by Syed Ahmad Rufai
SRINAGAR: It was November 23, an unusually hot and sweaty Tuesday of 2021, but for two youngsters it was an idea jumping into reality. Five months later, engineers Haris Wani and Imran Ahmad War, 26, the Cafe owners, and their eight employees are happy that they have finally made it.
They were roommates at a private college where they wanted to create something that will bridge the longer distances and still offer the best of the food. They fought odds to manage it happen and they are excited over the success.
Entry into their cafe surprises all. As soon as the door opens, eyes catch the writing on the wall – ‘Live, Laugh, Eat’. It smells wild and soon the tangy and flavoursome savoury smells pleasantly tickle the olfactory sense. All tables are occupied, on three continental, Mexican, and KFC styled dishes are served to customers.
It was just after Srinagar had geared up to launch KFC and Pizza Hut that Haris and Imran come up with a café that would do the same without two things – a brand and the location. The Wild Cumin Café located in Sopore decided to decentralise the cliché food market in Srinagar and serve the ever-growing appetite of people by bridging the distances.
Locating The Spot
It was in June 2021, when Haris and Imran found the “perfect place” for the café. In stage two was naming it as Cumin, a spice mainly found in Afghanistan. Interestingly, however, promoters say they use wild cumin cultivated mainly in Machil, Gurez, Karil, Leh, Paddar and Kishtwar. “We serve dishes based on the aromatic wild cumin spice, which we acquire from these local cultivators, in a way trying to generate some revenue for them,” Imran said.
In 2018, they had inked a pact with Parsas.“At Wild Cumin Café we actively engaged on social media, even when the café was under construction,” Imran said. “We continued getting immense positive responses from users on.” He said they even seek customer preferences using social media about the menu. With a business model already operational, they wish to create a network.
Centered In North
The café owners belong to north Kashmir’s two different areas. Haris was born and brought up in Lolab (Kupwara), born after his father’s death and nurtured by his grandparents. Imran belongs to Sopore but was brought up in Pattan. A decade later, Haris and Imran completed their bachelor’s in electrical engineering. They were roommates during their studies. Academics apart, both were determined to start a business. They finally started an outlet of Parsa’s in December 2018. Interestingly, the families of both the young engineers wanted them to have simple jobs and they never expected them to be employers.
They started from a worst-case scenario. At the very outset, they had to manage the crippling situation of the reading down of Article 370 and the Covid19 pandemic. They were barely six months in business in August 2019. To manage their debts, Haris moved to Delhi and Imran took care of the outlet. For 10 months, Haris’s salary would credit to Imran’s bank account, who would manage the liabilities. Somehow, with the help from Parsas, they stayed afloat.
Social Causes, Motivation
While they are still struggling to manage the investments after a re-start five months back, they are happy they are on right track. This satisfaction helps them to handhold small local societal initiatives. In the last winter, they were part of the clothes’ collections initiative to help the destitute manage their harsh winter better.
“We are always trying to do something that is not essentially for us,” Imran said. “On February 15, we had a blood donation camp at our cafe.” The café promotes artists to showcase their talent by organising open mic concerts too. “Recently, we provided our café space to F22-photography club that strives to impart knowledge on photography among the interested ones,” Haris said. They say they feel content with the people finding their space as part of their discourses. “This is what makes us happy,” Haris said. “This is an acknowledgement of the efforts that we put in and the challenges we managed for all these years. This is the real takeaway.”
Now they are planning to have a year-long calendar of social activities that will operate from the cafe.