Tea has always been an integral part of our culture. Earlier Karachiites used to go to Irani, Marwari and Pathans’ tea dhabas. But these road side tea shops catered only to male lot as it was not considered safe for women to go to such male-dominated dhabas. However, with changing lifestyle one has also witnessed a new tea tradition - modern chai dhabas where one could go with one’s family in a safe and cheerful environment. Unlike the old dhabas, modern tea cafes are set up in large commercial spaces or vacant spaces of the service road providing space for chairs, tables and carpets allowing visitors to socialise in outdoor settings.
At these cafes staff is generally educated and polite. What’s more interesting is that now women have also started their own start-up. One such enterprising woman is Samina Fatima who has recently opened her place, ‘Cup of Cha’ in one of the commercial areas of Karachi. In a candid interview with You! Samina shares some of her experiences and talks about her venture...
You! What made you interested in food business?
Samina Fatima: Cooking is my passion. I have always wanted to have my own space.
You! Who suggested the name ‘Cup of Cha’?
SF: My business partner and I wanted to come up with a catchy name and we agreed to this after much deliberation. Typically, it is a chai cafe, with some of our unique nuances.
You! What makes this place different from the rest?
SF: Since the place is run by a woman, it attracts more girls and women. We offer a much safer and family-friendly environment. We don’t compromise of quality of food and service.
You! How has been the response?
SF: The response has been great. We have seating capacity of up to 100 people and on weekends it’s usually jam-packed.
You! What are the challenges, in your eyes, are being faced by working women in Pakistan?
SF: For me, safety is an issue especially for women who work in restaurants, shops and factories. They are more vulnerable than women working in offices. Secondly, a working woman has to endure certain kind of family pressures too.
You! Did you face any difficulties while setting up this eatery?
SF: For a woman it’s not easy to set up her own thing. Searching for a perfect location was challenging then dealing with vendors was quite a task.
You! What is your food philosophy?
SF: We believe in serving fresh, hygienic and healthy food to our clients who are almost from all the strata of society.
You! We have heard that you are an exceptionally good cook. Have you done any professional courses?
SF: You have heard it correct. I am mostly a self-taught cook, and in more recent times, YouTube videos are a great help too. We have a team of people, who cook under my supervision.
You! What type of cuisine you offer at your restaurant?
SF: For now, we are centred around desi, Pakistani cuisine only. However our hot selling items include barbecue, rolls and a variety of parathas along with hot tea.
You! What’s the key to attract people to a new eatery, in your view?
SF: If you offer a nice ambiance with quality food people will come to your place.
You! What do you like most about your job?
SF: The fact that I am a boss here. In my previous jobs I had to do what I was supposed to do. It feels great to work independently.
You! How do you keep balance between family life and work?
SF: My family is very supportive and I have grown up children so it’s quite manageable.
You! What is the most important advice you can give to women?
SF: Better to work for yourself rather than work for some one else.
You! How do you unwind?
SF: I watch movies on my laptop. I spend time with my children, especially long drives. I also cook, just for fun.
You! What are the future plans?
SF: I do have plans to convert ‘Cup Of Cha’ into a restaurant. But let’s see!