Mriidu Khosla (pictured above) rescued her first cat just a few months after moving to Mumbai to live by herself. The wounded animal lived only six months but the incident sparked off a lifelong passion for Mriidu, the founder of Zcyphher, an advertising and branding agency, who began rescuing more felines and bringing them into her office.
A student of electronics engineering from Mumbai University and a post-graduate in film studies from New York Institute of Technology, Mriidu had launched Zcyphher in 2010, and began taking in cats soon after. Her younger sister Charu, a dentist by qualification, also joined her in 2011, and her medical training came in handy when it came to rescuing injured animals.
The agency grew, and so did the number of cats. The sisters moved to a larger location, and in 2015, decided to set up Cat Café Studio, a unique concept for Mumbaikars. It is a cross between an animal shelter and a hangout zone.
An indoor area – that can seat 40 humans and currently houses about 25 cats – is where the healthy cats live, mingle with guests, and are ready for adoption. Another 20 sick animals – such as hit and run cases or amputees – are kept in the clinic to heal before they can be put up for adoption.
For those who don’t want cats on their tables or under their chairs while they have coffee, another outdoor area seats 30 more people. The ad agency runs from the first floor, so Mriidu can handle both her enterprises from the same location.
“I had changed 11 schools in 12 years in childhood, so I never really had the opportunity to keep pets,” Mriidu explains of why she now has five cats and a dog at home.
She admits that cats are an acquired taste and Indians don’t really appreciate the concept of rescuing stray felines. “But once you spend time with them, they kind of grow on you. They make good companions,” vouches the 35-year-old.
Mriidu wants to promote local Indian breeds of cats and encourages people to adopt them. She has used her design skills and marketing experience to brand the café in a creative way to attract more animal lovers and even those who had never considered adopting stray cats before.
Their Facebook page is full of cute pictures of cats with captions detailing their personalities. They also create videos from time to time.
“Both businesses are correlated in a sense,” says Mriidu. “The agency background helped me conceptualize the Cat Café Studio, and the walk-in patrons at the café often convert into new clients for the agency.” It’s a win-win situation.
The sister have had a silent understanding all these years about helping cats: if they come across an injured stray, they will take it in, no questions asked. After healing them, they introduce them to the café and put them up for adoption.
“It’s taking some time but the café is making a difference in society,” Mriidu avers. “People are gradually realizing how super cool cats are.”
This is part two of the ‘Cafe with a Cause’ series first published in the July 2018 issue of eShe magazine
Read part one here.