When I first heard about this dog café – Bark Street – owned by four friends in Sector 104 of Noida, the famous Amitabh Bachchan song from Sharaabi – Jahan chaar yaar mil jayein (when four friends meet) crossed my mind. Much like it made life gulzaar (pleasant and happy) for Big B’s friends in the reel world, this union in the real world seems to have not only made the lives of these four youngsters – Somya Singhal, Nikhil Pratap Singh, Aman Bhardwaj and Rahul Narang – gulzaar but of the pet dogs too.
These four ‘fantastic’ friends launched their dog-friendly café on August 14, 2020, around five months after its initial planned launch date. “The delay was inadvertent, due to Covid-19 scare and was followed by Lockdown period,” reply all of them in unison, adding, “The moment the Unlock phase was announced, we decided to open it.”
The response, the Fantastic Four say, has been great since the launch on the eve of India’s Independence Day. “We weren’t expecting it, given the situation we all are living in. Leave alone dog owners, people who don’t even have pet dogs come here to spend time with them including three friendly cafe dogs — Bunny, Doobie, and AJ,” shares Somya, adding they do not use any synthetic stuff in the meals on offer. “Even pizzas and pastas are made from wheat and are glutton-free. We also ask owners beforehand about their dog being allergic to anything,” she puts in. Once at Bark Steeet, you can treat your dog to a wide multicuisine spread including Italian, American, and Indian delicacies.
The owners, recently, have thrown open the café as a coworking space with unlimited high-speed internet apart from holding birthday parties, anniversaries, kitty parties, office parties and family gatherings, inclusive of dogs. “We plan to increase our services soon and these include dog grooming, vet services and doggy training,” says Aman.
It was Somya to whom the idea first struck. “I got impressed by a dog café in Bengaluru and decided on owning one,” says Somya who, after graduating from Delhi University (DU), joined Vistara airlines as cabin crew. “I worked for almost two years and then at another place for a year. Thereafter, I went through an emotional phase. It was then that I decided on opening the dog café,” she adds.
So Somya called up one of her close schoolmates, Nikhil Pratap Singh and met him to discuss the idea. It was March 2019. “I liked the concept and told her to start working on it. On reaching back home, I researched on the concept and found a lot needed to be done and also got interested in it,” shares Nikhil. Five days later, the two met again where Nikhil told Somya that he wanted be a part of the project. “Let us do it together,” Nikhil told Somya as he was in the process of exploring a business option.
After graduating from Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, Nikhil had got into startup space. “I worked with a couple of them and then decided on doing something of my own, so I quit. But I needed a steady income,” says Nikhil. So, he opened a franchise of Giani’s. Once it stabilised, he had steady income and enough time at hand, he looked out for startup options. And it came his way through his schoolmate. But there were challenges en route.
“When you are new to a market, you need to give it something extra. So, we made a business plan – on what was to be done and how to do it right,” avers Somya. The duo went out and visited similar places in Delhi-NCR. “Anything related to dogs and we were there. We concentrated on finding problems as we didn’t want any,” shares Nikhil.
The team of Somya and Nikhil says they were lucky to find Aman and Rahul during the planning stages. “We met through common friends and while discussing the idea to know its feasibility, these two showed interest. Soon, we were a crew of four,” says Nikhil. As Aman and Rahul were already in the hospitality space (they ran a cloud kitchen – Daal Ni Chadhni – successfully in Noida), it helped. “It was September 2019. Just as we were in the final stages of launching our cafe, Covid-19 happened and our plans to open the café on March 21, 2020 went for a toss,” shares Nikhil.
Disappointed but not disheartened, the four were back to the drawing board. “We had made investments. There was a working capital involved. We had staff which we decided to retain and support. We needed to plan again,” avers Aman. So, they did — instead of the facility from where the cloud kitchen once worked, Aman and Rahul shifted it to the same premises as the Bark Street. “The idea was to cut down financial costs. We optimally used resources and do so even now. There are plans to add two more brands from the same kitchen – Bark Street Desserts and DNC Rolls & Biryani,” adds Aman who graduated from Amity University and started working as a quality analyst with Zomato. “After working there for around 30 months, I started exploring for options,” shares Aman adding he always wanted to open something related with food. He worked in the OMS department of TOI for 45 days but found it too formal and returned to Zomato.
It was during this period Aman met Rahul, a Maths (H) graduate from DU. “As I come from a family of businessmen, getting into business was an apparent choice. But I wanted to gain experience so I joined the family’s projects. As both of us had similar interests, of opening a North Indian food takeaway, we launched Daal Ni Chadhni in Sector 44 last September. We were doing well till Corona happened. Then we bumped into Somya and Nikhil and here we are,” says Rahul.
Though locating Bark Street could be a bit of challenge but you can always call and the hosts will be too happy to guide you. Looking at this venture, one can only feel that if you believe in a concept and go ahead full steam with it, success will always be yours. As it happened with these Fantastic Four Friends.