Babar Chowdhary, Managing Director of Hattrick Group, which runs one of the largest chain of restaurants in Kashmir, is of the opinion that Kashmir’s agri-horticulture sector has a potential to substantially reduce Kashmir’s ‘economic dependence’.
If due attention is paid to farm and fruit sector, he believes, it could fetch the state revenue more than Rs 50,000 crore revenue annually.
In an interview with Ziraat Times, Mr. Babar, who at a young age has become an Executive Member of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), talks about his business, J&K’s economy and the potential of horticulture, tourism sectors. Excerpts:
ZT. Tell us something about yourself?
I am born and brought up in Kashmir. I have done my schooling from Burn Hall School, then MBA from outside the state. In 2005, I joined my father’s business as an employee. That was the learning curve which made me understand nitty-gritty of business in Kashmir. Honestly speaking, I have learned everything by being part of my father’s business. Though it is said that joining family business is a cake-walk, I disagree with that, partly because of the fact that in family businesses you are constantly judged. But it is a great experience and today am what I am because of this experience.
ZT. Tell us more about the nature of your business and your future plans.
Our ancestral business is fruit business. My father Showkat Chowdhary later started Hattrick Group and Babar Enterprises. Over a period of time, we have diversified our businesses from hospitality sector to education. Currently, we have a chain of 29 outlets of Hattrick Foods spanning across Kashmir. Few years back, our group ventured into education sector in the shape of Hattrick Public School. Now we are planning to expand our business to Jammu by opening Hattrick Food outlets in the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
ZT. You talked about fruit business. How do you see its scope in Kashmir?
Honestly speaking, horticulture sector is the savior of our economy. There is no denying this fact. If properly explored, this sector has a potential to give you a revenue of more than Rs 50000 crore annually. Besides, it is not dependent on situation like tourism and other sectors. Weather is conducive for it and what else do we need?The only challenge is to match up to the scientific interventions and technologies of developed countries in order maximize our productivity and quality.
ZT. Being a young businessman how is your experience of working in Kashmir?
Frankly speaking, Kashmir is one of the toughest places to work in for a businessman or an entrepreneur. Political conflict has left a deep sense of uncertainty, something that is hampering the business progress.
Take, for example, the tourism sector. With more than Rs 1 lakh crore of investment, it is failing to attract even few hundred crore rupee business. Besides, there are other factors which are contributing to dwindling fortunes of the hospitality sector. Kashmir is facing road connectivity issue. In last 70 years we failed to develop an all weather road. These things contribute to agonies of the business community. But having said this, everything is not lost. Still, if one is patient and have a big heart, he /she can succeed in Kashmir.
ZT. You have been elected as an executive member of KCCI. How did you see your business experience contributing in promoting business and investment in J&K?
It is a dream come true from me to be a part of an apex business chamber of Kashmir. Chamber has a great legacy in Kashmir’s business. This chamber has been represented by stalwarts of business and commerce, and being an executive member is an honor and huge responsibility on my shoulders.
Being a young member, I am being encouraged by my seniors, including President, KCCI, Mr. Sheikh Ashiq. He is always willing to help youngsters and gives them an opportunity. It is a good sign for the business of Kashmir. I believe youth have a lot to contribute to the Kashmir’s economy. We cannot afford brain drain of our talented minds. We have to ensure that they get an opportunity to do something positive here.
ZT. Do you think that J&K’s private sector can help address the problem of unemployment in a meaningful way in the state?
I think that private sector can help a lot in solving the problem of unemployment. Also, the youngsters are now joining the private sector. We at Chowdhary Group have at least 500 employees who are on the company’s payrolls. More than 900 people are working with us as business agents or franchisees. If private sector is fully developed in the state, the problem of unemployment will be solved once and for all. We have to think out-of-box solutions.
ZT. What do you mean out of box solutions?
Out of box solutions is doing something which is new and fresh. Take Ziraat Times, for example. It is an idea, an initiative which talks about something new and fresh – our economy. We have so many newspapers that cover politics and related issues. But here Arjimand Sahab has come up with an idea of coming up with a paper that talks about economy, horticulture and other segments of business. This in itself is an out of box thinking. It would attract people and will have a huge potential.
ZT. Your advice for young entrepreneurs
Nothing is impossible; you should have grit and determination to work. Success or failure is not the end of the world. Keep trying even if you fail, there is no harm in it. But try and try. Success will follow you.
ZT: Thank you very much, Mr Babar, for taking the time to talk to Ziraat Times. It has been a pleasure.