Thank you to Metroblogging Karachi for forcing us to get the T2F blog going. Between carpenters, electricians, painters, and 42,069 tasks, it has been on the backburner for longer than we wanted. We also thought it best to get onto an independent soapbox to ramble on about the why’s and wherefore’s of The Second Floor just in case this post gets a bit too tangential and philosophical.
The Second Floor was born out of multiple desires and a few frustrations.
First up, this is not about making it big, raking in loads of cash, running a dukaan, or franchising a concept. The Second Floor is the first project of a non-profit organization called PeaceNiche (more about that dream later), and much, much, more than the coffee, it’s a platform for social change and activism. Having said that, we are intense coffee freaks and will be our own harshest critics; so the espresso better be consistently brilliant. We have always had a burning desire to set up a non-profit organization that combines passion, chutzpah, ethical business practice, technology, and the will to be a change agent. Here our some links from the website of our new media/technology company, b.i.t.s., which will provide insights into our temperament and business philosophy.
We have long bemoaned the lack of a vibrant civil society in Pakistan and recognize that people need to be provided spaces to speak up, engage with others, be intellectually challenged, and also to be entertained. We want The Second Floor to be a space for intelligent people to come hang out, share a point of view, talk about stuff that moves them, and to have fun. Hopefully, this will give rise to a community of creative, talented people with opinions, who will challenge the establishment and dare to make a difference.
As lovers of poetry, music, art, books, plus a boatload of other exciting things and, especially, of combining them with our love of technology – to which our team’s earlier CD-ROMs: 50 Years of Art in Pakistan and the much-acclaimed Faiz: Aaj Kay Naam bear witness – we were desperate for a public space where we could have small events such as readings, discussions, improv comedy, mashups, debates, and more. With nothing on offer, we decided to go ahead and throw some bricks and mortar together and create The Second Floor. So this is all quite selfish 😉
The thing about no blaring music is very, very serious. Music is in our blood but we need to hear ourselves think. We need to be able to have a conversation. There is a reason why people aren’t able to construct proper sentences anymore, “ummm, like, uhhh, you know, like whatever”, notwithstanding – the art of conversation is dead. Control has been handed over to plasma televisions and Justin Timberlake and we want to reclaim the space between our ears. Music will be selected carefully and will never be intrusive. It will be switched off if even one person wants it off. Everyone’s a stakeholder. How will we manage to make everyone happy? We don’t know – it’s up to all of us to make this work. When we have a music event, the music will be seriously loud. We’ll let you know in advance.
Is, as one of the bloggers has asked, Khayaban-e-Ittehad safe? It’s as safe as any other Karachi street or hotel basement. Is there parking? More than what’s available in Zamzama’s crowded alleyways. Maybe the street is not as well lit as it could be; something that plagues a number of roads in our city. Not much we can do about that but things can only get better. Why did we choose this location? (This may also answer the person who accused us of elitism and asked why we did not start it on the ‘other’ side.) Because b.i.t.s. is in the same building and it was convenient. We hope what we have on offer is compelling enough for you to keep coming back.
Quality. Yes, it’s true that most places start off with excellent service and great quality only to decline when the buzz dies down. We have been running b.i.t.s. for the last 7 years and started off with a 5 person team that grew to 22. However, soon enough, we realized that it’s incredibly difficult to find passionate team players who care about the details, about going beyond a veneer of superficiality. In the pursuit of growth, quality is often the first casualty, especially if you are in the business of creativity. We are now back to our original number of 5 people and only take on work that we want to; everyone’s much happier and clients keep coming back because they know we care. We have a history of taking action when it’s needed. The Second Floor works with a range of partners who have been carefully selected based on their track record for delivering quality products. If there are any quality issues, we should be the first to know, independently of our customers. If not, we deserve to have our butts kicked. Making everyone happy all the time is a fantasy but one can try. There will always be quibbles and people whom one won’t be able to please, but we urge you to be equal partners in this endeavor and help us work out the kinks rather than writing us off as touchy-feely tree huggers or big-business masquerading as socially responsible citizens.
The Second Floor is a WiFi zone. Internet access is free, courtesy Maxcom. Wireless signals will be brought to you by the Apple Airport Express. Laptops are welcome. It’s safe but do look after your stuff.
Smoking! A hugely unresolved matter. We would rather not allow smoking at The Second Floor but this will alienate a lot of potential visitors. We’ve had hugely varying reactions to this issue and we’re not sure how we will end up handling it. If only the Public Ordinance of 2002 that bans smoking in public places would be uniformly enacted across the country it would make life a lot easier. Can we form a pressure group and lobby for this to happen? Until then, there will be a separate area, of course.
Anyway, we’re here to give this a shot. It’s risky but we’re very, very excited and look forward to meeting a lot of interesting people along the way.