Values and InstitutionsBusiness & EntrepreneurshipDawoodi Bohra Initiative Helps 1,100 Entrepreneurs Turn Dreams Into Reality

Dawoodi Bohra Initiative Helps 1,100 Entrepreneurs Turn Dreams Into Reality

Qardan Hasana initiative supports Bohra entrepreneurs with interest-free loans to start or revive businesses, like BatC Patisserie and Diamond Samosa.

This story was reported by Hindustan Times on February 28, 2024.

Batul Akhtar quit her job as a chef with the Taj Hotel during the Covid-19 pandemic. She was keen to start cloud kitchen for designer cakes from her home in Agripada, but did not have the capital. That’s when she approached the Qardan Hasana initiative, which provides interest-free loans to entrepreneurs from the Dawoodi Bohra community.

“The loan application process is very straightforward, similar to pitching your business to an investor,” said Akhtar. Following the submission of relevant documents, there is a small interview about the business background of the applicant and the potential trajectory of the business idea, she said.

BatC Patisserie’s bespoke cakes.

“I received valuable guidance at various stages of setting up the cloud kitchen and advancing my business,” said the proud owner of BatC Patisserie, which supplies designer cakes and macaroons to hotels of the Taj group, JW Marriot, and Sir Ratan Tata Institute. The name BatC is a fusion of Batul’s nickname, Batsy, while the “C” represents cakes and confectionaries, she explained. 

“I was able to invest in industrial machinery and upscale my equipment after getting the loan. I acquired two convection ovens, refrigeration equipment, and a hand mixer machine,” said Akhtar.

Like her, the Qardan Hasana initiative, managed by the Anjuman-e-Shiate Ali in Fort, has helped nearly 1,100 Bohra entrepreneurs over the past 36 months to translate their dreams into reality. The initiative provides interest-free loans to applicants to rejuvenate ancestral businesses or establish new manufacturing units, as well as counselling support. The ventures supported include manufacturing of hardware tools, glass and windows facades, wood and foam, textiles as well as culinary initiatives like production of patti samosas and baking. 

Diamond Samosa, a renowned patti samosa manufacturer in the heart of Nagpada’s Telli Gully is among the beneficiaries of the initiative. 

Originally established as a small handmade patti shop in Bhendi Bazaar’s Bohri Mohalla 65 years ago, it is managed by Burhanuddin Barwani, 42, a second-generation entrepreneur, and his two brothers.

Burhanuddin Barwani, 42, a second-generation entrepreneur runs a samosa business alongside his two brothers.
Burhanuddin Barwani, 42, a second-generation entrepreneur runs a samosa business alongside his two brothers.

“My father Hakimuddin was the first supplier of handmade patti samosas from Bohra mohalla to the whole of Mumbai,” said Barwani, who took a loan of ₹25,000 in 2009, which he repaid over 10 months. The initiative provided him “both financial stability and sukoon (peace of mind),” he said, helping him set up a new manufacturing facility in Bhiwandi equipped with the latest machinery. Today, Diamond Samosa produces up to 1,500 kilograms of patti samosas a day, especially during Ramadan, and its clientele spans the entire country. 

Sakina Arsiwala, 27, counts among the longstanding beneficiaries of Qardan Hasana. The initiative has been helping her modernise her family’s glass facade and windows business since she was 16 years old. Although Arsiwala prefers not to disclose the name and location of her business, she says, “Our family has been in the glass and sliding windows facade business for over 60 years. The support from Qardan Hasana has helped me acquire new machinery and expand the business beyond local fabricators and builders to working with prominent real estate firms.”

Huzaifa Vasanwala, 49, a Mazgaon-based hospitality entrepreneur, is another beneficiary of the initiative. He spent two decades in the IT industry before quitting as the IT head of the Mahindra group of companies. 

Huzefa Vasanwala of Mazgaon in South Mumbai
Huzaifa Vasanwala of Mazgaon in South Mumbai

“In a typical corporate job, one often becomes accustomed to a predictable routine, relying on a monthly salary.

“It’s essential to have faith in oneself and break free from the mindset of working solely for a company. While Bohras have historically been traders, there’s a gradual shift towards embracing the manufacturing sector,” he said.

Kuresh Kagalwala, a chartered accountant and director of a software company, also serves as a trainer at the Anjuman-e-Shiate Ali, which manages the initiative. 

“The term ‘Bohra’ embodies business and most Bohras are traders. We often witness multi-generational continuity, with grandchildren seeking to revive their grandfathers’ businesses, sometimes requiring the establishment of manufacturing facilities. That’s where we come in,” said Kagalwala.