She came, she cooked and she conquered: Naga woman entrepreneur Jamir- The New Indian Express

NAGALAND: A Lemjungla Jamir had given up a comfortable job abroad to train future hospitality professionals back home in Nagaland, but promoting the local cuisine had always been on his mind.

After working in some of the well-known hotels in India and on a cruise ship abroad between 2003 and 2019, and teaching hotel management at a university in Nagaland, she ventured into the food industry. Today she is the proud owner of her dream restaurant, Naga Bowl Express, which she opened three years ago in Dimapur, the face of the state.

The Nagas are widely known for their hospitality and she is one of a handful of Naga entrepreneurs who have made it big. It is all the more gratifying that it mainly employs school dropouts who come from “less privileged” families.

Jamir worked at Oberoi Trident in Gurgaon and Grand Maratha Sheraton in Mumbai for three years before moving abroad in 2006. She was employed by MSC Cruises, Italy, from 2006 to 2008, where she worked in several Mediterranean and Nordic countries. She says she could have continued working abroad and has also had several job offers both inside and outside India, but she decided to return home to teach hotel management.

“I was home on vacation in 2008 preparing to return to Italy when I received an offer to teach at the Global Open University which was being established in Dimapur. I saw an opportunity to be a part of this that would train future professionals in the hospitality industry. So I took the job,” Jamir tells this newspaper.

She says during this time she has also been involved in several tourism initiatives dedicated to promoting Naga cuisine, including the Naga Cooking Contest held annually during the Hornbill Festival.

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“I have experienced firsthand and in depth the diversity and richness of our Naga cuisine. This turned my interest into a passion and I learned as much as I could about the different ingredients and culinary practices of the different Naga tribes. I wanted to open a restaurant where people can enjoy all Naga dishes,” says Jamir. The pandemic took its toll on her business, but she slowly managed to make a name for herself. Naga Bowl Express is well established today.

“As a relative newcomer to the restaurant scene here and having weathered the initial challenges of Covid-19 I would say we’re doing pretty well. We have been able to attract a loyal customer base that includes both locals and tourists. I was also able to bring in new ideas, which were well received. Making money is important to keep the business going, but I can do something that I believe in and love, and that’s the ultimate satisfaction,” says Jamir.

Establishing a branch outside of Nagaland to introduce Naga cuisine to a larger group of non-Nagas was part of her plan, but she prioritized Nagaland so that people could experience authentic Naga cuisine in a modern setting. She says Naga Bowl Express is unique in the sense that it offers some of the popular dishes of the Naga tribes under one roof. Jamir grew up in Mopungchuket Village, Mokokchung District. She says she hired the school dropouts from villages with no experience because she knows the struggles the youngsters go through to get a decent job.

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