MUHARRAM - SAFAR 1424 H
Volume 17-03 No : 207
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While we keep harping about how little progress our community has made in various fields, it is heartening to see how Anjum Aziz and Mehdi have built up their " chicken empire" starting in a small way, facing ups and downs, humps and bumps. But they never gave up. Staying focused and upright, they carved their future, walking on the path of Allah, not just making their own livelihood, but also providing a livelihood to many youngsters.
By Nigar Ataulla
Most kids grow up in a world of fantasy imagining that a fairy-godmother would descend and whisk them off to a land of chocolates, cakes and goodies. But Anjum Kalim Aziz and Mehdi Aziz were down-to-earth kids with very caring parents and sisters, Seema and Ayesha, doting on them. They were " responsible" kids even during their frequent adventures in the little town of Hubli or even for that matter their travels in Saudi Arabia.
With highly educated parents, mom, Sharfunissa and dad, Kalimulla, encouraging them to take on the world at a very young age, both Anjum and Mehdi set about doing something based on the guidance of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). So it was trade/ business-a profession loved and recommended by the Prophet himself.
The Muslim community has many lessons to learn from the grit, determination, courage and hard work of Anjum and Mehdi. Anjum's craze for perfection and passion for food triggered off a series of dreams and that's how the Safa Group was set up more than a decade and half ago in Bangalore, with activities ranging from Food Logistics, Cold Chain Management, Speciality Retailing and Manufacturing in Value Addition of Poultry and Meat Products. As Managing Director of the Safa Group, Anjum has his hands full with Catermate, Chef'n'Cook, Culinary Connections and Chick Cellar's. The philosophy at Safa is " changing the way we eat" and this is exactly what Anjum and Mehdi together have done. Breaking the stereo-types of just putting up a little shop and stocking frozen chicken, the innovative duo set an example for not just the community, but the society at large that " quality and hygiene" come first if one has to have a loyal base of customers for food-be it chicken, meat or fish.
"Winners don't do different things. They do it differently," says a quote on the wall of Chick Cellar's, the posh and swank store in Koramangala in Bangalore and a maxim, the store's owner Anjum strives to follow.
" I have been a food freak all my life. This is my passion, which is why I did my hotel management and many value additions in poultry and food dynamics at Malaysia. I travelled a lot to acquire the best knowledge and skills available in this field. Chick Cellar's is my pet project, where hygiene and quality are the by-words and convenience is the basic theme. At Chick Cellar's, we ensure quality by buying the chicken from poultry farmers who adhere to the strict standards that we have set. The stock is inspected thoroughly by our people and only then it is cleared for transportation. All the stocks bought from the various farms are then brought to our processing unit, where it is prepared in semi-automated equipment. All our coding equipment is imported," says Anjum.
Just walk into Anjum's processing unit at Koramanagala industrial area and you are transported to a fairy-land of sorts. Spic and span floor, smiling chefs with crisp white aprons tip-toeing quietly in and out of the kitchens, huge shiny blast freezers, glass shelves lined with plastic jars, the latest state- of- the -art equipment (one of them is a rare piece with just six installations all over India), colourful plastic bags filled with freshly made masalas, all of them serve as a lesson to be learnt in the art of perfection.
According to Mehdi, who looks after sales at Chick Cellar's, there are choices galore be it poultry, sea-food or red meat. Chicken legs, drumsticks, wings, liver and mince, besides the whole dressed chicken are favourites. Mutton comes in chops, curry cuts, mince and boneless meat. Seer fish steaks and fillets pomfret and mackerel are for the taking.
" Ready to fry and instant foods are a hit among the upwardly mobile. Marinated portions of fish and prawn need to be thawed and cooked. We make it a point to have that personal touch, customise things if we have to," says Anjum as he points out to a pack of mutton sheekh kabab. There are spices and sauces too just in case the customer buying the chicken suddenly remembers there is no tandoori masala or soya sauce at home. The prices are very reasonable and free home delivery is available in all the blocks of Koramangala and a minimum fee is charged for other places in the city.
Chick Cellar's has won many accolades for its retailing innovation and pioneering change in the way products are sold. From kill to sell, the time process is minimum.Chick Cellar's USP is consistency in quality of the produce, closely followed by cleanliness. The unpleasant odours pre-dominant in most cold stores selling processed sea food or meat is missing at Chick Cellar's, and all products are halal cut.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the traffic, Anjum quietly works at the processing unit ably assisted by his wife Huda who is the Inventory Control Manager. Working round-the-clock, Anjum and Huda have developed Catermate and Chef"n' Cook into two brands which have tremendous value to end users in terms of convenience. Chef'n' Cook is a brand targeted at the retail consumer offering variety of Heat and Eat Gourmet Curries and Marinades (Ready to use masalas). At Catermate, flavours are the lifeline, backed with highly technical approach and innovative techniques. Focussed at the food service segment, no preservatives or artificial colours are used. It is all naturally driven, be it preservation or flavour. Catermate's unique Cool Head Milling process locks in the flavour and aroma.
What's Culinary Connections all about? " As a business development director of an international hotel chain or a leading food processor, there are several projects that need decisions, new destinations, possible take-overs to consider. What you need is access to knowledge about markets you may know little about. Culinary Connections Food Processing and Hospitality Consulting is the source you need. We will provide you with a working knowledge of the market so that you and your board will be able to make an informed decision," explains Anjum.
Not one to feel complacent about their success and rest on their laurels, the dynamic brothers are all set to work towards obtaining the Hazard Analytical Critical Control Points for the Safa Group which is the stamp of quality like the ISO.
' We know the customer pulse and we work towards presenting nothing but the best to our customers. All our products are clean labels with no artificial colours and addictives. We believe in thinking global and acting local. We simply cannot afford any errors in the food business as we treat our customers as our family members and we promise them the best always," says Anjum.
Taking short breaks in a day, Anjum makes time to help his three little daughters with their homework . Mehdi takes time off to lend his support for Dawah programmes among the youngsters and sharing his thoughts with his wife and little daughter.
While doing business requires skills, what is far more important is staying focused. While we keep harping about how little progress our community has made in various fields, it is heartening to see how Anjum and Mehdi have built up their " chicken empire" starting in a small way, facing ups and downs, humps and bumps. But they never gave up. Staying focused and upright, they carved their future, walking on the path of Allah, not just making their own livelihood, but also providing a livelihood to many youngsters.
If you are a food freak you could drive over to Chick Cellar to choose from their range of cuts and curries, but if you wish to rejuvenate your soul and get an insight into the courage and convictions of these two brothers, travel across to their unit for an informal chat with Anjum and Huda. Don't be surprised if you find a troop of chickens following you, as they too have heard that they get the VVIP treatment in the imported blast freezers out there!
Anjum Aziz and Mehdi can be reached at Chick Cellar's, No 2, 80 Ft Road, 5th Block, Koramangala.
Ph: 25521168 or 9845203249. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org, website-www.chefncook.com
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