Bandipora: Like any other family employed by the government, the parents of Hakeem Abu Bakar, 24, insisted that he choose a career in the medical field and become a doctor. However, the young man had aspirations that he wanted to realise, so he created the first 24-hour supermarket in his hometown.
Abu Bakar is a post-graduate in MBA from Chandigarh University and is originally from Konan village in the Bandipora area of north Kashmir.
"Our family relocated to Srinagar City in 2011. I first noticed the supermarket at this time. I didn't even know what it was called at the time," Abu Bakar grins as he recalls.
Abu Bakar was captivated by the idea when he was still a child and had not yet made up his mind on his career path. As he grew older, he decided to pursue a career in business administration in spite of "severe pushback" from his parents and other relatives who had worked in government departments.
"My family, including my father, a retired government employee, insisted that I study medicine. They were willing to shift me abroad for this reason, "explained the 24-year-old.
Abu Bakar, however, made the bold decision to defy the odds and pursue a business degree. Hakeem moved to Chandigarh University to join the MBA programme after earning his BBA.
"As soon as I finished my first semester of the MBA programme, I set out to design the first 24-hour grocery store in Bandipora, where I was raised. Because I had never seen anything like it in Kashmir, especially in my birthplace, the online 24-hour marketplaces in Chandigarh gave me inspiration, and I continued to work along similar lines, "said Abu Bakar. As the studies proceeded, the youthful boy's dream began to turn into reality when the construction work began on his project in Bandipora town.
However, the beginning was not easy as Hakeem, who was the first in his family to choose business over a job, did not have enough support on how to execute the job and had little knowledge about suppliers and stock purchases. Moreover, trust in the business success of the majority, which included his family, was shaky.
"Before execution, I did thorough market research and studied the odds and struggles in the offing," Abu Bakar said, adding, "I learned that the majority of the startups were not succeeding due to lack of market research, advertisement, and management." Even the first supermarket in the town was winding up."
Keeping all this in mind, Hakeem said that he had a different idea to offer and chose his hometown to set up his dream project, "it was the town that had given me everything, so as a regard, I choose my people to offer my services to."
My friends helped me a lot, and I was able to get in touch with the manufacturers directly, which has helped me to sell the merchandise at affordable and discounted rates," Abu Bakar said.
After four months in the business, Abu Bakar says that his store, Blue Basket, is doing well and they are keeping busy delivering online orders at any time of the day or night.
"Within some time, as our website and mobile applications get ready, and catalogues are up online, we anticipate more customers will be clicking to book their orders," Hakeem said.
The struggle, however, to keep the market open at night is real due to no permission for security reasons and uncertainty. However, they have still come up with a plan to serve those seeking essentials at any time.
"For now, the baby food, diapers, and other important stuff for adults mostly keeps us busy in the night hours and to deliver it," and to deliver it, Abu Bakar ensures he stays in the market to deliver it.
The young man says that doing business with honesty and humility could go a long way, including the uncounted blessings from those who are in need.
Hakeem is not done yet. He intends a full-fledged extension to his supermarket, with a pharmacy, an exclusive women's section, and separate staff, for which the work has already been started.
Moreover, with patents filed for the name, he is planning to open the supermarket in other parts of north and south Kashmir as well.
"There is a tremendous response from other districts as well. Many entrepreneurs are showing interest in opening franchises and have approached me with the idea," Hakeem says.
Moreover, his father, a retired government employee who underwent a medical condition years before paralyzing his body parts, is "feeling proud."
"I have a proud father back home. It's a blessing that my parents are happy with the work I do. Sometimes I feel it's a dream come true for me," Abu Bakar said.