How a branded café in Srinagar became a success in less than a year

More than a year back this young man from the Kashmir Valley launched his cafe ‘The Other Side Cafe’ on the second floor of a shopping mall at a very prominent square in Srinagar.

Wanting to get out of the family business, the young man planned to start a cafe which would be modern and offer an alternative space to the youth. He got in touch with Uzma, who had recently graduated from NID Bangalore, and who with Indi Design, wanted to offer brand services to the businesses in the Valley. An interior designer, who trained as a retail experience designer at NID, Uzma very strongly feels that businesses in the Valley would do much better if they used design and branded themselves better. The design and branding project was taken up as our pilot project for Indi-Srinagar; the response to this project would lead the way for Indi-Srinagar.

"The Other Side Cafe" launch hoarding

“The Other Side Cafe” launch hoarding

The team decided to keep the modern theme, but blend in local culture. This obviously meant a lot of discussions on esthetics, materials, finishes, icons, symbology, and colors. The fact that Uzma is a local from Srinagar was a big help. It is always very difficult to see culture when you are immersed in it; you normally do not value the role culture plays in making a space acceptable. Almost any client in any region is always looking to break free of the culture. This is always a challenge for designers. We understand both sides. When you are immersed in local culture, something very modern and western will make the space stand apart. Perhaps it will be noticed faster and that will mean better for business. This is how all clients think. This also the reason why clients come to us with a brief to make their company look ‘global’ or ‘international’ or ‘creative’. We respect these feelings, but we also understand how these are usually very shallow in terms of customer engagement.
Being a young man, our Srinagar client was also very proactive. He had decided a name ‘M Square’ for his cafe and already decided on a Rubik’s cube theme to engage young customers. He had worked with some designer in East Europe online and already had the logo for ‘M square’ in place. He had registered the name as well.
Our passionate team found the local chinar leaf (closely resembling a maple leaf) to be a perfect, timeless and appropriate theme for the café. We also decided on a pun for the name for the Café; the idea was to offer Kashmiri youth the fascination of the ‘other side’. We saw this as a place to come and indulge with your friends, a place where discussions would brew around topics and issues that bring out your other side.
Our client took a long time and a lot of convincing to agree to this name, but once he agreed there was no looking back. All drawings and detailing were done in Pune. We also decided to use pictures from Srinagar on the wall. Since our client is himself a very talented photographer, we used pictures that he had taken. He took particular interest in working with contractors and supervising each detail. This labor of love is very visible in his very well finished cafe.
‘The Other Side Cafe’ opened about a year back. It has been promoted on social media and local print media. We published a story about it in POOL magazine. We also shared this as a design case study with an audience of 200 at a ‘Mixin’ event held in Srinagar. The response has been overwhelming. The Cafe has seen success within its first year of operation, and we received compliments for the design. Located on the second floor, the Cafe survived the floods of September 2014, and continues to be the preferred choice of local youth and business people.
The Other Side Cafe was in the news recently as the first successful branded cafe to in the Valley. We are very proud of our client and his efforts, and I really hope he expands his vision to take it across other cities in India now.
Kashmir has the potential for many brands, and I see the added benefit that brands from Kashmir will easily be accepted across India. There are so many local businesses, so many young entrepreneurs, and they need exposure to branding and design. We have had many enquiries and are working on many more projects in Kashmir.
The success of ‘The Other Side Café’ brand will work like a booster for our work in the Valley. If you visit Srinagar do drop in at the Café…you will have visited the place where the brand movement in the Valley started.

Here are some new links on ‘The Other Side Café’ that you might enjoy: