Shopian: Walls embellished with framed paintings, small pendent lights hanging from a spick and span ceiling, artificial creepers and an elegant wooden furniture give The Royal Plate Café and Fine Dine an exquisite look.
The interior is a heady mix of modern and classic decor, exuding a royal ambience.
Mukhtar Gulzar, an engineering graduate, who owns the café, has designed it himself and given the people of south Kashmir’s Shopian district a new place to drop in for scrumptious food and beverages. After completing his engineering from a reputed university, Mukhtar did not wait for a government job and set up his own business.
"The gruelling wait for a government job could have only wasted my time", says Mukhtar, a GATE qualifier.
He completed his graduation in 2017 and after working for more or less with a private firm, Mukhtar set up the café in 2022.
"I would have started it a bit earlier, but the financial troubles followed by the pandemic stymied my business plans for over two years," Mukhtar said.
Coming from a humble background, 28- year-old Mukhtar's journey from an engineer to starting his own successful venture was not a cakewalk.
"Besides my studies, I would help my father who runs a small shop in the town. I invested all our savings in this venture and sought financial help from my friends," said Mukhtar.
He initially started with 4 to 5 employees but as the café began attracting more food lovers from the area, Mukhtar engaged more employees.
" Today I have a workforce of 10 men," he said.
According to the young businessman, the unique selling proposition (USP) for his café is quality.
Mukhtar uses mostly organic products and steers clear of using colours and flavouring powders that sets him apart.
"We use only organic vegetables and strictly avoid chemicals while preparing the food", he said. The café offers an array of dishes, ranging from Kashmiri wazwan to Chinese.
An overpowering aroma of coffee pervading the spacious café is symptomatic of different types of coffee being served in the café.
Different soups are served in beautiful ceramic bowls while mocktails are presented in tumblers. The engineering graduate turned businessman believes that setting up one's own business is a good idea amidst ballooning youth unemployment.
" We see the start-up ecosystem thriving. The unemployed youth must launch their own business ventures," he said.