To be an entrepreneur is not simply easy. It takes a lot of courage and individual decision making to make a mark. Obviously, establishing or running a business entity is lot harder if you’re a woman. However there are resolute female entrepreneurs who take lead from their unflinching self-confidence and do not hesitate from walking a path less trodden.
Saima Bukhari, a young expatriate woman originally from India, is one such example among many of women who can be seen in Qatar making their presence felt. She is the founder and executive director of ‘The Alif Way’ – a company that promotes a sustainable and healthier lifestyle.
Saima, who was born and raised in Qatar, holds a degree in International Business Management from Stenden University. Her career as a fitness enthusiast began by launching Qatar’s first transformation programme in 2013. Keeping within the industry, she started The Alif Way.
The young female entrepreneur spoke to Community at length about how she started up her business and her thoughts on her business idea. “After I finished my university, I and a friend of mine discussed about our fitness routine and food. We started our company named Crunch Doha that was focused on helping people transform their physique. We offered help in making people lighter, fitter and healthier. It is how my professional journey in the industry of health and wellness started.
“After about five years, I started exploring the industry further. I moved away from Crunch Doha. I learnt from about 300 clients of mine that short term results only give you short term benefits. I wanted to give more of long term benefits. That is where Alif came into existence. I chose the title that is not completely related to health and fitness. I think if the company’s name is related to fitness industry, people get very limited when they see words like diet and nutrition.”
Saima wants people to be the best version of themselves in a sustainable way. “I came up with something for long term benefits for people who watch out for calories, meal planning, what ingredients are used, methods of cooking and where the food items come from. The blockade came as a blessing as we got more options for local items – the fresh ones.
“For the previous two years we have expanded into different areas such as subscription plans, consultancy, helping other food and beverage entrepreneurs, working with fitness centres and gyms, and supplying to different retail outlets – ready to eat meals.”
Saima, whose company runs its own kitchen, prefer to call her food similar to the food prepared by mothers for their children. “I think we are close to the idea of the food prepared by mothers. Mothers want to take care of their kids. They make sure that kids are eating well, in time, and get the things they like. Mothers offer fresh and attractive food. I think our brand focuses more towards that. We support our clients during whatever challenges they face. We do ready to eat meals. Our customers can select our meals from our website. They can customise whatever they like.”
The young entrepreneur sees her company different from other online food delivery companies. “There are online food directories and delivery outlets. They do not produce their own food. We produce our own food. We have our own meal plans. We deliver them as well. We are not the only business of this sort. However, we are the only one focusing on sustainability. We want people to understand that nutrition does not mean short term diets to get certain results. We work with specialised dieticians and health coaches. Our clients need different things. Sometimes they need only a piece of advice and sometimes they need long term mentorship. We offer both.”
Saima wants her customers to focus on just what they are eating rather than the appeal or flavour of the food. “Notwithstanding our piece of advice, I have observed that the flavour is ultimate winner. There is a minority very strict in discipline. Only in this segment, you find value for nutrition more than flavour. Everything has to work in balance. The extreme behaviour is what throws everyone off. There needs to be a balance.”
The businesswoman herself grew up thinking that one can eat whatever one likes if one is having an active lifestyle. She however has altered her opinion. “I used to eat a lot of junk food and thought my active lifestyle is enough to burn it. With the passage of time, I realised that you need to also be careful of your nutrition levels. I do not say that all junk food is unhealthy. If you manage to have 80 percent of healthy food in a day and the rest of 20 percent of indulgence, you can still manage pretty well. As for burning off your calories, you cannot become sedentary.”
Saima, as an entrepreneur, believes that one needs to start up a business idea with whatever resources one has. “Sometime you have a good business idea but you lack resources. In some cases, people have resource but they look for a workable idea. I think we should just take an initiative with the available resources. It is all about how much risk you are willing to take.”
The young woman sees entrepreneurship as a mindset more than a skill. “It is something that either you have or you do not. To be fair, we all have to try to know whether we have that knack or we do not. I have seen it very recently that entrepreneurship is genuinely a mindset. I have seen many people with very good entrepreneurial mindset which means that their performance is better than their initiatives. It means that they are ready to go an extra mile. I have also seen businesspeople that do not have that mindset. They operate in a very broad manner. You got to know where you want to use this mindset. Entrepreneurship is tough.”
Saima feels herself extremely lucky to be born and raised in Doha. “It is a blessing that I have nothing to do with. The country has an amazing infrastructure and support system. This country is more like a home.
“For business, there are very straightforward rules. I have seen more options and more opportunities in recent times. The support for the business has grown here. There are more opportunities.”
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