The internet is dramatically changing our lives. It is one of the most essential needs in today’s life. It acts as a lifeline for many. It is changing the way we live, work, recreate, react and see others. All we want is free access to internet. But before we were so addicted to the net, getting online was always only an idle pastime, to be indulged once we had finished with the office or college work.
But over time, as the popularity and urge for the internet grew, cyber cafes became a rage and one of the safest business opportunities for young entrepreneurs. They came to serve one of the primary needs of our lives.
As of today, despite the fact that there are numerous cyber cafes in Delhi, it is hardly a profitable venture now.
I still remember going to the internet cafe for my college projects when there was hardly any smartphones in our lives. Cyber cafe was the only resort where our due projects, home works and assignments were made. Not only this, from Orkut to Facebook and Twitter, one’s venture into social media were also carried out from internet cafes
With the advent of technology and broadband internet services, however, cyber cafes have become a redundancy. One hardly sees people at these establishments anymore. Before the onslaught of the smartphone, cyber cafes made their business, at their peak, charging Rs 15-20 per hour.
“I have been in this business for the last 15 years. My cyber cafes are in GTB Nagar and Kamla nagar in north, and both of them are not doing well. Earlier the scene was different, given these places were, and still are, very popular with students. I used to make big money back then. But now, hardly anyone comes to these cafes.”
But those days are long gone. Business is poor for most cyber cafe owners now. Aabid Hasan, of Web Connect Cyber Cafe, says, “I have been in this business for the last 15 years. My cyber cafes are in GTB Nagar and Kamla nagar in north, and both of them are not doing well. Earlier the scene was different, given these places were, and still are, very popular with students. I used to make big money back then. But now, hardly anyone comes to these cafes. They only come here for some print outs and they are those who don’t they have WiFi attached to their printers at home. I get two or three customers a day.”
Anupam Choudhary has his internet cafe in Mukherjee nagar of north Delhi. He says, “I opened Sai Cyber Cafe in 2000. It was a good time for me. But now, I can only see students in my cafe when they have to fill their admission forms or job application forms. Earlier, students used to come for Facebook and stuff. For online games. But now there is no such demand from them.”
The same downturn in the internet cafe business can be witnessed in other parts of Delhi. Saini Verma, of Saini Cyber Cafe in Lajpat Nagar, says, “There is a tremendous fall in our business. It is so evident now that I have to look for other business aspects also. Gone are the days when we had cafes crowded with students.”
But there is still some section of the society that depends on cyber cafes for their online needs. “My mother is a maid and I cannot afford to have a laptop at home. For most of my works, I have to rush to the internet cafe nearby. Not everyone has smart phones till date.” says Aman Kumar.
Manna Adhikari, of Adhikari Cyber Cafe in New Ashok Nagar, says, “There are school students and college-goers who belong to humble backgrounds and frequently visit internet cafes to get their work done. They are mostly poor students and that is why they still depend on us.”
Anil Kumar, of Smart Technologies, who has completed a decade in this business, says, “I still remember that my cyber cafe was one of the most popular cafes of in GTB Nagar. I had provided fully air-conditioned rooms and used to charge more than others only due to this. But as of now, I cannot see this as a lucrative business.”
Many such cafes have even been shut down in the national capital, owing to a steep decline in their customer base. The ones that remain, seem to clutching at straws in the age of hi-tech.