Will and Smith, is Will Smith(Lame Joke-but come on, this is the chief cynic striking again. Gimme some laugh); will and determination is success. We’ve heard a million times right? Where there is a will, there is a way. Well, that’s the problem with us, we hear it, and never dig into it. You (not all of you. I know you my fellas; I know you are good too) think of Nepal, and you think of no opportunities. You (read the previous sentence again. Here in this bracket for second time? Then carry on after this bracket) think of Nepal, and you think of fleeing abroad; you think of your land and you think of draining your brain or sweat or whatever to wherever but Nepal. Ughhhhhh… This is intriguing. Truly disappointing. *shrugs* We have to do something; I have to do something. Well, here we go.
My grandfather once said, “Motivation is like a medicine, until you are fully recovered, you’ll need a certain dose of it in regular interval.” (Well not actually my grandfather, it was me. Bringing in some elderly figures builds in trust I experienced). So, we at Grocrastinate, decided to help you with three week of high motivation. Real high motivation. Get stoned or whatever, grab it, juice it and drink it- do whatever, but do take something. Here we bring you *gasps**drumrolls growing louder* ‘Foreign Fuccess Stories’*applauds*
Well, this series is not just a normal series. We here are bringing you the stories from those personalities, who’ve left their homeland, and have started ‘food business’ in this very country of ours. A huge and tight slap to the ones speaking of ‘no opportunities’ in this wonderful land.
So, first to our foreign fuccess story is a guy of determination, A Syrian native, co-founder of ‘Taza’, Bassel Shreiqi. Mild voice tone, strongly built, this guy is any adjective you’d find for humble and down to earth. This wonderful mid-eastern cuisine server is located just in-front of Pulchowk Engineering Campus entrance, and is sure to bring out new joy to your taste buds. With some Adele and other English numbers on background, we had about an hour long talk with him. Well fellas, let’s get down to what conversation we had.
Let us hear you describe yourself in really short Bassel.
Well, I never thought about myself in detail but I always think myself as a very simple person. I like simple things, simple ideas, and simple life. I have no dreams of luxury life and am not fascinated by this idea. That’s one of the many reasons I like it here. Nepal is not complicated. Nepalese are not complicated. And I feel this is the way we should live you know; simple.
Why at the first place you chose Nepal for your business?
You guys know that I am married to a Nepali woman right? (Laughs) Well, basically that’s the main reason. I heard about Nepal before I married Sangita Lama too; even before I left Syria. Then I moved to Dubai in 2007, where I started meeting Nepalese. And then I met her, and we got married. We visited the country for couple of times for holidays, before we settled. I always liked this country because of its simplicity.
*Stops in between. He speaks “That’s the general answer. If you guys want more details, I can share them too” So, here is the rest of the story.
Before I had any compulsion too, I always thought if coming to Nepal, honestly. But then we had time when we had our daughter, and could not get passport for our daughter. Basically, Syrian documentation would take years and years of processes, and we had to keep on paying penalties to UAE government for our daughter’s extended stay. Though I have not been able to give her a passport now too, it’s simple in Nepal.
Before I only had will, now I had compulsion too. Thus to sum up, my will and compulsion made me choose Nepal.
How did the idea of ‘Taza’ first emerge?
Here’s how it began. Before we left Dubai, we always had in mind that when we get down to the land, we have to have a business of our own to make the ends meet. It never occurred to me that I’d be in this food business, but well, when I came here, I thought of what could be the best thing I could do to sustain. Then when we were thinking, I found that mid-eastern food joints were nowhere to be seen around the town. Syrian or mid-eastern cuisine is a really well known around the world, and finding none here, I thought of giving it a try.
Was this easy to have this business as your career at first?
I never was involved in this hospitality field. I was in financial and administrative job in back and desk offices, and this was a completely different arena. Had I been the chef from the very beginning, it would have been a really daunting task for me to run this, I admit this would have never succeeded if I were to cook at the very first phase of this restaurant. I never learnt to cook in large scale. I hired a Syrian chef, who worked here for a year at the beginning phase of this venture and trained me as well as others in this restaurant. So, with this guy we could make it. I believe everybody has a special genre to work on, but I also believe that a person can learn. Necessity compels us to learn, and see now, I am a proper cook. And, in no ways I am unhappy about this. This is how life works.
What were the major challenges you faced with the beginning of this venture? Do you have any now too?
At the very beginning, before the restaurant was started, we faced a major problem. We took the place. See, at organized places, if you want a restaurant, you get a contractor, you tell him what you want, he’ll show you quotation, you pay and things get done. Here in Nepal, it’s really different. You go to different person for different jobs, you stay at the work place to get the work done. So, this was a major challenge. Also, being new to currency, I now realize I spent much more than I should have.
Another challenge was the taste bud of Nepalese people, which refused to change. We did not serve momo and usual stuffs and people were not accustomed to the mid-eastern cuisine. So, getting Nepalese customer to our doors were another major challenge.
Next major problem happened to be the workers. Imagine how many people left work within the first year of this venture? 14. I thought something was wrong with me. But when I built relations with other restaurant owners around the town, I found that this problem was common to all the places.
Are you planning to grow this chain or are you happy with what you have now?
Okay, good question (Smiles).Here, I am not happy with what I have got but I am really happy with what I have as a start. I will not be happy keeping this restaurant this way forever. I have thought of chains or branches, but will not bring them to reality this soon, because of various reasons. The habit for old foods is the major reason. First, I have to grow the base of Nepalese customers, who would find this cuisine exciting. Being registered in trip advisor, various foreign customers visit my place.
I have seen few other mid-eastern restaurants established around the town here, which I feel won’t affect my business in anyway. You see, millions of restaurant in Nepal serves momo, but still the momo business is not down. So, yes, I’ll start building the chain, but not as soon.
What would you advice to people who are entering the journey as same or similar to yours?
My first and foremost advice would be to never do the things you cannot do. Don’t start learning with customers. You can’t open up a motorcycle garage, work on 10/20 motorbikes, spoil few of them, learn from them and say “Now I am good to go.” Never do this. You’d already have lost a long list of your customers before even your real start that way.
Second one is I guess the most important trait. Uniqueness. Believe me, I’d never have started a restaurant business in Dubai. Here in Nepal, no one did it, I got a chance to be unique and I did it. So, be unique and it sells.
This two are my thoughts on basic ground in starting a business.
We recommend you to definitely go out there give it a bite; we reckon that you will surely enjoy.
Written by The Chief Cynic
And here are some pictures of what the place has to offer for you food lovers :