The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Softest, crispiest, lightest, headed West
- Nizam’s kathi kebab rolls wrap up Capital, get ready to bite into world market

Calcutta-style steaming kathi kebab rolls in the San Francisco Bay Area or in Southall, or closer home, on Marine Drive' Not a fantasy feast any more. For, the good ol’ roll is on a roll.

Nizam’s, which “invented” the paratha roll, has gone national. And plans are being readied to venture offshore. The “softest, crispiest and lightest” (the slogan on the greasy menu card) Nizam’s rolls are available in Darjeeling since last year. With the opening of two air-conditioned 80-seater restaurants in Lajpatnagar and Noida early this month, the “world’s largest roll shop” has kicked off its expansion plans in right earnest.

“We have offers to open outlets in Mumbai, Bangalore and other cities in India. Proposals have also come from San Francisco, the UK, Dubai and Germany. We plan to take our kathi kebab rolls abroad in a year or two, starting with San Francisco,” says Mehboob ‘Bobby’ Irshad, fourth generation in the family business.

Mehboob, along with younger brothers Asif, Majid and Imran, now help father Irshad Alam keep the fire burning beneath the giant tavas, which once weighed 185 kg, but are nearly 80 kg lighter now, from wear and tear. The 28-year-old, who gave up his dream of playing cricket for India (after making the Under-15, 17 and 19 Bengal squads) to steer the family business, feels the need to grow and streamline operations, in order to meet mounting overheads. “We can’t afford to remain laid-back like our earlier generations. It’s time to go about the task with a little more professionalism.”

Mehboob’s great grandfather, Sk. Hasan Raza, started making kathi kebabs and parathas from a small stall in the early 1900s, with the blessing of a Sufi saint, Hazrat Hasan Waris Shah. “Since the British didn’t like the oil to touch their hand, he hit upon the novel idea of wrapping the kathi kebab and parathas into a fine piece of paper. That’s how rolls came into being.” Raza shifted his stall to the present-day Nizam’s, named after Raza’s son, Sheikh Nizamuddin, in 1932.

With “a very encouraging response” from Delhi, Mehboob is keen to open two more outlets soon, one near Nizamuddin, and another in Gurgaon. Back on home turf, Nizam’s has plans to open small franchisee restaurants with takeaway counters in various paras. “We are also toying with the idea of stepping into food-processing, with microwave-ready kathi kebabs,” says Mehboob.

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