Nestling in the narrow, convoluted lanes of the Capital’s Hauz Khas Village, Kunzum Travel Café is not just a coffee shop but a space for like-minded people to gather.
Started by travel photographer and writer Ajay Jain in June 2010, the cafe operates on a “pay what you like” business model. Its limited menu of tea, coffee and whole-grain biscuits is uncomplicated, and once you’re done you decide how much you want to spend.
Mr. Jain, an avid traveller himself, aimed to create a community for fellow travellers to get together. “Initially it was just a gallery for my photography and books for a few months. Then we added the cafe component to it, to both get footfalls as well as to create an offline community. We call it the face-to-Facebook of travel,” Mr. Jain says. “We thought, let us create an environment where people can exchange stories. It’s not just me telling my stories, but a chance for them to tell theirs.”
The cafe seats 25-30 people comfortably and about 40 can be squeezed in during special events. Kunzum holds regular film screenings, workshops, heritage walks and photography tours.
An unassuming facade lends itself to the laid-back ambiance of the cafe. The interiors are fuss-free with emphasis on creating a relaxed atmosphere, rather than a decorative masterpiece. The vibe is so easygoing that you wouldn’t be faulted for thinking it’s someone’s living room. Photographs from Mr. Jain’s travels adorn the walls.
The cafe serves freshly brewed coffee. It also offers a good range of teas. There is WiFi Internet facility for Rs.25 as well as travel books and photographs to look through or purchase.
The “pay what you like” model was unique to Kunzum when it first started. After two years, it has still managed to stick to this principle. “From Day One, we created a space where you come and take ownership of the place,” Mr. Jain says, adding: “There are no entry barriers and no exit conditions. So if you want to come in and hang around the whole day without spending a single rupee, it’s all right.
Mr. Jain explains the rationale behind Kunzum’s unique financial model. Though he makes it clear that it is a business, he decided to approach it differently. “Everything can’t be transactional. Let’s give to the community first and then see what the community gives back,” he says.
The cafe’s seemingly altruistic motives make it a warm and inviting place. It is not pretentious like some of the high-end cafes in the city. It offers comfort and conviviality in a charming atmosphere.