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IT professional-turned-entrepreneur cashes in on CSK, shawarma craze in Chennai

Pune - Arafat Ahmed's shawarma venture turned out to be a game-changer in Chennai, which lacks eateries serving shawarmas


Nithin Belle

Published: Sat 25 Sep 2021, 10:49 AM

Arafat Ahmed wears multiple hats with aplomb. He was a software engineer, loves food, has excellent culinary skills and is simply crazy about cricket.

When he was working as a software engineer in Bengaluru, his biggest challenge was to be in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, on the weekends to watch his favourite cricketers play the game or try his hand at it.

Ahmed was content with his life as a software professional.

“I was earning a good salary as a software engineer for more than a decade. My wife, Shehanaz, too, was in the same profession and we had enjoyed our stint,” he said.

However, the urge to return to Chennai, to play cricket — his favourite sport — and make a living out of his his other passion, cooking, was overpowering.

Earlier this year, Ahmed quit his job and returned to Chennai to start his own enterprise.

The creative entrepreneur selected the initials CSK — an homage to his favourite IPL team Chennai Super Kings. But his culinary eponymous venture stands for Chromepet Shawarma Kings.

Chromepet is the name of a suburb in Chennai and shawarma is his favourite food, which was the basic thought behind zeroing in on CSK as the name of his entrepreneurial venture.

In retrospect, 34-year-old Ahmed said he feels vindicated about the paradigm shift and does not have any regrets. “It made eminent sense. I quit my job in Bengaluru, packed our bags, returned to Chennai and launched CSK. I plunged headlong in rustling up shawarmas, much to the delight of my customers.”

CSK has turned out to be a game-changer in Chennai, which lacks eateries serving shawarmas.

Ahmed is aware of the shawarma’s popularity in Dubai, Arabian Gulf and the wider region in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

However, he has never been abroad. “I’d like to enjoy eating delicious shawarmas in Dubai,” he said.

CSK players and patrons’ paintings find a pride of place in his eatery, which serves a vegetarian variant of the Levantine Arab dish, along with condiments that come in cones and fried puff-pastry balls filled with spiced mashed potato, spiced water and tamarind juice, which in India is popularly known as panipuris.

Paintings of MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja, who have made a name for themselves as integral members of CSK, adorn his restaurant's walls.

Ahmed’s business has got off to a flying start, despite the Covid-19 pandemic challenge. The success has emboldened the entrepreneur to chart out aggressive expansion plans.

Dubai could well be the pit stop in the near future. But he’s keen on expanding his fledgling business at home before venturing out to foreign shores.

The software professional-turned-entrepreneur’s success shows passion can triumph over any adversity in life.


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