Saqib Mir, a Srinagar-based baker has introduced European taste, through his French bakery shop ‘Le Délice’ to people in Kashmir.
As Kashmir is witnessing a boom in entrepreneurial ventures who are introducing a range of bakery products, most of these products are local delicacies, however, Saqib’s focus is always on authentic French bakeries which have drawn a different kind of attention.
Due to the same reason, in 2018 the then French envoy to India Alexandre Ziegler visited Kashmir, and he didn’t miss an opportunity and visited ‘Le Délice’ to taste something like his home.
Saqib is a 'unique' baker who has been trained in France. He has experience of working in France for a decade. He says that in early 2000 he went to France and did multiple courses in baking.
“I then spend my time chiselling my expertise by working with top chefs. I was passionate about baking from a young age and I wanted to do something where I can be the best. That is where the idea of ‘Le Délice’ came,” Saqib said.
He said that after staying away from home for a decade." I always longed to get back home and work from here. In addition to working from home, I wanted to keep my French wife Melanie and kids close to Kashmir culture so that they can know about their roots."
Saqib says that his journey to start a French bakery shop in Kashmir did not come easy. He says that he had to navigate, natural calamities, and situations here to reach where I am today.
“At times I was pretty unsure about whether I will continue amid all the huddles. I came back to Kashmir in early 2014 and set up my workshop. I bought equipment from outside Kashmir and set up my workshop for the outlet. A few months after that, the worst floods hit Kashmir. My equipment got damaged and I was back to where I had started,” Saqib said.
The deluge in 2014 was not the only setback that Saqib faced. He said that as he tried to get back to work but in 2016 like every entrepreneur, his business also took a hit.
“I put my every skill and effort into the venture and did my best to keep it authentic. That is how people gave me so much love that the likes of National Conference patron Dr Farooq Abdullah became my regular customers. These things encouraged me a lot and the people in Kashmir gave me their unending love. Due to uncertainty in Kashmir, I moved back multiple times but I knew I will not let go of my dream of ‘Le Délice’ so I always returned even stronger.” he added.
Saqib says that as he wanted to start the venture and serve across Kashmir, he wanted manpower that is trained like him. Since he was the only one trained in French bakery making, he trained many local Kashmiri boys himself and made them experts in French bakery making.
“Another setback I faced was that as I trained these boys, some of them left
and some were poached by other food outlet owners but I didn’t give up. I kept training dedicated youngsters who I added to my workforce,” he added
Saqib says that he did his best to keep authenticity and quality intact so that when he says that he sells a French bakery, it should be authentic French. He says that as the taste buds differ from place to place he tried to innovate and blended French and Kashmir bakeries to appeal to local customers. His bakery at Dalgate attracts people from the nooks and corners of Kashmir.
Saqib is known for his French bread, cookies, almond delice, French heart, choco fills, walnut, lemon tarts, choco walnut tarts, cookies, pastries, cakes and other delicacies.
Saqib says that his wife and kids have been his greatest strengths and support. He said that it was through that support and love of people that the venture he started alone is now employing around 40 people. He has trained over 100 people across Kashmir. Saqib says that it is his way to contribute to the food sector of Kashmir and spread the sweetness of his venture across the Valley.
‘Le Délice’ has become a source of employment to many people directly and indirectly. Saqib has tied up with delivery agents who deliver his online orders.
“As online platforms and social media have revolutionized everything. We also used it to reach out to our customers. It has bought our business under the single click of the customers and helped in online business,” Saqib said.
Saqib says that if one is true to his work, people will recognize it. He says that he buys raw material from outside Kashmir, and uses high-end equipment so that people will get its value for money. A month back, on public demand, Saqib opened his second outlet of ‘Le Délice’ at City Mall Lal Chowk.
Saqib says that with each passing day he tries to improve and learn new things. He says that if one is passionate about what he does, the sky's the limit. His venture in Kashmir is an example of how locals can experiment with foreign skills and succeed.