Offbeat entrepreneurs: This PhD from JNU left his lucrative job for setting up a dhaba

A decade and a half back a young PhD holder from prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) decided to follow his heart by opening a dhaba at his 'alma mater' itself.

Written by Swati Sharma , Edited by Parmita Uniyal | New Delhi | Updated: July 23, 2014 11:11:18 am
mamu-main Shahzad Ibrahimi a PhD from JNU (left), set up a dhaba at his alma mater (right)

There are people who work for money, to run their families. Then there are those who work for themselves (heart), to follow their passions. For that they tread an unconventional path which leads them to satisfaction and happiness. When a group of IITians runs an online portal for delivering food, another runs a toll free number to help rural masses answer their queries, or a doctorate sets up a dhaba in JNU, they are setting example for others by going offbeat.

In our four-part series, we share the stories of these offbeat entrepreneurs who had the courage to break sterotypes and emerge as winners.

Third in the series is the story of Mamu, a young PhD holder, who chose his passion over stability, by setting by a dhaba at JNU.

A decade and a half back a young PhD holder from prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) decided to follow his heart by opening a dhaba at his ‘alma mater’ itself.

After around 15 years of taking this decision, Mamu (as he is fondly called) has set an example among his juniors and many outsiders who visit his dhaba regularly to relish the food. The guy was also called at the swearing-in ceremony of PM Narendra Modi.

Shahzad Ibrahimi, a PhD from JNU started his dhaba with Rs 500 and never thought in his wildest of dreams that it would be a great success in years to come. Mamu’s dhaba not only serves food at affordable prices, but also offers free food to people, irrespective of their religion, at the time of ‘Iftaar’ during the month of ‘Ramzaan’.

“If you are at JNU, all you have to do is ask for mamu’s (mamu ka dhaba) you will get instant directions,” says Mamu proudly.

Talking exclusively to Indian Express, Ibrahimi reveals how the dream took wings. “The dream came true only because while I was in school (at a madrasa in Arihari village in Sheikhpura district of Bihar), I hated studies. The only things I showed interest in were Urdu and food. Once in Class XII, the mess in-charge of our hostel vanished. I gathered some of my school friends and made two kinds of vegetables, yellow dal and chapatis for 25 people,” adding, “everybody earns money, some earn more others less, what matters is how much one is satisfied with the amount of labour one is putting in his work.”

Mamu's Dhaba Mamu’s Dhaba

It was just the start. The road ahead was bumpy.

“Initially my parents, friends and teacher were against it. They all used to say same thing to me, why have you wasted so much money when in the end you had to run just a dhaba,” shares Mamu.

The twist in the tale was yet to come. Like in films, Mamu fell in love with a Hindu girl, eloped and took refuge at the same place which was to change his destiny.

“By the end of my post graduation, I decided to marry a Hindu girl whom I love. Like in many of the love stories, religion became a cause for domestic tension. Opposing both our parents, we secretly married, on campus, and moved to the married students’ quarters,” he adds.

After completing his studies, he gave a shot to TV journalism in Hyderabad, only to realise his real dream.

“After six years at JNU, I left for Hyderabad. I got a job as a TV journalist. Though it was exciting but there is no other place like JNU, there was something always pulling me back. I think I was always meant to be here, running this small dhaba,” says Ibrahimi.

He didn’t look back after that and went ahead with his dhaba dream.

dhaba2 Students queue up to get their favourite delicacy at Mamu’s Dhaba.

“After this I decided to open a dhaba because food was all I could think of. I was always obsessed over onion and tomato salads. I cut them in zigzag fashion; not the straightforward chop. I think everybody can make food but being different is what makes you special,” says Mamu.

The dream took shape in the form of ‘Mamu Ka Dhaba’ that began in 2000. “Bihari Thaali and Litti Chokha is my specialty. JNU is my home. Sixteen years gone. More to come and go,” shares the excited Mamu, adding, “I am my own boss here. There is no one to ask me why I am late. No waiting for that salary at the end of the month. Sometimes I make money, sometimes I don’t and it doesn’t bother me at all. At the end of the day I love my work.”

That’s what matters.

Last but not the least, in our series of Offbeat Entrepreneurs would be Nayab Shah, a hair-dresser, who has a magical touch

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