He left a lucrative job to start something on his own. But the business he chose has stigmas attached. Heena Muzzafar tells how Aamir created a chain of poultry shops in Srinagar despite odds
Despite criticism and social stigma attached to the profession Aamir Bashir Sofi, 30, a graduate, decided to go ahead with the plans. He now owns a chain of poultry shops in Srinagar called Hygiene Halal Foods.
Started in 2012, from a single outlet in his native area of Bachpora, Srinagar, Aamir, currently owns eight such outlets where he sells chickens.
“In our society poultry business is often looked down upon by people,” rues Aamir. “They tease the likes of me by calling us koekarr woell (chicken sellers).”
However, after getting good response to his first outlet in Bachpora, Aamir spread his wings and opened seven other outlets in Soura, Nawa Kadal, Nawa Bazaar, Rajouri Kadal, Khanyar, Dalgate and Rawalpora.
All outlets have same interiors and look to help customers feel a “connection with the brand name”.
“The idea was to give people best and hygienic chickens though a reliable chain of outlets,” said Aamir. “I want to add one outlet every six months at least.”
However, as of now Aamir is planning to cover areas in Srinagar district only. “But I am planning to provide franchises outside Srinagar as well. Let’s see how it works out,” said Aamir.
Within no time Aamir’s Hygiene Halal Foods started registering considerable footfall compared to traditional chicken sellers in the area. “The reason could be our competitive rates,” feels Aamir. “Our per kg rates are around 10 rupees less than the market rates.”
The trick behind offering competitive rates is Aamir’s poultry farm cum slaughtering house in nearby Ganderbal district. “We take care of bulk orders in our slaughter house only. It is done in a hygienic and halal way,” says Aamir.
At his Ganderbal poultry farm Aamir gets stock of around 12,000 chickens per day from his Srinagar based supplier, who in turn gets it from Haryana. “These chickens are one day old only which we raise here then,” said Aamir. “A good number of chickens die during transportation.”
Dead stock is either disposed off by the check post officials at Lakhanpur and Lower Munda or at Aamir’s Ganderbal poultry farm.
Those who make it to Ganderbal are reared there for at least for forty days, till the chicks grow enough for slaughtering.
“We rear chicks on soya bean feed only,” said Aamir. “But this entire sector is full of risks.”
Aamir says there is no option for insurance in poultry business making it even more risky for a businessman.
Besides, there is no hatchery in Kashmir as all the livestock is imported from Haryana and Punjab. It needs an investment of around Rs 10 crore to start a hatchery. “Small enterprise owners like us cannot start a hatchery without financial assistance from the government,” says Aamir.
“There are no steps taken by the government to boost or even support the business.”
Lack of government funded schemes for start-ups like Aamir’s keep new investors away from poultry business.
Another challenge that local poultry owners face is import of dressed chicken from Haryana and Punjab. “They are cheap but there is no guarantee, if the imported lot, the dressed chickens are healthy or not, slaughtered in halal way or not.”
Lately, Aamir has approached a number of hotels and restaurants in Kashmir asking them to consume local bread chickens. “But nobody agreed as they get it on cheaper rates from outside the valley,” said Aamir.
“Who knows what kind of stuff they sell to these restaurants in lieu of dressed chickens. I have my doubts that these chickens are either hygienic or halal.”
At present Aamir’s Hygiene Halal Foods, employs thirty five people on yearly based contracts.
In 2008, after completing his graduation Aamir joined Aviation and Airhostess Academy in Delhi. “It was a three year course,” recalls Aamir.
Three years later Aamir joined a hotel in Delhi as front office manager. “I left that job after two years,” says Aamir. “I always wanted to start my own business.”
In Delhi, Aamir developed contacts with various marketing managers who represented big companies.
“I was in Delhi, when reliance fresh was introduced in 2006,” says Aamir. “Its marketing manager was my friend, so I could keep close watch to learn their marketing techniques.”
Once back home Aamir applied the same marketing skills, with little modification, in Kashmir to start his own business.
“I chose poultry business as it has huge market in Kashmir,” says Aamir. “Despite huge risks profit margin is high in poultry business.”