Tale of a self-made entrepreneur

The dream of starting a business and turning it into a million-rial juggernaut is growingly becoming an ambition for many young Omanis. To draw inspiration in this regard, there are a number of entrepreneurs who have built themselves into household names starting with small enterprises.
Afshin Mohammadi is one such example of an Omani businessman who has epitomised the self-made entrepreneur. Although he doesn’t have a rags-to-riches story to narrate so to say, he is operating a successful business that he started from scratch.
“At the outset, you don’t just have to be an expert to run a successful business. Passion, motivation and a strong will are equally important factors,” says Afshin, owner of Al-Roofoof Hotel Supplies & Trading.
Al Roofoof is the exclusive distributor in Oman for many global brands in the food and beverage industry and its related business, including Illy coffee, Domori chocolates, Dammann Freres Teas, Tea Forte, Toschi Flavoured Syrups etc.
But what makes him more proud is his exclusive brand of coffee shop called Chado Tea Lounge, located at Al Mouj Muscat, the upscale water-front residential and commercial development in Oman.
He named it so from the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, called Chado, which means ‘the Way of Tea’. This culture was started in the 16th century by tea master Sen no Rikyu, who was also a successful merchant. When Afshin started his business in 2001, there was not much happening in Muscat’s coffee market scene.
“When I started working on the idea of establishing a coffee business, there was very little precedence available both locally and online to help me get started. There were no professional training programmes. Add to that the fact I was commencing with a minimal capital investment,” he says.
First of all, there was no coffee culture in the Sultanate, except it being part of traditional Omani hospitality at homes.
“Still I started with the famous Illy brand of Italy with the anticipation that coffee will have premium positioning in Oman’s market. As I anticipated, today coffee business has become very competitive with the change in the lifestyle of people,” he reveals.
The establishment of Raffd Fund by the Oman government to extend financial support to start-ups helped Afshin expand his business.
“It was with the backing of a loan from the Fund that I could diversify my business,” Afshin says.
Talking about the success of his business, he says, “It’s not an amazing idea that makes a business successful, it’s the execution. While we have a great product, having a marketing plan is just as important, if not more.”
Every statistic that comes from the coffee market shows it is growing every year. The market is full of competition. We have to listen to our clientele. We need to improve and get better every day. We have to adjust as per the changing needs and wants of the customers, he advises.
“While making a good cup of coffee with the best ingredients is the bedrock of the café business, professional and well-trained staff can turn a good business into a great one,” he says.
“First and foremost, you have to be really passionate about the quality of the beverages that you produce for your customers. We source the best and then serve the best,” he claims.
According to Afshin, there is a hidden secret to a successful business.
“If you ask me, it all boils down to hard work. With all odds seemingly stacked against you — busy and bustling work days, long working hours, and steep competition from other coffee shops, to name a few — might seem like a daunting task. Ultimately, your dedication in implementing what you want to do is what will reward you in your business.”

SAMUEL KUTTY