Coffee Bars

February 28, 2003

I remember quite distinctly that back in 1996, a bowling craze had started. People used to go bowling as if there was no tomorrow. It gradually tapered off- people started to go bowling as if there was no next month intead- and was replaced by a pool craze circa 1999.

The pool craze was even more all-pervasive and widespread than the bowling craze, because a pool table does not require quite as much floor area aa a bowling alley. You couldn’t walk past five houses without seeing one that had a pool table in its basement.

But the pool craze has also worn off. Pool tables are still around, but there’s no mass movement towards playing pool anymore- just a few afficionados. Nobody goes to play pool just like that.

Most people are watching the World Cup these days, but the World Cup comes only once in four years. That leaves three years and eleven months unaccounted for. That’s a whole lot of leisure time that’s either vanished or in which people aren’t doing anything very interesting.

So, after analysing all the available data- I have come to the conclusion- they go to coffee bars.

Coffee Bars are the only thing that are springing up with as much fervour and verve as pool parlours used to back in the ’90s. Even more, in fact. In certain markets (Basant Lok, South Ex-2, Green Park) Baristas are now spaced less than half a kilometre apart. Add to this Cafe Coffee Day and Qwiky’s trying to catch up, and you have a situation that, to paranoid minds like mine, brings up memories of the planet Frogstar B described <i>in The Restaraunt at the End of the Universe</i>- where the planetary society collapsed overnight when the number of shoe shops on the High Street exceeded critical mass.

Another reason to be paranoid is that though the pool craze was bound to collapse- faced with competition everywhere, pool parlours had to keep dropping their prices until the whole deal became unsustainable- the average price of coffee in coffee bars keeps rising. Starting in 2000 with a menu in which nothing was more than 50 rupees- Barista has gradually started introducing combos and eatables, so that now if your go in and order a coffee, it’s a Borgia for 70 rupees, and you have a 50 rupee sandwich with that. And since people are actually buying it- the coffee bar revolution will just keep on expanding forever- there’ll be no Big Crunch.

I appreciate that this is a somewhat sweeping conclusion to jump to, especially since I’ve jumped to it only in the last two minutes, and haven’t backed it up with adequate data. But I have a course on Simluation and Modelling this semester, and to Simulate and Model the growth of coffee bars in India should not take very long.

If, then, the growth of coffee bars in India is exponential rather than linear or sigmoid- we’ll eventually reach a stage where all structures will be coffee bars. Everyone will be going about their business from Cafe Coffee Day tables, using laptops and CDMA connections. Nobody would ever sleep, because of the high concentration of caffeine fumes. Sleep deprivation would then eventually take it’s toll and kill everybody.

Then again, my entire premise could be wrong.