Mayesha Khondoker, Managing Director of Shanta Multiverse, talks about the idea, vision, and team spirit of The White Canary Café, which has been labelled one of the most ‘Instagrammable’ places in Dhaka.
Shanta Holdings Ltd is one of the most reputed companies in Bangladesh; its entry into the F&B sector is undoubtedly exciting. What is the vision of Shanta Multiverse?
Originally Shanta Multiverse was an entity of its own, which I had founded back in 2016. I had just left my job as Head of Corporate Branding at Evercare Hospital Dhaka (formerly Apollo Hospitals Dhaka), and just like every 26-year-old in this city, I was exploring what the next step in my career would be. My vision was to build a culture from the ground up that empowered staff and made everyone feel equal and part of a team.
I was working with a team in The United States to sign a franchise deal with Marble Slab Creamery for Bangladesh and a few other projects were in the pipeline. It was one Sunday afternoon when I was stuck in traffic on my way back from Tejgaon that I really missed Canadian Brunch food (i.e., Blueberry Pancakes). I had lived in Canada for years before moving to Dhaka, so it was a staple of my friends and I to go out for brunch food on Sunday mornings/afternoons. It was at that moment I visualised creating The White Canary Café.
Now that we are a part of Shanta Holdings, the vision of Shanta Multiverse is to set standards of what the F&B service industry in Bangladesh can be. This includes using customer feedback to adapt, grow and invest in R&D; investing in the careers of our staff through sponsored certification programs from universities around the world; effective delegation of responsibilities so that our administration, chefs and baristas feel empowered, so they feel as valued as counterparts at other companies within Shanta and operating in a collaborative open-door policy with top management. For example, once a month we have Town Hall Meetings where anyone (whether a chef, a barista or a manager) can raise an issue to be discussed and resolved by everyone in our company. Our staff also have Health insurance which covers treatments at the best hospitals in the country.
The White Canary Cafe, owned and operated by Shanta Multiverse has been voted one of Dhaka’s most ‘Instagrammable’ places. What inspires the cafe’s unique aesthetic?
Every restaurant has a life cycle. After a few years people start to get bored of the same space and food, and then they find the next ‘Instagrammable’ place. That’s why we move and find a new space where we can create a new experience and take the brand to another level. Every branch has a unique identity and experience – none are the same. I enjoy looking at a new space and finding ways we can do something different. At the end of the day, we believe customers deserve to be given something that can enhance their life in Dhaka. We are all frustrated by the traffic, the noise, and the lack of nature, and so we strive to provide a space that can help you escape and find a sense of peace. ‘The Gram’ is a result of a customer trying to capture and preserve that feeling.
Besides being one of the most picturesque places to dine in, TWC (The White Canary Cafe) has been credited with catalysing the demand for all-day brunch places in a market that used to be dominated by grab and go fast-food restaurants. What have been TWC’s greatest strengths?
Our greatest strength is our desire to listen to our customers, learn from standards abroad, adapt to market needs, grow, and innovate. As a consumer, one of the most frustrating things about eating in Dhaka is most restaurants deteriorate in quality over time. With The White Canary Café, we investigate every single complaint or negative review we receive so that we can identify what went wrong and create fail safes in our operation to ensure they don’t happen again.
TWC is very engaged with its customers through a strong social media presence. How crucial has it become for businesses to ensure an active digital presence?
If you don’t engage with your followers and just hire an agency to post content and send you monthly reports, do you really care about your customers or your brand?
Were you always passionate about venturing into the food business? What has been the most rewarding part of the journey?
I had zero interest in the food industry, and I’m not the best cook in the world – my husband is the MasterChef in my household. I always addressed this business from the following perspective: First, I owe a responsibility to my staff to ensure they enjoy their work and feel a sense of purpose and belonging. And second, I owe a responsibility to my customers to ensure our little company can play its parts in making Dhaka a great place to live.
Tell us more about The White Canary family? What keep the team spirits up and how are the employees an integral part of your story?
Our employees are a team, and a family. Their hard work, understanding of each other, and their grasp of new ideas and standard inspires me every day. They are truly a joy to work with. They are each integral to our story in their own way, and they are The White Canary Café, more so than I am. From our junior chefs to our Head of Operations, everyone is involved to the core of our brand and what it is growing to become.