May 13, 2010

Sweet Cup of Careership: The PowerCafe Girls

(This ‘blog’ was originally published in the December 12, 2008 edition of The Morung Express as a News Feature, by Al Ngullie)

Go get a clean cup, a cleaner spoon and consider this gourmand formula: drown a spoonful of social statement that has little patience for the inevitable consequences of arrested development; then, add a pinch of business smart; for taste, add half-a-spoon of social-consciousness and finally, add a sprinkle of active effort and imagination for flavor. What do you get? Jumping Bean…

Barely a month-old baby, Jumping Bean is already your foodie version of the hyperactive 12 year old. Theme nights (check out their retro nights – but the spandexes and pink lipsticks are truly terrifying for the fashion-illiterate male); performances from nationally known rock groups like the recent Tuesday night where Medusa performed. And plans are actively afoot to activate the children’s book and reading club.

PowerCafe Girls

If you happen to visit their cafe at Khermahal in Dimapur, the two lovelies Sarah Pongen and Nokcha Aier most possibly would distract you dizzy from the all-important ingredients. With two young and pretty businesswomen tending to your coffee in a café that has a name cuter and cuddlier than your sister’s youngest daughter, you’re in monumental danger of overlooking the toil and the purpose that went in your cup.

The duo has this modest estimation: “Jumping Bean cafe's main objective is to create a place full of activities that’s fun and entertaining for all age groups and we hope to maintain that for as long as the business runs”. They explained a desire to take up “some sort of business” together. And to boot, being best friends was an added advantage for Nokcha and Sarah. So they jumped the idea of launching Jumping Bean to cater to the hungry stressed souls only a noisy, ill-tempered and fickle urban jungle like Dimapur city could offer.

“We were sort of disappointed that Dimapur, the commercial hub of Nagaland, didn't have any nice place where friends could meet up or just hang out. It was even more annoying when our friends from outside Nagaland would visit us and we couldn't take them to such places” the duo explained as a matter-of-fact. .

For Sarah and Nokcha, the most frustrating aspect of the entire gamut was watching their little cousin brothers and sisters get wasted in boredom and their turning to other unhealthy activities just so to ‘keep themselves engaged’.

“That’s when we suddenly thought why don’t the two of us try and do something about it even if it’s on a very small scale, hopefully many others will pick up on the trend and follow suit” they explained. That’s where each of the two secured a loan and went for the prize “knowing the risks that might be involved; and we're glad we did”.

That’s exactly where the headaches activated their war drums for the two first-time-but-determined businesswomen. Neither of the two has ever been in the service industry and so basically had to start somewhere by using their experiences from the travels they had undertaken. Also, they informed, constructing and designing café from scratch was a colossal challenge. Nonetheless, friends and families stuck out their hand in assistance and support.

“I don’t think we could have achieved what we had in mind. But we have learned immensely through this entire experience and hence we are extremely glad time and again that we decided to go ahead with this idea” the duo explained.

You could have called your café “Chai Paani Corner” or something locally strange, no? “As for the name, we wanted something that symbolized what our cafe would be all about” the two entrepreneurs explained. The two young entrepreneurs added: “We wanted it to be fun and approachable but at the same time one would know it was a cafe where people can do what they normally do in cafe's – hang out with friends and catch up over a cup of coffee. Hence the name Jumping Bean Café: ‘Jumping’ for something that’s full of activity and jumping for joy and ‘Bean’ for the coffee beans.”

On the flavor of unemployment

Apart from the stated objective to offering a calming facility for citizens to ponder away the quite minutes, Jumping Bean is as much a testimony of ‘making a difference’ as it is a personal reaffirmation that there is way in the face of will.

To a query if they have ambitions for the civil services – like a good several Lakhs of Naga youths have – Sarah and Nokcha aren’t exactly your anti-NPSC lobbyists. But they aren’t receptionists of the proverbial Devil’s workshop either. “It is every parent’s dream to send their children for the state civil services and we admit that it has crossed our minds in the past due to the constant topic that’s about on every Naga’s lips they say.

Nokcha, a Livingstone Higher Secondary School and Shillong’s St. Edmund’s alumnus has given a shot at the civil services and part of it. But Sarah “has always been against trying for it”, for the reason that her interest still hugged the private sector. No wonder she has qualifications in retail, marketing and arts management.

Personally, what are your opinions on the issue of unemployment: “We feel that one of the main reasons why unemployment is so prominent in Nagaland and perhaps the northeastern states of India is because of the immense pressure and craze that most people have for the civil services. The government can only provide a limited amount of position in its office as compared to the millions of people applying for it” the two best friends opined.

But it is unfortunate that most Naga youths still perceive the civil services as the only career option: “Most bank on it alone hence wasting their precious primetime youth away while all the good jobs get taken by other people their age across the country. It would have been ok to pursue it if only an alternate arrangement or option was at hand while doing so. But people in the northeast tend to take it as their only career option which is really sad” Nokcha and Sarah explained in clear terms.

Another reason, they said, is Nagaland being a developing state compared to the rest of the country; job opportunities are scarce in the private sector. However, the two explained, all that is changing with many multi-national companies entering the state. They, have a word of caution, however: “But in order to make use of these opportunities parents need to encourage their children to work part time on vacations and become self sufficient in whatever way they can”.

“We in Jumping Bean Cafe are trying to encourage that with the youngsters in the state through part time jobs and gaining experience through it so that they are in par with other major cities when they head out of Nagaland to pursue higher degrees” the entrepreneurs explained.

More plans and bigger dreams are cooking for the two. Notwithstanding the struggle and difficulties they encountered on way to making the Jumping Bean dream, they have no regrets at all. Yes, none at all. It has been a cup of tea, not easy, but because they look to the future.

Here’s to Jumping Bean.


  1. Very brave of these two entrepreneurs to take risk and start something like this. Glad to see so many young people making use of the platform.

    As for the name, i stumbled on this link while googling. I first thought it was their website. :)

  2. :) They certainly took on the circuit. For a risk not so much as having to put the male bastion to test, than proving they were different they have a credit they can wear proudly now. They had much to prove than mere commerce - not just bring in the crowd but keep them too. In this , they succeeded. They are the PowerCafe Girls :)