Unrest no dampener for Valley entrepreneurs - watsupptoday.com
Unrest no dampener for Valley entrepreneurs
Posted 17 Feb 2017 11:11 AM

In 2016, two cousins — Kamran Nisar and Ummar Imtiyaz — left their lucrative jobs outside the state to start a café on the banks of the Dal Lake. However, on July 9, when the duo was scheduled to inaugurate their café, the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani changed the discourse of Kashmir’s politics.
It took Kamran and Ummar, both in their twenties, a year of hard work and dedication to come up with ‘Winterfell Café,’ the theme of which is inspired by a famous TV series, “Game of Thrones.” Despite the setback and hard time during the protests in 2016, both held on to the hope.

“We were about to inaugurate the café on July 9 when the unrest erupted. Hoping things will improve, we thought we will wait for some days. However, it took more than five months and we were able to inaugurate the cafe on December 11,” says Kamran, 27, who had to give salary to his non-local staff for more than two months while he waited for the situation to normalise.

“After two months, we couldn’t afford it. So we told them to go because the situation did not seem to be getting better,” says Ummar, who now feels satisfied as he sees visitors from all walks of life admiring the innovative concept.

“Now we have local staff of eight persons. The political situation in Kashmir is such that you have to be ready for ups and downs. We are not discouraged at all. This is our home and it gives us energy and hope,” he says.
“Today we get so many people who appreciate and admire our concept. Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah comes here. Tassaduq Mufti, brother of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is a frequent visitor, appreciated our idea. This encourages us more,” says Kamran, an engineering graduate who left his high-paying job in Dubai in 2015 to settle in Kashmir.

The wooden café on the famous Boulevard Road, on the banks of the Dal Lake, is decked up with lights fixed in traditional Kashmiri baskets (kranjul) and frames with the quotes from the “Game of Thrones.” The roof of the café has been made from the branches of apple, almond and pear trees.
“We did not hire any interior designer. We did it all on our own with some suggestions from friends. We have mixed the theme from the ‘Game of Thrones’ and given a touch of Kashmiri culture,” says Ummar.
On Sundays, the duo hosts an exclusive art programme for Kashmir’s young artistes where budding singers and actors get a platform to showcase their talent. “We do not do this for big names but for the youth. Sundays here are full of fun and life,” they say.

The summer unrest last year made many national companies wind up their operations in Kashmir, leaving hundreds of people jobless. But Ummar and Kamran are hopeful that they can still make a good career in the Valley despite odds.

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