In conversation with Rumman Ahmed, who has tapped success in restaurants, fitness and youth organising businesses. He is the Chairman of Habib Tazkira Salon and Hammer Strength Fitness Centre; he is also the director of Wind of Change and Gravy Dine Restaurant. The dynamic business man also owns the Hideout Lounge & Game Zone, ICE Berg ICE Cream Parlour and Hammer Outfit.
You have been associated with a number of ventures and promote ideas and projects which encourage the youth to develop themselves as better citizens. Please tell us about the journey. What inspired you the most and how do you plan for a project?
Whenever I take up a project, it must be delivered with passion. Instead of having a humble beginning, where I am today was only possible by the grace of Allah and the blessings of my guardians and relatives. My honours were in Environmental Science and Forestry from the University of Chittagong, and later, I pursued an MBA from USTC, which actually helped me proceed with my entrepreneurial ventures. My family instilled in me the great value of respect for all professions, which helped me start my first venture back in 1996: managing private tutors for students. I still remember distributing my company’s leaflets for hours in front of schools. This venture actually helped me develop my public communication skills.
You also had other businesses before trying your luck in the salon business, correct?
I, along with a couple of like-minded friends from the university, set up two cyber cafes in 1999. In 2012, something interesting happened when I had to fly to Japan as my wife was pursuing a Ph.D. There, my haircut cost me 4,999 yen, which is quite expensive! That triggered the idea of setting up an upscale branded salon. After coming back, I got in touch with Jawad Habib, the globally renowned hair stylist from India and convinced him to inaugurate a co-branded salon. After that, I opened Jawad Habib Academy on hair styling in Chittagong, which was frequented by Indian hairstylists. Habib Tazkira’s Salon, which is named after my daughter, eventually became a one-stop service centre for both male and female clients from Chittagong.
How did you get inspired to start a fitness business?
My success in the salon business inspired me to dream bigger. During an event at Radisson Blu Chittagong Bay View, I almost whimsically declared that I would like to offer services in the area of fitness to set new standards. We brought then Mr Patya for instructing local gym-goers about fitness and bodybuilding. He ran a weight-loss program for three months, which became really popular among both male and female fitness enthusiasts.
Tell us about the annual fitness competition that you initiated in Chittagong named Mr & Mrs Hammerstrength.
I organised it in late 2016 and then at the beginning of this year. There are 4,000 registered members at my gym, of which, around 500-600 people are regularly attaining the workout sessions. Since nutrition is an integral part of fitness, I decided to bring the franchise of Bengal Meat in Chittagong for the first time in 2016.
Now tell us about your journey as a restaurateur.
The Hide Out-Lounge & Gaming Zone, my first specialised restaurant, is doing great with the support I have received from the locals. A mega Hide Out is being planned right at this moment. This will be located in a bigger shopping mall and will accommodate more people and cater to the gaming frenzy.
You have been promoting sports among the youths for a long time.
See, sports teaches us discipline and perseverance, while keeping us fit. This is why I found it amazing to promote sports, mostly football leagues. The craze of sports among the youth enthralls me like anything. This cafe has been displaying football matches of the ongoing World Cup since the beginning. Hide Out Football Fest has gathered a huge number of football fanatics to this venue, while they enjoy the magical game with their friends besides enjoying good food.
So what’s your next plan?
I have always wanted to do something in Cox’s Bazar, which consists of numerous untapped potential. I am lucky enough to get an investor already. Together we would like to create something similar to Hide Out so that the huge number of foreign and domestic tourists can enjoy a nightlife full of promising activities.
So what’s your take on the food and restaurant culture in Chittagong?
We are yet to evolve as foodies in Chittagong. One advantage Dhaka has is it’s a cosmopolitan city, a melting pot of many cultures and trends, therefore, foodies in Dhaka are always game for trying out new restaurants. I think we, as restaurateurs, should promote new cuisines to encourage people to try out something different everytime.
5 things you didn’t know about Rumman Ahmed
Rumman is a lifelong supporter of Brazil. Bebeto was his favourite player growing up. He loves Brazil because of their beautiful style of play and also because legends like Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos all have Rs in their names just like him.
He works out in the gym for 40 minutes every day. Although he has eased up on the weights over the years, he still believes that working out should always be a part of one’s life.
Rumman is a family man and has a very strong bond with both of his children, particularly his daughter Tazkira.
Due to his family-oriented nature, all of Rumman’s projects are located very close to his house. He sometimes sneaks out of his office to have lunch with his family and come back in without anyone noticing.
Rumman believes that it is extremely important for parents to give time to their children. He also believes that it is crucial for children to not use Facebook or social media until they have reached a certain age.