College cafe brews entrepreneurs in Punjab

Jalandhar (Punjab), May 20 (IANS) Going by the cuisine, service and decor at Just Food – a cafe at a private university campus here – you can’t really tell it’s an entrepreneurial project managed by college students.

The cafe is located on the campus of Lovely Professional University (LPU) here. Assisted by students of the varsity’s hotel management course, MBA students look after the accounts, marketing, production, logistics and other departments.

‘Since the inception of this university I had a dream of producing more job creators rather than seekers and this cafe is a major step towards it. Here students are getting a chance to recognise their innate qualities and business acumen,’ Ashok Mittal, chancellor of LPU, told IANS.

‘Here students are themselves the real bosses and they are the final decision makers without any outside interference. They are using their own discretion in deciding the inputs costs and marketing strategies. I am really happy that after working here, many of my students have come up with out-of-the-box entrepreneurship ideas.’

Just Food, based on the no- profit-no-loss model, was started in January 2009. Besides, LPU has also set up an ‘entrepreneurship cell’ for its students to guide fresh pass-outs in starting their own business.

‘It is not a money-making exercise as the basic purpose is to expose our students to the intricacies of entrepreneurship. Currently the cafe is earning Rs.200,000 per month and it is running only on a cost-to-cost basis,’ pointed out Mittal.

‘Nearly 100 MBA students are involved in the operations of this cafe. Students are divided into different groups and they work turn-wise on a weekly basis,’ Mittal said.

Even the students of LPU are quite upbeat and enthusiastic about this venture.

‘We do studies, go for internships and take part in extra-curricular activities in any other college but this concept of adding a business startup is really helpful. Here we have been working in a full-fledged cafe in a real professional manner for the last one year,’ Sonam Gaba, a student of MBA in finance, told IANS.

‘Every week we have brain-storming sessions to discuss the performance and future strategy of the cafe. We have a healthy exchange of ideas. Now I am also contemplating starting my own business as I have learnt that there is no harm in taking a calculated risk in life,’ Gaba added.

Just Food, which follows the practice of self-service, also boasts of a long menu list offering fast food, Chinese, north Indian, south Indian and bakery food. Even the structural design and charming ambience of the cafe is the brainchild of the students.

‘I strongly believe that better business ideas can emerge in a more competitive and rich intellectual environment of the college campus. Here we have a good consumer base and professional advice that is available at every instance,’ Neha Bindra, who is pursuing an MBA (honours) in finance from LPU, told IANS.

This initiative has already started churning entrepreneurs from LPU as during the last placements, nearly 10 percent of the MBA students who had got lucrative packages refused job offers and preferred to start their own ventures.

Mittal said: ‘My students are coming up with very creative ideas like offering services of website designing, consultancy to other clients, opening of cake shops and entering into manufacturing of engineering goods.’

(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at alkesh.s@ians.in)

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