Vishaka Beriwala and her younger sister Manasi Beriwala had always loved bitter, black coffee. So when the time came for them to launch a coffee brand of their own, they named it Mean Bean Co. And it isn’t just the coffee that’s strong; the young women have a wholesome conviction and sense of purpose that bodes well for their brew.
Born in Kolkata, the girls moved to Delhi during their school days when their businessman father – who has interests in real estate – relocated here. With a five-year age difference between them, they initially had no plans to work together, and took up different directions in their education. After her B.Com, Vishaka did her MBA in entrepreneurship from ESADE Barcelona, and worked with a Spanish retail firm before returning to India and working in the hospitality industry for five more years. Her sister Manasi studied law from Delhi University after B.Com, specializing in real-estate compliance.
Somewhere down the line, Vishaka got an opportunity to head V Club, a private members-only sports and recreational club in one of the townships developed by their real-estate company, Vipul. She had been running it successfully for three years when a “random dinner-table conversation” sparked the seeds of a new business plan.
“On a holiday to Coorg in Karnataka, I’d met a coffee farmer there and had started sourcing fresh coffee beans for myself and for V Club from him,” recalls Vishaka, 31. “One night, Manasi and I were chatting and we thought, why not launch a coffee brand that’s available for purchase even outside V Club?” And so, Mean Bean Co was born.
Initially, the idea was to retail authentic, high-quality south Indian coffee and cold brews at boutique stores around the national capital region besides serve it at V Club. But then another idea struck the sisters: why not set up a café in one of the commercial complexes managed by Vipul?
So they started with one at Vipul Tech Square, Golf Course Road, Gurgaon, called Mean Bean Café. Surrounded by trees and the cocoon of fancy buildings, the café has a very focused target audience: the 3,500 employees of Zomato, Religaire, Dell and Fareportal who work in the complex.
“I remembered working on an allowance for so many years,” says Vishaka, “and I knew how little I had to spend in those days. So we kept the menu price points quite reasonable at the café.” The menu lists over 60 items, starting from Rs 80 for a cup of coffee to Rs 180 for a chicken sandwich. You can also buy a bag of Mean Bean coffee for Rs 300 onwards.
The sisters are on a learning curve at present: “We realised we can’t play loud music here, and definitely not Bollywood music, not with all the conference rooms around. So we allow only English pop music, played softly,” smiles Manasi, 26. To keep the buzz going on weekends, the café organizes workshops such as coffee painting or upcycling glass bottles into functional works of art.
Mean Bean Co is already in talks with another commercial complex to set up a second café. “The idea is to make this a quirky, cool, B2B corporate coffee brand in NCR. That’s our USP and an untapped niche,” says Manasi.
The sisters admit they are poles apart in terms of their personalities, and they fight more than work. “I don’t like using a laptop; I’d rather talk or message my team,” says Vishaka, pointing towards her sister who is on her laptop, “while Manasi prefers shooting off super-formal emails!” According to her, it’s harder as an older sibling to bring in democracy into a work equation. “I was her boss all my life. Now we’re equals and I have to respect her opinions and views. It’s hard,” she confesses, jokingly.
It’s just after lunch-time and there are still a few people hanging around with their cups of coffee and sandwiches at the open-air café. A cool breeze wafts through, buoyed by the wind effect of tall buildings all around, and ruffles the leaves of the trees planted on the premises. The sisters get back to work quietly at their table. It’s truce today.