Raghuveer Rajkumar and Esha Singh: Bringing Aussie café etiquette home

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Melbourne is regarded as one of the best cities for coffee. Its unique coffee culture, especially the “flat white” craze, amazes locals and global visitors to the city. Raghuveer Rajkumar and Esha Singh were no exception.

While both of them moved to Melbourne to pursue higher education, through the move, Raghuveer met Melbourne’s  incredible coffee scene and Esha met her future husband.

Due to family commitments, the then husband and wife returned home in 2009 and brought a little piece of Melbourne’s gastronomy  to Bangalore,with a twist, opening Café Mondo. Cafe Mondo is a popular vegetarian café that specialises in  local vegetarian dishes but is best known for its relaxing ambience and the ubiquitous flat-white.

Advance spoke to Raghuveer, Managing Director and Co-founder of Café Mondo, and Esha, Co-founder, about their coffee adventure.

Interview by Tammy Lee, Marketing & Communications Officer, Advance

Why did you choose Australia as your study destination? How was your experience?

Raghuveer:  I had heard a lot about the lifestyle in Australia, which was one of the main reasons in me choosing it as a study destination, along with the fact that I did not intend to study to the US and UK which were the most preferred destinations for higher studies at that point of time. 

I completed my bachelors degree in Information Technology at Deakin University and a masters degree in Information Systems at Victoria University, and my study experience at both institutions were memorable. I made some very dear friends from around the globe and learnt a lot through the open book studying and assignments which were non-existent in India back then.This made studying more interesting.

Esha:  I received a master degree in International Business from Deakin University. After graduating my under-graduate degree, like young adults I tried to pick a higher degree  that was not only interesting but also helpful in shaping my  future. Australia was somewhere that I was intrigued with, and the more I read about it, the more I liked it. 

Being an only child it was a tough decision for my parents to let me go so far away, but it definitely worked out for the best, as the time spent in Melbourne  definitely shaped my personality today. I learnt to be independent, confident, manage my  personal finances and much more!

The memory that I cherish the most is the joy of travelling around Australia and other countries during every visit in and out of Australia! I loved every bit of my time there as I made friends from different parts of the globe. The experiences are priceless. 

Why did you want to open a café? Was there any particular reason to open a vegetarian cafe? 

After working in the banking sector in Melbourne, Esher  and I wanted to do something on our own. My wife is very innovative and her interest in cooking led us to open Cafe Mondo.

We wanted to start our own café in Melbourne but due to family commitments we had to return to India and the thought of opening a café in Bangalore,  something similar to the cafes in Melbourne came up.

The need for a complete vegetarian cafe was entirely because of the dominant vegetarian population. Also the choice of location was close to home for easy management with an infant in tow. 

What's the most difficult thing you have to deal with in a cafe operation?

The first few months were extremely challenging as neither myself nor Esher  had a  hospitality background.We learnt the operation  all from scratch.

The restaurant business itself is a challenging enterprise. We would say the most difficult bit is to source the right products to compete, and retain staff, as the sector is not entirely organised and food industry requires a bigger workforce to support and provide quality service.

How competitive is the cafe industry in Bangalore?

The cafe industry is extremely competitive in nature. Bangalore has one too many cafes - ranging from a small 5-seater to the big 100-odd seaters; and the price range varies too. Everyday there is a new place that opens and an old one that shuts. The success in this area is not a guaranteed one. Innovative,  tasty dishes and consistent service, along with quality can be one's key to success. One cannot afford to have any bad days in this industry. 

What do you miss most about Australia?

Raghuveer:   The lifestyle is something that we were used to as a couple and as were our sons, who were both born in Melbourne. The ease of doing things, the wonderful cafe culture, nightlife and the amazing social circle that we had developed over the years. I truly miss my Melbourne!

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Esha: This is an easy one to answer. What I miss most is the place in itself, the open spaces, the parks and gardens, the ease of travel, the safe environment for raising kids, the friends that remain there  and much more. 

Australia will always hold a special place in my heart as I met my husband there, gave birth to my kids and set up my first home there with my lovely little family!