While passing through the tertiary hospital Lal Ded in Srinagar during the evening hours, you will come across a recently opened mobile fast food outlet “Chew N Brew”. The rush of customers at this outlet on wheels depicts how evening life in Kashmir is gradually picking up after it was shut over for more than 25 years to the gun violence.
This area where it serves fast food to the customers especially attendants of patients undergoing treatment at hospital during late hours was the hot bed of militancy in 990’s. Locals remember number of militant actions in this area during the peak of militancy and how government forces would frisk commuters and sometimes would beat them for venturing out late in the evening.
“As I see the customers relishing food at this mobile restaurant from the window of my house, I feel awestruck. This place was often manned by the government forces earlier. Today this restaurant is depicting the changing phase of turmoil to peace,” says Ghulam Nabi, local resident.
The Chew N Brew is the second fast food mobile outlet perhaps in Srinagar. Two years ago, Infusion another mobile restaurant started serving food to the customers near city centre Lal chowk.
While the violence in Kashmir left deep wounds over its economy and created a militia of over 6 lakh unemployed educated youth, the youths have started exploring different areas of economic opportunities to earn their livelihood.
During the evening hours, a large number of youth are spotted setting up stalls on the roadsides serving snacks, barbeque and other food keeping the city alive and thriving.
The owner of the Brew N Chew, Sajad Ahmad Bhat who has pursued Masters in Business Administration in International Business Marketing from Bharatiya Vidyapeeth University was also inspired to set up his unit after observing that business in Kashmir is picking up till late hours and can help to grow.
Prior to his MBA, he was driving auto rickshaw in city while prusing his graduation.
“I am an orphan and my elder brother a salesman by profession brought me up. I was driving auto rickshaw to sustain my livelihood. But I was always trying to do something big and more dignified,” says Bhat.
“I availed the educational loan to purse studies in Pune. Unlike others I decided to set my own business and sought help from Entrepreneur Development Institute (EDI) for finance and training to set this mobile restaurant”.
Before his Brew N Chew, Bhat owned a restaurant in Pune which he sold to overcome the economic losses back home in 2014 devastating floods.
He is in true sense mulling to take the dividends of prevailing peace in valley barring some stray incidents of violence.
“I am planning to open more such units in other districts to expand my business. I am surprised and equally ecstatic to see the response of customers,” he says.
Chew N Brew food van has two fixed spots at different timings in city to serve the food. During day time from 2 PM to 6.30 PM it halts at Jhelum banks on Silk Factory Road. In the evening it shifts to outside the gate of Lal Ded Hospital and remains open till 11:30 PM.
As the Kashmir is witnessing the substantial footfalls of tourist in summers to beat the scorching heat in other parts of country, Bhat has set up the varied range of food including vegetarian and non vegetarian in its menu to serve all choices of customers.
“The arrival of tourists is a blessing since it will boost our business further and we keep menu ready accordingly to please possibly all types of customers. “
For the holy month of Ramadan, Brew n Chew has a different menu and special varieties to serve.
“Lal Ded area has no fast food outlet around so I decided to set the van here for our second shift to attract maximum customers,” says Bhat. “Mostly the attendants of patients are our customers”.
He says being innovative and hardworking gives one satisfaction both economically and socially.
The story first appeared in the print edition of May 25, 2016.