An architect by profession, Shetty was always curious to do something of his own. While he was completing his thesis in the final year of his graduation, he met with a new passion towards doing something for the transgender community which added to his previous passion. He tried amalgamating both the dreams together which is now in the form of a café in Mumbai. Excerpts from the interview:
How did food happen to you?
It is the brainchild of the vision which I had throughout my architectural journey. Being an architect by profession I wanted to create and personalise a place of my own. During the final submission of my thesis, I chose a topic which was to build a community centre for transgender. That is how I got in touch with transgender community in Mumbai. I come from a family who is already into restaurant business for 30 years now.
How did you come up with the concept of hiring transgender as your café’s staffs?
There was this idea in my mind where I wanted to do something for this community. Because of the topic that I chose for my thesis, I got to meet the local transgender who are living in Mumbai. I wanted to give them a platform so that they get opportunities to get mixed with the other crowds. But the corporate were not ready to hire them as staffs in their ventures. So finally I decided to open a venue of my own where transgender will be serving food and taking care of the customers.
Why the name Third Eye café?
It was just a random decision. I wanted to provide people a different vision through which they can see the transgender community. That is how I came up with the name Third Eye café.
What kind of customers do you witness at your café?
We witness a mixed population at our café from senior orthodox people to family crowd. Third Eye café serves everyone coming at our doorstep. We are glad that people are loving this concept as well as the food served.
What kind of training does your staff undergo before serving to the customers?
We give them 15-20 days training where every single thing is taught and explained. I personally believe that staffs are the soul of a venue. We provide them with proper training, informing them about the food, menu and the serving etiquettes. We have hired a professional trainer who looks after the training carefully.
How do you hire your staff at the Cafe?
We never had and will never have a fixed hiring procedure. I only look for an inner spark… an honest zeal within them while hiring.
Are you trying to change the way people perceive the transgender community via your café?
Absolutely yes. This is one change which I am always talking about and the café has really helped me a lot in achieving at least 25 per cent of my goal towards contributing for this community. In Third Eye Café, transgenders are seen performing mainstream jobs for a livelihood like everyone else. This has motivated me a lot to do much better being inthis industry.
What are the various kinds of challenges you face while running your café?
Like any other venture, we also face a similar challenge in terms of shortage, alteration, staff management, supply of raw material and so on.
What are your expansion plans?
I want to focus solely on my current project making it a success before thinking of any expansion plans.