by Menahel Ayyaz Khan
Lately, LUMS has experienced the opening of quite a few new eateries on campus. These new joints have provided a wider and better variety of food available to the campus community. But perhaps the most popular amongst the students so far is the little café under the stairs of the Library building, The Bunker.
What is different about this little but extremely cosy café is not only its warm ambience or the aroma of freshly baked cookies wafting as soon as one enters the place, but the fact that it is owned and managed by LUMS’s own graduates, Safir Hasan and Ahsan Sajjad.
The first thing one notices when one approaches the café is the European looking green window and door like the ones you could find on a Parisian street café. Entering inside, one is hit with the warmth of the wooden aesthetic and the scent of cookies and coffee.
“This was a deliberate attempt to make the place look homely,” says Hasan, sitting on a shelf comfortably, “I want the students to come in here and forget about their GPA. There’s no vibe of LUMS. And very soon we’ll put up a music system too.”
When asked about the inspiration for the name, Hasan confessed that he used to bunk his classes to set up his own coffee business, so it was only natural for the place to be called “The Bunker”. Furthermore, Hasan’s partner, Ahsan, left his job at Procter & Gamble (P&G) to start this enterprise from scratch. On being asked about the partnership, Hasan said that they have a “divide and conquer” policy as he looks after the “flashier” sides of the café like the aesthetics, customer dealing, and marketing whilst Sajjad does the management and handles the finances. The recipes are divided between them both.
But the road to The Bunker was not an easy one. “It took us two years and tonnes of contacts to set The Bunker up”, says Hasan. According to him, the LUMS admin is sceptical of letting students set up start-ups on campus because often, they are incapable of looking after them, that leads to a decline in the quality of the enterprise, “We had to prove to them that The Bunker was in good hands and that it will not be neglected”. So far, the owners are living up to their words, according to the campus community.
Moreover, Hasan and Sajjad had a message for the student body. They believe that becoming an entrepreneur does not require any specific degree or school. Belonging to SDSB, they confessed that HSS or SAHSOL students may be better trained for pursuing their own business ventures because they are taught to think “critically”.
When asked about the future ideas regarding the Bunker, Hasan told us that they plan on introducing more “summer oriented” food and beverages like slushies and fresh juices for the upcoming season with the help of another of the students. Hence, more future partnerships amongst the student body can be expected. Additionally, they plan on expanding the joint outside of LUMS and have already received offers from the University of Central Punjab, University College of Lahore, and University of Lahore.
What more is that both Hasan and Sajjad have plans to ensure that their employees remain comfortable yet vigilant with the job of managing the Bunker while the owners are not around. While they remain strict with the money matters and customer dealing, both alumni intend on rotating the employees in retail stores and shipping them out as managers in the other branches to provide them incentives to grow professionally.
The interview ended with high hopes of the Bunker’s success and inspiration on the reporter’s part after watching Hasan and Sajjad’s zeal and zest. Furthermore, they offered free cookies as a token of thanks for interviewing them. Let us hope that the two and their team will strive to make the Bunker a signature of LUMS and their example would motivate both, the students and the admin to run more entrepreneurship opportunities on campus.
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