A mother and her three daughters have converted their idyllic ancestral estate-cum-vacation home into a quaint coffee shop and exclusive resort. Here’s the story of these four women who realised their dream and Halli Berri, the resort, and Coffee Barn – the coffee shop – came to form.
Speaking about her creation, Nalima Kariappa – the mother at the helm says, “Halli Berri was started as I wanted to keep the cobwebs away from a house built for my daughter, and maybe meet like-minded people. The goal was that if opened, it should be an amazing experience where you relax and spend quality time and participate in the workings of a coffee plantation. It was started with the intention to give jobs to local people. However, we do face many limitations as they are mostly uneducated or semi-educated something that we are working very hard to overcome through our developmental initiatives.
Would I do it again? Oh gosh no!! I was too ambitious and did not listen to reason! Working against stereotype thinking, red-tapism and various other issues related to gender discrimination is an uphill task and keeps me on my toes but I sleep at night; a sound sleep at that with the vision that my daughters and I are here to make a difference and to make it count!!“
33-year old Anusha Kariappa, one of the daughters, speaks to Meera Warrier about the fascinating journey of Halli Berri. Anusha holds a full-time role as a Captain with IndiGo Airlines in addition to managing her three-year-old son and the packaging for Halli Berri – the unit for which is within her home.
How did the thought take birth?
We were all born and brought up in Bangalore. However, all our summers and every vacation was spent in Chikmagalur. So, this is actually home for us.
This was actually mom and dad’s dream – to start a coffee shop. However, with our upbringing, life in general took over and it didn’t happen. We lost our dad in 2007 and that’s when we thought we must do something about this. My sister moved back to India from the US in 2007. After much deliberation the coffee shop started. Coffee Barn – as a little place with a thatched roof where we served great coffee and simple biscuits.
What does the name “Halli Berri” signify?
Halli means village in our language. The name of our estate, in fact, is Kambi Halli – kambi is iron, soil rich in iron and halli is village. Berri is the coffee itself.
Tell me more about the coffee shop.
We set up Coffee Barn in 2008. In reality, the seed thought was to have a clean and hygienic bathroom for travellers. One of the things that struck us though our travels was the absence of it. So our bathroom at Coffee Barn is very clean – in fact, it is a highlight. You will see it in all the reviews (chuckling softly).
We get more tourists than locals, people try to make a day trip of it.
How did the coffee retailing begin?
We have always sold the coffee from our estate in the wholesale market as part of the Rainforest Alliance. However, from 2008, we began keeping a small portion for our own brand. Its all home-grown – grown on our estate, ground in a small unit right here and then sold. In addition to Coffee Barn, we are currently retailing from Nature’s Basket Bangalore and The Bagel Shop, Bandra. We hope to soon begin retailing in New Delhi too. The idea is to, eventually, retail all our produce ourselves.
I read about the socially responsible initiatives at Halli Berri. Can you detail that out, please?
My grandfather has always practiced responsible business methods. Back in the 1930s, he set it as mandatory that no child labor ever be employed on the estate. All his estate staff had to mandatorily send their kids to school. We have just taken forward that concept.
With Mom coming in, she added an element of breakfast for the kids. On their way to school, kids of all the laborers get their morning breakfast at the Coffee Barn – bread, omelet and glass of milk. And a glass of milk on their way back.
In fact, a lot of people dissuaded us by saying that if we educate these kids, they will migrate to the town for jobs and we won’t have people to work on the estate. But that was not a consideration for us. We wanted the kids to have an education and then make an informed choice. We have had instances of these kids coming back to work with us. There is a boy who is now working with us at the Estate. He was employed with coffee shops in Bangalore and decided that city life is not for him and so has come back.
So, how did the resort come to life?
Mum wanted to set up this resort. However, our intention was to keep this niche and exclusive. Today, if you look at the numbers of resorts operating in the region, the numbers are staggering. We wanted to do something that is unique and doesn’t seem crowded.
So, we stated Halli Berri with two cottages – we wanted to make it spectacular. We designed it ourselves – mom and I. This is really a combination of our experiences across the world. Everything has been hand-picked. The tiles come from Athangudi, a village close by; they are hand-made. That’s only the splash of color in the rooms – everything else is white. We retained the colonial style of rooms which is the heritage of Chikmagalur.
We have designed Halli Berri as a very private getaway. Most people who stay with us take both cottages and hence have their privacy. We prefer it that way. Each room can take three people. We don’t allow more.
Once the guests arrive at Halli Berri, they have a free run of everything. They can take a coffee tour; in fact, they can be a part of some of our processes too. Guests who join us from November to February of every year can actually pluck the coffee too.
We have a stream running through the estate. And it adds to the charm of Halli Berri. Some of our guests prefer to picnic by its banks, in which case we pack a picnic lunch for them. There is no television, no wireless connectivity – you have just yourselves, your books and the nature for company. We intended it this way.
So, how has it been working with the locals?
We have observed that in these regions, women are the ones who are working – men are quite lazy. And by employing these women, we are supporting these women to educate their children.
In fact, we have quite a few success stories from these areas. One of our kids is now a top LIC agent in Mumbai, a millionaire actually. His father worked with us as a manager, and dad got all his children educated. They are all doing very well, much better than any of us. It is a very humbling experience for all of us when we see the way they conduct themselves in spite of this success. Similarly, our cook has been with us for about 40 years and his daughter is now a teacher in a government school. So we see a lot of lives being transformed and it is very heartening to see that we have made a difference.
What are some of the issues you face?
Labour is one of our biggest problems. While the labor issue is not as extreme as in Kerala, it is a fairly big one. The red-tapism also has quite been quite challenging, especially since my mother has been involved in it all. The local regulators still do not take well to a woman running the show around these parts.
If it were not for mom’s perseverance and patience, this dream would never have come alive. Halli Berri would have remained a dream forever.
What are your plans for the future?
We are planning to build two more cottages. These would be very different from what we have currently. The objective is to build unique experiences.
Our USP for both the cottages has been our open air shower which also presents a very beautiful view. In fact, it is one of the things that most of our travelers speak about.
In keeping with our philosophy, these will be exclusive too, maybe a little expensive too, we hope to retail from New Delhi soon, and hopefully, take it to Chennai.
The place, Halli Berri, is an extension of what mom-dad wished, and Mom is our lucky charm. Most people, in fact, come back for Mom.