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Cafe Able by Differently-Abled

A cafe run by the differently abled staff, that too inside a District Collectorate. It became possible because an IAS officer decided to implement an idea.

Some people manage to win hearts and leave a mark on the society simply with their creative approach to a problem. Tamil Nadu cadre IAS officer Sandeep Nanduri is one such person. In the midst of his busy professional life, interspersed with a bagful of administrative responsibilities, he has done something very different.

Sandeep Nanduri, DC Tutikorin (Courtesy : Twitter)

Mr Naduri, the District Collector of Tuticorin, has started a cafe with twelve differently-able persons. This business initiative named ‘Café-able’ has given a new confidence to these less-fortunate ones, while at the same time ensuring an effective means of livelihood for them.

Mr Naduri’s efforts becomes more meaningful because he has taken a step to bring back the ‘Divyangs’, who are generally neglected by the society, into the mainstream. A 2009-batch IAS officer, Mr Sandeep Nanduri has an engineering degree and master’s in business administration from IIM-Bangalore. In the decade long career as an administrative officer, he has served as Commissioner of Madurai Corporation, Executive Director of Chennai Metro Supply and Sewerage Board, Project officer of District Rural Development Agency, Salem and as Sub-Collector (Land Revenue and Disaster Management), Hosur.

Cafe Able : The Beginning

Being the District Collector, Sandeep used to get a lot of job applications from the differently able. However, it wasn’t possible to find a placement for all and this would upset him. He really wanted to help them. One day he thought that hundreds of people come to the District Collectorate every day and wait there for hours. So why not create a place where they can hangout and this will create a job opportunity for the differently-abled.  He finally came up with this really creative business idea.

Cafe Able

Very soon, he created a self-help group of differently abled people and started building this café.

However, the going was not so easy. The group had got the space to start the café in District Collectorate campus itself, but this in itself was not enough. They needed funds and training. But as it’s said, determination and hard work never go wasted.

Talking to Indian Masterminds about this unique initiantive, Mr Nanduri said, “When I came with this idea, I knew we will have to face these challenges too.

 From building the café to installing the electrical appliances and interior work of the café , we would require lots of money. After initial planning, I analyzed that we need at least Rs 30 lakh to set up the café and training of the staff.  The only way was by using the CSR funds. We obtained funds from three different companies. We also raised some money on our own, from the District Collectorate itself.

 This sorted out a big chunk of our financial worries, and the cafe got a perfect kick-start”.

Cafe Able’s Team

After the financial issues were resolved, Mr Nanduri started focussing on the selection of team members. He said, “It was clear the not every differently-able person could work in café efficiently. Therefore we had to choose them wisely. It was tough because we also had to train them. Finally, we shortlisted 11 people who are now running this café. I am very happy to say that the way they work and serve the customers is remarkable. You will get the best service there.”

Sandeep in the cafe

The team of ‘Café Able’ has 11 members. Most of them have motor related disability.

For their training, Mr Nanduri collaborated with the Oscar Hotel Management college in Rajapalayam. All the members were enrolled in a 45-day training course where they learnt cooking, catering and baking. They were also taught how to handle customers, what to do during a crisis, how to manage finances, and so on.

Meanwhile, the café was also constructed.

Kannan, who manages the café said, “When Nanduri Sir proposed this idea, I was filled with joy and respect for him. He was going out of the way to implement this. I haven’t seen any officer like him. This was new for us but he supported us and built this café from scratch. Whenever he sees crowd in our café I can see the happiness on his face.”

Celebration on the first anniversary of Cafe

Kannan also shared details about other team members. While Selwa Parvathy, Vanaja and Mahalaxmi are the cooks, Vigilesh helps them in chopping and other stuffs. All together they prepare the most delicious food which is now the identity of the café. They serve delicious South Indian breakfast, lunch and dinner, hot beverages, juices, at reasonable rates. Satish Kumar is cashier while  Jesuraja, Anthony, Manikandan, Laxmanan and Vikneshwaran helps in serving the tables. 

Popular with Public

 Café Able was opened to public on July 7, 2019. Café Able is equipped with the latest kitchen and baking equipment. Since it’s situated right in the front of the  Collectorate, it grabs fairly large attention of the people . On an average, 150 to 200 people are served daily in Café Able. The IAS officer also encourages the staff members of the Collectorate to go to the café. He himself orders food from there for the staff meetings.

After a year-long effort, the café is now making decent amount of money. It has started giving some financial stability to the staff members.

Sandeep having lunch in the cafe

As Mr Nanduri said, “I just wanted to provide an opportunity to these people, where they could work with pride. I was lucky that this idea struck my mind. The main challenge was building the café and training of the staff. After that the steering wheel of the cafe is in their hands, and they are driving it with full energy. Now, I don’t interfere in their work. Most of the staff, including myself, often have our lunch in the café only.”

Now, this is a fine example of creativity being put to good use. Well done, Mr. Sandeep Nanduri!

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