A club is a place for building communities of like-minded people with shared interests and energy which I call ‘hustle’, says Vivek Narain, founder and CEO The Quorum, India’s first private standalone club.
What, according to you, is a club?
Club is such an overloaded word. To me, it all about building a community of like-minded people or people with shared interests. For instance, when you talk of a golf club, the common denominator is golf or at Delhi Gymkhana, it is squash and tennis.
We are a lifestyle club, which uses culture as a catalyst to get people in and their conversations to collide. We feel that there are a lot of interesting people out there, who don’t necessarily get to know each other. People mostly get stuck up in their silos of work, school, family, and neighbourhood. The idea at Quorum is to build communities of people with culture as a catalyst. And culture can take many forms- we have everything from conversations, discourse, musical shows, food curation, performances, theatre, etc. Each month has its monthly calendar of a dozen or more events curated by our programming team presenting culture in a contemporary format. I believe that we are that third space, away from home and office, where a lot can happen. I think the boundaries have broken down on where the office ends, and leisure begins. Quorum is a place for people to work, play, meet, dine and entertain.
There have been the traditional Indian gentlemen’s clubs, five-star hotel clubs and then you even have club houses in upscale gated communities. How do you see emergence of different types of club in India?
I would say, globally there are three types of clubs- athletic clubs which are sports facility driven. Golf club are a category of their own and finally city clubs. In India, there are two main categories- the Establishment club and contemporary club. In the former category, the gentry or membership was created 70 or more years ago but today they have maxed out their membership, their capacity.
In the meantime, things have changed rapidly. India is a country on the move- today you have affluence and influence coming from all parts and India is becoming truly more meritocracies driven where you look at young unicorn founders making a difference and they mostly come from modest background, many of them even from Tier 2/3 cities. They may not get an entry into the traditional Indian clubs because of the capacity issue. But I think they are more relevant to our society today, in terms of what they are doing, creating, their ideas and influence, in terms of value creation.
We saw this gap in the market, and we addressed it. The filter we use is this – without the pretentiousness of where you are coming from, but more about where you are going- that is what matters to us. We want the club to be a high-powered room of people doing interesting things, having high quality discussions. We are not excluding based on where you are coming from, but we are actually embracing where you are going.
Talking of hotels who get into club business, frankly it’s not their core business. The hotels have typically taken out 3-5 rooms out of the hotel and reallocated them. They have bundled the hotel and the hotel services for the guests and given privileged access to certain members. On the upside, they have great locations and historic assets. But they started by giving patronage to a section of society who have been their guests in the ordinary course for eg they would go to the chairman of companies and sell their membership. And till date, continue to patronize the establishment they set up. They didn’t really build those services. It’s like a loyalty program and they are more like an airport lounge.
In the condominium clubs, there has been great amenitization of large residential developments which has created community spaces which are also called clubs. But these are simply built to sell the apartments.
What is the profile of your members? What would you say is your target audience?
Our audience is the global Indian who is citizen of the world. The idea is to create a space for such people to meet. And it’s not about just hardware or great facilities, amenities and infrastructure but also about software and people. Software is the events and the activities that we plan.
We love the fact that we have diversity of age, profession, gender and especially wanted it to have the women equal participants. Everyone in the room is of a certain level of ambition, aspiration, education, and I use the world “hustle” or energy to do interesting stuff. An antithesis of hustle is a complete atrophy of ideas. We refrain from calling ourselves a networking club as we believe in organic connections. In this room, if you organically collide, then networking will be the outcome.
There is so much hustle in our rooms– you will find the Chairman of an established company meet a one-year-old founder of a start up at the bar, collide, have conversations, and strike a deal, all this without our intervention. I have seen this happen so many times in front of my eyes.
For the record, children are not allowed, except for Sundays.
You have this itinerary of events which range from wine tasting to theatre and art appreciation. What kind of events are popular at the club and what do the people want?
Different strokes for different folks. But I see people enjoy Sufis and qawwali nights. They also love theatre and are perhaps reacting to a gap in good contemporary theatre. They are very keen on conversations about politics and love discourses on literature. Of course, Bollywood sells, and lifestyle events also click with many.
How important is food and beverages in a club and what kind of food is finding favour?
Food is actually one of the most important attributes in a club. And In India, it is the Indian food which reigns supreme. I would say that the next ten years belong to Indian food globally thanks to the richness of our flavors and heritage of our food. Indian fusion is also popular with the global Indian. Next to Indian food is Asian food followed by comfort food like Italian. Authenticity is very important when it comes to food.
Beverages are significant. Those days of that subsidized 8 Rs tea at traditional old school clubs are over. Nowadays people want the best coffee. We have tied up with the best coffee maker from Mumbai. Food and beverages are a non-compromise item and people have high expectations.