New Delhi: If a lot can happen over a cup of coffee, a lot more can happen now with the book cafe culture gaining popularity across the country. The concept of sipping a hot cup of coffee and reading your favourite author couldn't have got any better.

Time was when serious book readers scoffed at the idea of mixing one pleasure with the other. So, when Full Circle book store and Turtle cafe began operations in 1999 in the national capital, people were welcoming but skeptical. No one thought a cafe with a book shop will last very long, but it prospered.

Then, Cha Bar, Oxford Bookstore's first book cafe, opened in Kolkata in 2000. The concept soon became a rage across the country. Today, Cha Bar has 30 outlets in major cities and towns in India.

As the name Cha Bar suggests, it offers an exotic range of teas in addition to coffees and snacks.

"People wanted to have a comfortable, friendly space for chit-chatting, relaxing and reading," said Priyanka Malhotra, chief executive officer of Cafe Turtle that is located in the capital's tony Khan Market.

"Many were looking for a space to write or read. We filled that gap," Malhotra added.

A Cha Bar official said the concept was expanded pan India as they realised customers loved the experience of being able to browse at leisure, leafing through books of their choice or simply unwinding with friends sipping rejuvenating beverages, iced or piping hot.

Now, many cafe owners are incorporating a book section or library into their outlets to reap benefits.

In a well-planned strategy, the owners of Back To The Desi Cafe in Kolkata's Salt Lake clubbed books, coffee and snacks for the corporate lot.

It has created a buzz, especially with the corporate honchos whose offices are housed in the area.

The strategy was planned by Under One Roof Hotel Consultants, a Delhi-based company that gives clients suggestions from designing to selection of books.

"When we did our research we realised a lot of people step out of their office for a cup of coffee. There are many who want to have a quite time, away from office tension," said Sonia Mohindra, director of Under One Roof Hotel Consultants.

"The idea is to provide them a place where they can have solitude. They can browse through a few magazines and then get back to work," she added.

As the books and magazines are not for sale, the cafe has introduced the concept of "take a book, leave a book" where one can give away the book one has read and doesn't want to keep and can take a book that has been left by someone else.

The idea is working for the cafe.


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