Shopian: A five-minutes drive from south Kashmir's Shopian town along the mountainous Mughal Road takes one to the local ‘Circuit House’.
Right on its opposite side is a helipad overlooking the burbling Rambiara stream.
A food truck – Hype Foods with anti-drug graffiti on its side panels remains stationed near the helipad that attracts ardent food lovers visiting the place, particularly during the evenings.
The “food on wheels” is an initiative by Ovais Mushtaq Khan, a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur.
Khan, a resident of Shopian town, after completing his LLB, did a postgraduate diploma in cyber law and then went to Pune to do masters in sports management. For more than a year, Khan practiced law in a local court.
“I actually wanted to know our legal system and offer pro bono service to the excluded and the exploited,” says Khan. “But I always wanted to become an entrepreneur to earn a decent living.”
In 2019, Khan joined a training programme organised by the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) where he got a plethora of ideas to start up his own business.
According to Khan, the trainees were introduced to many young entrepreneurs whose success stories spurred many of them to launch their own start-ups.
In October 2019, he started “food on wheels”.
Khan purchased a food truck with a rooftop seating capacity of 12 and started selling the scrummy food.
The people passing by the area began making a pit stop at Khan's food truck as they could hardly resist the temptation of palatable fish and chicken rolls served from the truck.
Initially, Khan began with a small staff of three persons but after a year, he purchased another food truck and increased his staff to nine.
Khan parked his second truck at different places along the Mughal Road.
"The entire area is forests and one can't purchase land there or erect a concrete structure. So, I thought of parking my truck along the road with due permission from the authorities," he said.
Khan's food trucks are embellished with anti-drug graffiti like “yes to sports, no to drugs”.
"These messages travel with the lorries and I'm sure they have some impact on those who read them,” Khan said.
Since his childhood, Khan also had an itch for social work and adventure tourism.
In 2020, when the entire world was caught in COVID-19 pandemic, Khan invited people on social media to join him in the fight against the deadly disease.
Some 20 young men signed up to volunteer and they soon began their work.
The group distributed medicines and ration kits among the needy besides raising awareness about the coronavirus that had left the world baffled.
Initially, Heerpora and Bohrihlan villages of the district emerged as COVID hotspots, prompting the authorities to seal these areas.
Khan and his team reached out to these areas and distributed medicines and baby food among the residents.
The group also helped people in the neighbouring Pulwama and Kulgam districts.
Khan's good work was recognised by the government and the Lieutenant Governor felicitated him.
Given the awe-inspiring mountain ranges, gurgling rivers and glassy lakes, the area has a huge potential to emerge as the most sought after tourist destination, particularly for adventure tourism. Khan tries his best to prod tourists into visiting the place by offering them logistic support and other necessary accessories.
Last year, he launched Hype Adventures and sent people for trekking expeditions to explore the beauty of the district.
"I arranged their trips and provided them tents, trekking shoes, and other accessories," Khan said.
Recently, he set up a café at the old bus stand, which has become the most sought after place for the young people to hang out in the area.
Presently, Khan employs 25 people and his annual turnover is around Rs 1 crore.
"The start-up ecosystem is growing fast in J&K and I appeal to young and educated youth to launch their own ventures instead of wasting their time after government jobs," he said.