On vacation from his job, Umar Nazir Tibetbaqal thought of starting a business that would keep his retired engineer father busy, however, a turn of events kept him in Kashmir and establish a flourishing business. Ikhlaq Qadri reports.
Umar Nazir Tibetbaqal was enjoying his banker job in London. He was not new to the city as he had done his Bachelor’s and Master’s in business management there. On a vacation to his home in Kashmir he started a travel agency to keep his father busy.
As the travel agency business did well, he wanted to leave for London to his job in the bank. But his father refused to run the business in his absence.
“My father said, ‘Either you run the business yourself or shut it down,” Umar said.
Wisps of grey hair have started to appear on the young entrepreneur who is in his early thirties. Umar Nazir Tibetbaqal says that it makes him a bit sad when he sees his friends enjoying youth and his own hair turning grey.
Umar, the lone son of engineer Nazir Ahmad Tibetbaqal, studied at Burn Hall School up to 10th and then passed higher secondary from Tyndale Biscoe School. Immediately after passing Class 12 he left for London to pursue business management, where he did the Bachlor’s in business management and then Master’s in the same subject. Always aiming high he did a diploma in Finance and International Business from the prestigious London School of Economics.
Soon after completing the diploma, Umar got a job in a bank in London. He was happy with his job and came to Kashmir to spend his two month holidays.
“Coming home on vacations was turning point of my life,” remembered Omar.
During his holidays he planned to start a business that would keep his father busy, who had retired from service. The ticketing agency that he started at Residency Road in Lal Chowk did well in a short period of time. Meanwhile, he wanted to return to his bank job in London but his father declined to run the business.
Umar recalls an interesting instance from his ticketing agency days. “As Amarnath Yatra started, someone called me and asked for chopper tickets. This was new to me, but I said yes we will arrange. I went to Amarnath Yatra Office in Rajbagh and Alhamdu Lillah managed to get the chopper tickets.”
With this Omar forayed into the inbound tourism and later started offering Hajj and Umrah services. “Once in Delhi someone called and sought my willingness to do the Hajj and Umrah services. I accepted and went to Mumbai. The person there, however, declined to provide me the requisite facilities.”
But Omar was not the one to get discouraged. He approached Al- Khalid Company of Saudi Arabia for starting the Hajj and Umrah services.
“They asked me if there was someone in Mumbai who knows me. I gave them the contact number of my relatives who assured them that they can trust and have business with me. Allah knows how everything happened,” he said.
In 2006, Umar’s company, Labaika Hajj and Umrah Services, sent the first batch of 21 people on Umrah (lesser pilgrimage). The company that started with a capital of around Rs 20 lakh, is currently having an annual turnover of around Rs. 8 crore.
“Alhamdu Lillah our turnover is around Rs 8 Crore.”
Labaika Hajj and Umrah services is the first company to be registered with Company House England, and has won excellence award for travel services for the last three consecutive terms. “We got appreciation from House of Lords for our Hajj and Umrah services as British MP Lord Ahmad Patel went on Hajj with us.”
When the last year’s summer unrest brought life in Kashmir to a halt, Umar thought of leaving as some of his friends did.
“I reached to only one conclusion that I should better stop or hand it over to my father and migrate to England for a better future as my other friends did.”
In the meantime he went on Hajj pilgrimage.
“For six months there was no business activity, which made me rethink about my career. I left for Hajj and prayed for guidance to the right path.”
On his return to Kashmir after performing Hajj, Umar discussed the idea of launching a tea company with his father and grandfather. His grandfather who was wholesale dealer for tea five decades ago, scoffed at the idea. “My Dad and grandfather laughed at me by saying that you will figure nowhere as there are big players in the (tea) market.”
But the dreamer, persuaded his father and grandfather by strange reasoning.
“If I won’t take risk at this time, I never can,” he told them.
He along with his grandfather, who had experience in tea business, left for Assam. Having a few friends in tea business helped Omar.
“It is not every body’s cup of tea. We put in a lot of hard work – collecting different tea leaves and making blends. At last we found the combination which gave a different colour and taste.”
He procured around 100 quintals of tea leaves. On his return, Umar built a factory near his home where the grading, processing and packaging of tea takes place. He named it, Labaika Trading Establishment with an investment of around 30 lakhs.
Before launching the tea in the market Umar gave samples of the tea to his family and then his friends and also introduced free samples in market two months prior to the launch. After the launch, he says, the response has been good. “Alhamdu Lillah the response is good. We are having more than 350 distributors.”
Stating that quality was more important than profit Omar said, “Profit is important but quality is utmost important.”
The entrepreneur is planning to add pulses and edible oil to his business.
“In the autumn we will be ready with pulses and we will make it (the brand) a household name in Kashmir.”
He believes that whatever has come in his way is all because of Hajj and Umrah Services and would continue it forever.
Umar advises youth to not to look for government job and start their own ventures. “Look beyond government jobs and start creating avenues. You can provide employment (to others)”.
He, however, was critical of the government, which he said, makes tall claims of boosting entrepreneurship in the state but does nothing on ground to boost entrepreneurship. He is also anguished over the widespread corruption in the government.
“In Kashmir, not greasing palms means your file will gather dust (in government offices).”
Even after getting so much success, Umar sometimes yearns for leaving Kashmir and returning to London.
“When the situation turns bad, I regret my decision of coming here as in West MBA degree is considered as the golden degree. Then I think it is better to work for self then to be at someone else’s discretion.”