After being denied franchise by the reputed pizza brands, Arshid Ahmad Sheikh took the rejection in his stride and turned it into an opportunity to develop a Kashmiri Pizza Brand – Chilliz- which has become a household name in the region.
Arshid, a postgraduate in Commerce started his venture after having experience of working at the managerial level in Bharti Airtel and heading many verticals of the telecom company during his tenure .
“It was mainly due to my experience of working that I had developed an idea of developing a local brand which will give competition to reputed pizza brands due to its quality, taste and presentation,” he said.
While sharing his journey, Arshid said that he wanted to become a chartered accountant but destiny had other things in store for him. “I tried my level best to get into CA, but somehow destiny had a different thing in store for me and here I am today doing business.”
“I had the opportunity to work with Bharti Airtel. With the grace of the Almighty, I was heading the operations in Kashmir for quite some time. That gave me a boost that if I can generate revenue for other companies why not from myself.”
“Experience in telecom opened many doors and helped me to understand the concept of business. I used to travel a lot during my tenure with the company; there I developed this idea of starting a pizzeria as at that time many restaurants were selling normal wazwan and other common stuff in Kashmir those days in 2013, I thought of doing something different, pizza shops were not common those days.”
“I tried my level best to get the franchise from Dominos, Pizza Hut, which are reputed brands, but they denied me a franchise due to the situation in Kashmir, I took this rejection as an opportunity to develop my brand.”
"In 2013, the concept of Chilliz was developed, for a few months, we kept it under trial and after receiving positive feedback. We launched our operations from the Hazratbal branch on a full scale. Thanks to the Almighty Chilliz is now a renowned brand in Kashmir that can give competition to any national or international pizza brand. We are applying for trademark registration and it is likely to be approved soon.”
"After successful starting the journey, I quit my job in 2017, my younger brother Mukhtar Ahmad Sheikh who is the face of the company is handling our Hazratbal branch."
“I left the telecom sector in 2017. I was working as General manager, ultimately I decided to get fully into business, till then I was handling the back-end. My younger brother has been core back of the product development and then I came as an additional to open multi-franchises."
“Chilliz has five franchises at Ganderbal, Buchpora, Lal Bazar, Hazratbal, Zakura. Apart from the franchise, we are working on a model where our goal is to cater to the whole Srinagar district. We are developing an APP where customers from any part of the Srinagar district can order our products from home.”
When asked about the concept of opening franchises is gaining popularity in Kashmir, Arshid said that it is a wrong concept, "we should focus on developing our brands." “ I have handled core areas of sales and distribution part of J&K during my stay in the telecom company. I have realized that Kashmir has a huge potential. We are heavily dependent on outside supplies. During my work, I used to frequently travel by road on Srinagar-Jammu Highway where I found out that almost everything consumed in Kashmir comes from outside. ”We are a consumer state, that too landlocked, this creates huge opportunities.”
Any advice for budding entrepreneurs, Arshid said youngsters should not look for shortcuts. “ Mukesh Ambani is the richest man in India not because of shortcuts but because of hard work Bharti Mittal used to sell his Beetel handsets on scooters today he is a billionaire. It shows us that business success is possible only through dedication and hardwork.”
“I can say this with my experience that if we develop a product which gives competition to products of national brands, we will have a good response. It is better than asking for franchises. These days, I get several requests from people in Kashmir from various districts asking for franchises, I advise them about these things."
On being asked about the business environment in Kashmir, Arshid replies that one has to be prepared for anything in business.
"From the word go we know that after starting a business in Kashmir that situation here is unpredictable, one must plan his business expansions accordingly. There are ups and downs in every sector. Young entrepreneurs should give one and a half years to their product to develop, they should not be impatient to develop a sustainable business model. "