In 2018, Vandita launched TraWork, specializing in working vacations at a time when these were not as popular.

A serious traveler herself, Vandita loves to explore places extensively, visit local cafes and co-working spaces, and gain experiences. On her travels she got to know many fellow travelers and this is how she came up with the idea for TraWork.

“It started as a passion project and I figured taking people on work holidays meant I could travel too. The idea was so well received that I soon considered making a company out of it,” she says.

Vandita has done some travel with TraWork, but the company has taken a backseat during the pandemic. She now plans to restart her travel startup as Workations has seen increased interest from lockdown-weary people in the wake of the pandemic.

Her travels also led her to the idea of ​​time cafes, popular in Russia.

A long entrepreneurial journey

Vandita’s entrepreneurial activities began back in 2009 when she and her husband co-founded Mint Tree, a company engaged in outsourced distribution services. After that, the entrepreneur founded The Daftar, a coworking space in Pune.

Next on their plate is a December event in the form of a giant flea market plus flea market. To do this, she seeks collaborations with other furniture and home decor suppliers and sponsors. She also wants the event to allow people to auction off their old furniture or donate it to NGOs working to help the underprivileged.

What does she learn as an entrepreneur? “One thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that you have to have tremendous patience, especially when you’re working on something new and unique. You can’t just rush things. Setting unreasonable goals will only lead to fear” are signs of Vandita.