FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD

A NEW GEN­ER­A­TION OF EN­TREPRENEURS IS EVOLV­ING IN DOHA; THE KIND THAT MAKES BRANDS AND STANDS BY THEM, AND TAKES OWN­ER­SHIP OF ITS DREAMS.

Qatar Today - - INSIDE THE ISSUE - BY SINDHU NAIR

A new gen­er­a­tion of en­trepreneurs are evolv­ing in Doha; the kinds who make brands and stand by them and take own­er­ship of their dreams.

With the wind be­neath their wings and pas­sion un­bri­dled, this new gen­er­a­tion of busi­ness­men comes with a sense of pro­pri­etor­ship and be­come the names be­hind the brands they build. Qatar To­day met one such proud en­trepreneurs; Nasser A. Al Ze­yara, a gov­ern­ment em­ployee by day and a restau­rant owner by night. In ad­di­tion to his time-con­sum­ing oc­cu­pa­tions, which he is equally ded­i­cated to, Nasser also teaches at the Po­lice Col­lege (Qatar), Ahmed Bin Mohammed Mil­i­tary Col­lege (Qatar), and the Qatar Manda­tory Na­tional Ser­vice Train­ing. Ask the proud owner of Ar­nag, ar­ti­sanal bistro at Souq Wakrah, why he chose to ven­ture into the restau­rant busi­ness and Nasser says, quite un­pre­ten­tiously, “Be­cause I am a food lover.” And no other rea­son can do as much jus­tice as this sim­ple love for the en­ter­prise you are go­ing to jump-start.

As an en­tre­pre­neur, one cri­te­rion of a self-starter was to de­vote all the re­sources to the new busi­ness. Nasser dis­agrees: it is al­ways bet­ter not to put all the eggs in one bas­ket.

“Hav­ing a job to fall back on gives the en­tre­pre­neur more con­fi­dence to pur­sue his dreams be­cause then he is sure that his fi­nan­cials are not en­tirely de­pen­dent on

the suc­cess of his ven­ture. The fact that I have an­other job makes me less anx­ious to risk every­thing. Hav­ing three part­ners also makes it eas­ier to bal­ance the role plays.”

At some point in time, the two roles, of be­ing a gov­ern­ment em­ployee and a self­s­tarter, gets rather de­mand­ing as both re­quire equal amounts of com­mit­ment and hard work. “But fi­nally, it is a mat­ter of bal­ance and giv­ing pri­or­ity to which­ever job needs your at­ten­tion at that point in time. Be­ing a gov­ern­ment em­ployee is also an im­por­tant part of my life and I do not shy away from any of its com­mit­ments, as that is my first pri­or­ity,” says Nasser.

While this does get stress­ful at times, Nasser thrives on pres­sure and uses that en­ergy to push him­self fur­ther.

HEC has also taken a ma­jor lead in di­rect­ing Nasser to­wards the path of his dreams through the busi­ness en­trepreneur­ship course that he com­pleted at the HEC Paris branch cam­pus in Qatar.

“I had no back­ground in busi­ness. HEC helped me through the dif­fer­ent cy­cles in­volved from get­ting the right team, to sell­ing ideas and to mak­ing an ex­cel­lent busi­ness model,” he says. While Nasser has not taken any help for fund­ing his dreams, he still went through some dif­fi­cul­ties in set­ting the ball rolling. “It was all about find­ing the right busi­ness process in­volved and then it was much eas­ier,” says Nasser. “The process gets much eas­ier once you know the dif­fer­ent rules and cat­e­gories. It takes a while to un­der­stand the rules in Qatar. Get­ting the right in­for­ma­tion from the right peo­ple has al­ways been dif­fi­cult in Qatar and once we scaled that then it was an eas­ier strug­gle.”

For Nasser, the pro­ce­dure was dif­fi­cult as the three part­ners wanted to know all the pa­per­work and pro­cesses in­volved. “We went through all the process our­selves. We wanted to get the feel of the busi­ness, from the dif­fi­cul­ties to the eu­pho­ria of set­ting up a busi­ness of our own.”

Ar­nag has taken a dif­fi­cult route, stay­ing away from the much-sought af­ter lo­ca­tion of Qatar's West Bay, and Nasser's rea­sons are prag­matic. He says that the rents were much higher and hence they had to opt for a new lo­ca­tion, which was slowly gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity.

“We also wanted a larger area to go with the con­cept of a Qatari house and that is al­most im­pos­si­ble to ac­quire in The Pearl or any other lo­ca­tion.”

The beauty of food

Nasser's love for food is shared by his part­ners and that is an­other ma­jor game changer in his busi­ness. “My busi­ness part­ners were equally in love with food. One of my part­ners is a Qatari chef who was al­ready pop­u­lar among the lo­cals and he is our so­cial me­dia in­flu­encer. He ex­per­i­ments with food and then puts up the recipes on so­cial me­dia and his In­sta­gram posts are hugely pop­u­lar.”

Known to the so­cial world as @jboor_a, Nasser's part­ner wants to be known by his so­cial per­sona but he comes with a mission to make the world taste good, one recipe at a time. Ask Nasser about Ar­nag,

"OUR RESTAU­RANT IS AN AMAL­GA­MA­TION OF ALL THE BEST TASTES FROM AROUND THE WORLD WHILE ADDING A NEW AN­GLE TO IT THROUGH EX­PER­I­MEN­TA­TION." "HAV­ING A JOB TO FALL BACK ON GIVES THE EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR MORE CON­FI­DENCE TO PUR­SUE HIS DREAMS BE­CAUSE THEN HE IS SURE THAT HIS FI­NAN­CIALS ARE NOT EN­TIRELY DE­PEN­DENT ON THE SUC­CESS OF HIS VEN­TURE."

the restau­rant, and the ex­cite­ment in his ex­pres­sion is pal­pa­ble.

“Our restau­rant is an amal­ga­ma­tion of all the best tastes from around the world while adding a new an­gle to it through ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. The recipes are all in house, tried and tested by Ja­bor and shared on so­cial me­dia.”

To un­der­stand the va­ri­ety and the dy­namism in the recipes, Nasser gives us one vari­ant that is be­ing served at Ar­nag. The créme brûlée, a dessert con­sist­ing of a rich cus­tard base topped with a con­trast­ing layer of hard caramel, is recre­ated with a new con­stituent, Sago, which takes the same dish to don an en­tirely new avatar at Ar­nag.

Ar­nag serves the norm with panache: date pud­dings that en­hances Ara­bic flavours, cakes with salted caramel, to give them a rush of flavours.

“We also have Ja­panese cheese cakes, and tiramisu, all of which are our best­sellers.”

Ar­nag, which trans­lates as colours, es­sen­tially is about vis­it­ing a house of flavours, re­viv­ing mem­o­ries of your mother's kitchen, teas­ing mem­o­ries while re­tain­ing el­e­ments of sur­prise and mys­tery.

The restau­rant is lo­cated at Souq Wakrah and mod­els around a Qatari house with a small pa­tio close to the en­trance, mov­ing on to the li­brary, “with books that have been col­lected from an­tique shops”, a kitchen which smells of brewed cof­fee and at­tracts peo­ple to en­ter its cozy sur­round­ings and in­dulge in hot treats.

The pa­tio also opens to a lounge close to the en­trance and this is where the owner, pas­sion­ate food­ies them­selves, en­ter­tain; this room is al­ways teem­ing with en­thu­si­as­tic food tasters as Ar­nag is slowly in­tro­duc­ing its main course or sa­vory menu af­ter the suc­cess­ful stint with the dessert menu. “We take time over the menu as every­thing has to be tasted and tested to get the best re­sults. We use the best qual­ity in­gre­di­ents and make all recipes in-house to en­hance nat­u­ral flavours,” says Nasser.

Less than a year since the open­ing, Nasser says that Ar­nag has a good rep­u­ta­tion which is en­hanced by Ja­bor's pop­u­lar­ity.

“New ideas in food and bev­er­ages are be­ing in­tro­duced and that is a huge step for the coun­try as I felt that we have not re­ally ex­panded in this seg­ment as much as other Mid­dle-Eastern coun­tries and now we are mak­ing waves with in­no­va­tive brands that are be­ing cre­ated lo­cally.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Qatar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.