Shaban / Ramadan 1423 H
Volume 15-11 No : 191
Camps \ Workshops
and then in the curry kingdom, reads like a fairy-tale
M. H. Lakdawala
If the Londoners today relish rasmalai, halwa and maawa, they should thank a maverick mithaiwala from Mumbai’s Crawford Market. For, even when the British were coping with the bitter taste of an empire’s loss, he stepped in to sweeten the firang’s taste buds.
Meet Sir Gulam Kaderbhai Noon, owner of London’s famous Noon Products, who was recently conferred the Knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II. Noon’s meteoric rise, first in the mithai business, and then in the curry kingdom, reads like a fairy-tale. Through sheer hard work, grit and determination, he found his way into millions of hearts through as many stomachs. “My father died of a broken heart, after losing my elder brother. My mother was left with six children and depts and medical bills, for Rs two crores,” says Noon nostalgically. “My elder sister remembers that on the day of the funeral, I held my mother’s hand tightly and told her that I would look after her.” “We lived in a tiny all-purpose room at Mohd Ali road, my mother would cook in the sweet making factory. And we would come to this shop after school to sell halwa, barfi, maawa and jalebis”, he recounts. At 21, Noon was ready with a five-year business plan. “I was always breaking new ground,” he says, adding, “I decided to change the name of the shop from Kamruddin Ebrahimjee Mithaiwala, my grandfather’s name, to Royal Sweets. It was unheard of, said the elders, but I stuck to my guns, and sure enough, it brought in the Diwali customers. Then I redesigned the logo, advertised heavily, even engaging Mario to pen a daily cartoon, air-conditioned the shop and even went so far as to buy the building it was housed in, without even telling anyone in the family.” But always, there was a method to the madness. “My dream had been to buy a proper house for my family. And in my early 20s, I had bought a four-bedroom apartment in Byculla”, he confesses. “But then,” his eyes soften, “I went to London in 1964. And so like any other immigrant, my struggle began to find ways to start Royal sweets abroad” Thus Noon’s journey into Planet Palate began in the mid-sixties, on a humble note. “I felt greatly constrained by the unprofessional, almost medieval ways of running the mithai business. I had earlier travelled to England and thought my destiny lay there,’’ he says. He set up a small sweetmeat shop in Southall and called it Bombay Halwa. The name caught on like a fever. “Initially, I had mainly Asian clients, but the familiar name, ‘Bombay’ helped,’’ he says. And then came a windfall. In the late 1970s, Idi Amin, that dictator from Uganda, began expelling millions of non-Africans from his country. A majority of Asians took shelter in England. “For me it was a blessing in disguise. My sweets and food products got new clients. The Asians munched on my confectioneries with much nostalgia,’’ he explains. Employing his acumen, Noon exploited the Indian diaspora’s nostalgia to the hilt. Preparing the pitch for a future food empire, he set up Noon Products in 1988 with just 11 employees. Today he manages over 800 employees, working in his factories spread over an area of 3,00,000 sq ft and has a turnover of Rs 70 crore (in sweets) and Rs 600 crore (in food products). “We pioneered the business in vegetarian food in England. If you are a veggie and flying the British Airways, you can’t miss Noon’s food there,’’ he says.
He might have revolutionised the food habits of the English, but Noon has retained his ties with India. Concerned about the moribund Indian sweets industry, he wants to modernise the production and packaging. “I have spruced up my shop at Crawford Market and will soon modernise it,’’ he says. Suave and soft-spoken, Noon dotes on his daughters Zeenat, Zarmin and younger brother Akbar... all of them work for him. “Once you compromise professionalism, you will be inviting disasters. I hate safe players who always tread the trodden path and fear risks. I believe that if you always play safe, you risk more,’’ he says.
He had thrown himself into the uncertain, tempestuous waters beyond Indian shores years ago, only to emerge victorious, scripting a new history of British culinary habits.
Habeen A. Khan, the Nagpur-based architect of D3+1 was recently honoured with the second Best National Award for Young Architects 2001 by the Indian Institute of Architects and KAFF, at the National Award Presentation ceremony at Bhubaneswar. Khan was selected for the Award for his designing of Kanetkar’s ICIT Software Development Centre in the ‘Office Interiors’ category. Kanetkar’s ICIT Pvt. Ltd is a software development firm floated by Yeshwant Kanetkar, an authority recognised in the Information Technology industry. Reacting to the award, Habeen A. Khan said, “our initial thought was to create a place conducive to intelligent young IT professionals, fired with enthusiasm and a wide array of unique ideas. The ambience was to be vibrant and alive, reflecting a constant striving for excellence. Imbibed with the vision of ‘Sustainable Architecture’, we along with Associate Architect Sapna Kaswa, resorted to a judicious mix of materials like wood, stone, metal and glass, in their natural form, as well as with newer ones. The result was a unique, rustic, natural feel to the interior”.
The design was restricted to the available rectangular space, accessed by two staircases, a public staircase and an internal, centrally located, private staircase that divided the available area into two halves. To make matters worse, the pantry and the toilet were now prominently positioned in the centre, available space at both ends being connected to each other by only a narrow passage.
“But this did not deter us. By integrating the flooring and the ceiling of the two areas into one single curve, we ensured a harmonious flow of space into each other”, says Habeen.
Shahanaaz. M, Sajida Momin, Shahida Umar, Ayesha Ullal, Shakira. U.K and Samina U is the team that should be credited for successfully making the lives of Mangaloreans better through their innovative magazine, Anupama. This monthly, in Kannada is packed with articles relevant to women, social issues, evils of the society, current affairs, short stories and delicious recipes focused on women. Though it is a magazine for women, its readership extends to the whole of Mangalore and is slowly now becoming popular all over Karnataka. It is the first publication in Karnataka where the entire editorial team comprises Muslim women.
While the magazine Anupama is two years old now, it has gained a loyal base of readers in Karnataka who vouch for the fact that the reporting and coverage of issues is done in an unbiased fashion. Says Shahanaaz, Chief Editor of Anupama: “ the response to the magazine has been good though we have many restrictions as far as accepting advertisements is concerned since we have to confine ourselves to the Islamic etiquette”.
For copies of Anupama, write to Shahanaaz, Hidayath Centre, Beebi Alabi Road, Mangalore-575001, Ph:410358