“IIMB is my god and the Coffee shop my temple”: A Conversation with Prabhakar, owner of IIMB’s famous Prabhakar Coffee Shop
Prabhakar Coffee Shop has remained a common fixture and midnight adda in the lives of countless students passing through the stonewalled corridors of IIMB. A family-run stall comprising a hardworking couple, Prabhakar and Rukmini, aided by their accommodative children, the cozy, little shop has a homely, warm and affable feeling which firmly places it in the hearts of all who visit it.
Prabhakar Coffee Shop has been on the IIMB campus for nearly 25 years. How has the experience been throughout the years?
In 1993, I had entered the campus as a vendor of Nestle products. But, the socially charged environment of the place as well as the overwhelming support of the students motivated me to opening my own shop and thus, ‘Prabhakar Coffee Shop’ was born. During the early days, my shop would be open 24 hours! I never went home, rather stayed on campus with the students. Those days were crucial in strengthening the bond I came to share with IIMB. Even in the worst times in my life, I have had immense support from within the institute. From problems with the administration to personal tragedy, I always had someone by my side.
The students and alumni of IIMB have all visited your shop at least once in their college life. What, according to you, has drawn them to the shop?
Students have always been my biggest supporters within the campus, from the initial days, when the then secretaries and presidents – Anand, Deepti, Sameer and Punit – argued for my shop with the director; to the present, when students have made business projects and models on my shop. I remember dancing and partying with the students in the hostels late at night, and learning so much from them. Even now, most of these alumni try to come to my stall at least once when they visit the campus. They have grown into CEOs and billionaires, but they have not forgotten Prabhakar!
Many retired and current professors are also patrons of your shop. How have they made a difference to you?
The faculty of the campus has always had a special relation with me: the professors have always treated me with affection and good humour, frequently enquired after my family, boosted the morale of my children and joked about my salesman tendencies! I may have faced some obstacles with the administration over the years, but the directors of the institute, especially Professors K.R.S. Murthy, Rammohan Rao and Pankaj Chandra, were always understanding and accommodative of the shop. I can also never forget the aide as well as friendship of Professors Ranganathan, Vaidyanathan, C.M.R. Reddy, Chiranjeeb Sen, Geeta Sen and M.R. Gopalan, amongst others. Even now, after their retirement, they come down to chat and reminisce with me, when in campus. Even the present professors, including Prof Raghuram, frequent my shop; they always care about the education of my children and advise me and my wife on various issues and problems that we face.
IIMB has been a significant part of your life over the past two and a half decades. How do you think it has shaped you as well as your family?
I hail from a Madanapalle, a small town in Andhra Pradesh. Growing up, education was not a major factor in my life. I unfortunately remained uneducated, never gaining enough interest to pursue studies. But, coming to IIMB, I was exposed to the immense impact of education on a person’s life. The support and guidance that the faculty constantly provided to my children have ensured their unparalleled growth. I was a mere uneducated shop vendor, but the warmth and acceptance of the campus and its inhabitants towards me and my family moves me to tears. The institute has also opened my eyes to the importance of family and togetherness: I may have enjoyed the initial days of partying, but I have accomplished much more with the constant love, support and aide of my wife, Rukmini, and our children. This campus and my tea stall have been a major part of my life. It gave me and my family a chance to grow, and given us a life that we can be proud of. I consider IIMB my god, and the tea stall a temple of my devotion. I am ready to be here for an eternity, because this will always be my home.