Each one of us, at some point in life, would have wished to meet the authors of our favourite books or just enjoy the simple pleasure of a piping-hot cup of coffee while engaging in a heart-to-heart conversation with our role models.
Ayush Keshri, an alumnus of Banaras Hindu University, turned this wish into reality for the people of Varanasi with his new venture—the Human Library Cafe. Ayush believes that conversations can empower and uplift a person. This belief prompted him, as the name suggests, to create a space to allow people to express themselves, catch-up on their reading and get an opportunity to interact with eminent personalities.
Situated near the Durga Kund temple, the well-lit cafe appears to be a haven for book-readers as well as a library treasuring human experiences. It has been set up by Abhiprepana ATE World Talk, a startup headed by Ayush which has received support from the Indian Institute of Technology-BHU.
"The idea is to create an alternative for young people where information and knowledge sharing can be carried out easily. For recreational purposes, we have clubs and bars but we do not have such a universal forum for interactions and meaningful conversations apart from educational institutions. We, thus, introduced 'human books' besides conventional publications," Ayush told The Logical Indian.
The cafe invites authors, doctors, professors, scientists and government officials to interact and hold discussions with the participants. These people, experts in their domain, talk about their experiences and also conduct answering sessions for the curious minds.
Speaking about the revenue model, the young entrepreneur said, "The food and beverages are part of the menu to cover the everyday expenses. Meanwhile, we run a subscription program for three months charged at ₹1,100. One can become a member, get access to all the events, and can also avail discounts on purchasing books and meals for a period of 90 days."
The events are chalked out for the entire week with a workshop on Monday and Tuesday; Wednesday and Thursday have open-mic events where people can share stories, sketch, paint, sing and recite poems; the weekends are for guest interaction.
Ayush shared that the hospitality and transportation expenses of the guests were borne by the Library Cafe. Explaining how he came up with the idea, the entrepreneur said that getting to connect and interview over a hundred eminent personalities such as Javed Akhtar, Kailash Kher, CNR Rao and Pandit Birju Maharaj during his college days shaped his mindset and encouraged him to explore his passion. Understanding the importance of storytelling, he decided to find a way to turn it into a profitable yet community-based project.
"Human aspect is very crucial. No matter the extent of digitisation, certain aspects remain irreplaceable. Watching videos on gadgets can never match the intimacy of one-on-one interactions. It builds community," Ayush told The Logical Indian.
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