Mr. Shyam Sundar Lal Kakshyapati is a name synonymous with the restaurant business in Nepal. The Bakery Café is another one of his ventures which has been employing deaf staff for twenty-one years. Just because someone is blessed with hearing, doesn’t mean people who aren’t are incapable. A visit to The Bakery Café and you will see exactly what we are talking about. It is an experience you will not regret having. Let us see what he has to say about his venture:
1. What is the social problem that you are trying to solve?
I have always loved to do things differently. One fine day at a public event, I had the opportunity to work with the hearing impaired community and that’s when I saw their potential and thought of working with them. It’s been twenty-two years since The Bakery Café Venture started and we are still running!
2. Are you still planning to grow or develop new ventures with The Bakery Cafe?
Definitely! I am planning to look for and expand into more areas. Currently, the deaf community is only employed in the foodservice area. If they can be trained in the production or some other sectors as well, much can be achieved.
Statistically, there are more than 500,000 deaf people in Nepal right now. Unfortunately, there are just eighty of them employed. There is so much scope to achieve more if other entrepreneurs also start thinking on these lines.
3. How did you raise the funds to start The Bakery Cafe? Also, when you first started your venture, how many employees did you start with?
We started on a small scale. Luckily with my family’s help, I was able to start on my own. The Bakery Café had twelve people from the deaf community when it first started while now the number has grown to eighty.
4. Can you tell us about your business model? Could you also give us an estimation of your investment to date?
Well, our business model is very simple; we provide people the quality service that they pay for. Our investment is somewhere around 12 crores till now.
5. Who are your target customers? How many clients do you get monthly?
Looking at The Bakery Café, our target customers are family clientele, professionals and the youth. Regarding our clients, we cater to almost fifty to sixty thousand people every month.
6. Were there any challenges you initially faced when starting The Bakery Café? How did you overcome those challenges?
Yes, there were many challenges like eating out in a restaurant was a new concept in Nepal. Back then, we did not have trained workers too so a major issue was communicating with my staff.
Simplest of things like kitchen equipment was not available in the country then and thus had to be outsourced. Apart from all these, there were also a few technical challenges but now, the situation has gotten better.
We traveled to different countries from where we bought most of our equipment. We also got experts from abroad to train our employees here.
7. I hope you do not mind me enquiring about this, but is the business profitable? What is the market potential for The Bakery Café?
Yes, definitely! That is why I am still here.
Not just for The Bakery Café but for all the restaurants, there is a potential market for business. Day by day, more and more people are eating out and now, on almost every corner in Kathmandu, there is a restaurant, something that was not seen before. This signifies that there is a demand, but competition is growing, making it tougher every day.
8. Do you consider yourself a social entrepreneur?
I cannot brand myself that way. I am a business person and I prefer doing things professionally. People are curious as to how I have been working with my staff without any problems. The answer is simple: we are not distributing money out of any sympathy.
When I hired my staff, all I told them was – “You get a salary because you work and it is not a charity. It is your earnings and if you stop working, I will stop giving you what you are getting. You are equal to any other staff for me. You get paid equally and you also have to work equally. It is as simple as that.”
It is a professional relationship. I believe charity does not always work. Getting back to Value for Money, ‘I give because you work’, is how I have been doing it for all these years.
9. Do you measure the impact of The Bakery Café?
I think we were successful in creating a culture of eating out. Do you think in the 70s and 80s, would people eat in restaurants? Back then it was not considered nice to eat outside, but now, things have changed. Food culture has definitely evolved in the last 45 years.
On the other hand, there is an impact on the hearing impaired community which we, fortunately, have been able to make. It gives me immense pleasure to see their lives change. If you should meet their families you will understand what I am saying.
10. Is there anything else that you would like to share with people?When we live in a society, we should see towards the welfare of it. Try to give back as much as you can to society, in whatever ways possible. Only when we return, can we have a beautiful, harmonious society.
Interviewed and Article by Ashmita Rai
Edited by Yangzum Lama