[VoxSpace Life] Get On Board Cafe : The Story Behind Hyderabad’s First Board Games Cafe

A Cafe With A Simple Nostalgic Reference – Board Games

As it so happened, rather than rotting in my room over the weekend, I made it a point to do the next best thing. Roam around the city aimlessly, collecting layers of thick dust on my face. You see, that’s my hobby. Anyway, as I took my bike, and navigated across the length and breadth of the city, I came across a simple signboard, right near Tonique at Madhapur. It sparked a memory, of a friend telling about this cafe, which was truly picking up because of its innovative working. It was a cafe unlike anything else. The name read Get On Board Cafe – The Board Game Cafe. Thus, I needed to check it out, and after a game of Sequence, and a swift gulp of Virgin Mojito, I knew this could truly be a wonderful hangout place for me and my team. Yup if you don’t find anyone from VoxSpace team across the city at any time, you know where to find us now.

And so it was imperative for me to interview, the ever smiling lady behind the concept and establishment of ‘Get On Board Cafe’, Mrs Sireesha Behara and get to know the story of it, just like the old days.

The Idea Behind ‘Get On Board Cafe’ And How It All Started

As we were residing in the US, specifically Chicago for the past 12 years, we came across different ways of spending our leisure time there at. As you know, the city’s winter is truly hurdling, and so at that time, we were being restricted to our homes for the most time. At that point, we started procuring and playing board games. We would call our friends, relatives and community members, to gather around and play board games, just for fun, and more so as a hobby. Slowly, the hobby turned into a passion, where we saw ourselves truly collecting board games, and mastering them as well.

Thus, we started ‘Get On Board Café‘ purely out of our love and passion for Board Games. We wouldn’t term it as a business per se. It is more of an extension of our hobby. At any time, you walk into our Café, we are more excited to teach you a new game here than anything else. My husband and I, we are doing what we love to do. So, we never look at it from a financial point of view.

So, after Chicago, we returned to India for a short while and then moved to Prague. Now, after moving back for good, we started ‘Get On Board’ just a month and a half back. The reason for not starting this in Prague itself is that we wanted to introduce these international board games to the Indian community as well. Also as a concept, it is something very new for the Indian community, and we wanted to spread it here. The fact of the day was, we found out in our stay in Prague that, in the Board Games, the strategies that Indians use are much better than anyone else. So it was a simple revelation, that the Indian community is naturally gifted to play these games. That prompted us to bring the whole concept here.

On Choosing Hyderabad As The First City To Bring A Board Game Cafe….

Well, it’s simple. We are Telugu people, both My husband and I, and so our natural choice was to come to Hyderabad with this concept. Apart from that, the reason for choosing this city, Hyderabad, over others is two-fold. One being it is a growing city, and the other is the vibrancy of it. Because of the IT working population here, we have found that they are more into trying out new things and choosing new places to unwind, rather than any other sections. Also, it helps that the city boasts of a major young working crowd. They have the time, will and resources to try out different things in life, and that’s where we fit in.

Another major factor was the area distribution. In cities like Mumbai or Bangalore, it is a major problem commuting over the expanse of the city. But here, in our city, commuting is fairly easy, and that works for us because of the location here in Madhapur.

The Story Of The Minds Behind The Cafe – Sireesha And Bhujang Behara

I belong to Vishakapatnam, and I’ve done my BBM and MBA from Gitam University. On the other hand, My husband did his MBA from IIM-Bangalore. We got married in 2001. Since 2001, we were in Chicago, until recently when we moved back. After coming back, I did B.ED, as I always wanted to work with the education of kids. I was a gold medalist in B.ED. and since have decided to take this BoardGames concept to children as well. That’s the primary reason to have trivia games within our collection. Most of them are IQ related and enhancing games. Back in Prague, I have been trained as an IQ Enhancement Programmer. Thus, I am equipped to develop a Kid’s IQ in a clinical way. I go to different schools, and take different classes, and partake in IQ Enhancement for children. Presently, I am involved with Pragathi Central School presently. However, I might be taking a few more schools in the future, all willing. Having said so, my focus today is GetOnBoard Café and its sustainability.

On The Ideology Behind ‘Get On Board Cafe’ And Procuring The Board Games….

The Board Games you see here, are our lifetime collections. Every board game here is our personal collection, and perhaps that is how we preserve our memories of our life. Each and every game has been handpicked. We go to  YouTube and try to see how different countries are coming up with new board games, and how these games would connect with an average Indian customer. That’s how we choose a game.

Our favourite games in the lot of 600 odd board games here are – Ticket To Rail, Medieval Academy. And perhaps the toughest game we’ve played in the collection are Captain Sonar and High Society.

Once we pick a game, we make it a point to play it. Our family, including our son, we take time out, to play and perhaps even master the rules of the game, and truly enjoy the essence of it. Once we do that, we can recommend something to the customers here.
As far as the name goes, we basically drew inspiration from the aeroplane boarding call. So we think, by naming our Café Get On Board, we are facilitating our customers to be transported back to their childhood memories and newer experiences. Hence the name.

How Does An Average Customer Get Truly ‘On Board’

We have divided our games according to the strategy level. The first thing we do when a customer walks in is, we ask him or her whether they’ve played any board games previously or not. Depending on the answer, we suggest a game for them. For example, if he is just starting out, we suggest a simpler GetAway game, wherein a beginner would feel comfortable playing them. If I directly jump out to second level strategy games, it might not fit well with the customers. The customer might not even return to us again.

So we have divided our games into – GetAway Games, Mediocre Strategy Games (which takes an hour to complete), High Strategy Games (which would take about 3 hours to play) and Dexterity Games (which involves motor skills to play them, for example, Jenga, Jungle Speed, Eureka etc). The Dexterity games develop your fine motor skills, and we recommend these games specifically to those in need of honing their motor skills.

Apart from these sections, we also have a fine collection of games in Trivia, IQ, Word Building etc. When it comes to choosing a game for the customer, we basically profile them before taking a call. Also depends on the gathering. Whether it is a family crowd or a group of women etc. The idea is to give them BoardGames which are easy as well as fun to the customer, initially. Then, slowly as the customer grows in expertise and confidence, we introduce him to tougher and complex games. So generally we pick a game, depending on the awareness, their previous experiences, and various other factors. We also ask them a simple question – Do You Want To Play A Specific Game? Now, if they have something specific in mind, we give them that no questions asked. Because at the end of the day, they need to feel the fun coming here. Later we suggest something of a similar or a different game depending on different factors.

The Challenges In Establishing ‘Get On Board Cafe’

Although we are just starting out, practically its been just a month and a half, starting this, we have gained really good word of mouth publicity. Now, since we have handcrafted the whole working of the Café, we often have customers specifically ask for us, when they are visiting for their team outings and events etc. Sometimes we aren’t in the position to make it, and that makes the difference. Hence, I would say, for other “Game Gurus” who we are delegating the managerial positions, to come in with the same kind of passion and involvement, may take a little more time. “Game Guru” in this scenario, is someone who explains the games to the customers and makes them comfortable with the environment. So apart from My husband and I, we are recruiting people to become “Game Gurus” within the café.

The main challenge in this regard, in the mindset that says BoardGames are for Kids. Awareness that BoardGames are equally challenging and useful for the adults as well, is something we had to deal with. So some sort of education needs to go into it. Here’s where our Comic-Con presentation helped us out. That truly helped us out, as customers flocked to our store right after it.

Another thing is, we try to understand the psyche of the group playing the game. The fun lies in subtly sort of pitting them against one other, and that’s where they truly enjoy the game. To instil that competitive spirit is essential and it requires years of practice. So the management of the groups is a careful process. We have to make them welcome and at the same time get involved with the game. That’s what is fun.

On Why Board Gaming Is Perhaps The True Social Networking Platform….

I prefer to call our café as the real social network. Since people are presently coming here through word of mouth recommendations, references and such, they arrive with an open mind and willingness to try something out new. Hence, it makes our job easy to kind of appeal to their sportive spirit, and make them play. And that is most apparent in group events, and they ask for us specifically. They are open to newness of the concept. Thus, it becomes the best place to socially connect and reconnect. Hence this is the best way of Social Networking.

The spirit of gaming is in having fun about it and we ensure that. We personally ensure that we talk to the players, give them some sort of encouragement and inspiration.

Also, we’ve developed an ecosystem where everyone can come and play BoardGames irrespective of their belongings and preferences. So families, teams, groups, and friends as well, everyone feels highly welcome and in turn create a friendly environment. We’ve made the whole place resonate the idea of flexible gaming and comfort while doing so. So this is a place for people to come, game and unwind. Also, you can reserve tables for the whole day, you know, with an attached Café you get your food, shakes, drinks and everything. So our idea is to make people enjoy their gaming spirit to the fullest.

What Does The Future Hold For ‘Get On Board Cafe’

At this point, it is still early days for the store. So we are focusing our energies on bringing the café to its sustainable best. We need to figure out a lot many things, new exciting things, demographics, and more before we take the next big step. Hence, we are at a stage of weighing our options. Of course, somewhere in future, we do want to branch out to at least two other places in Hyderabad. So we are still figuring out different options and exposure ideas and more. Obviously, it will take time, so that we can by nature of the business, grow organically.