"From small acorns do giant oak trees grow"
Widely acknowledged as one of the first Asian Bakeries in Bradford, Kashmir Crown Bakeries has a turnover of millions and reaches every corner of the globe. The Asian sweets, biscuits and savouries are famed throughout the world. Until now, not much was known about the man behind the success.KCB first delivery van.
He earned 70 rupees a month. After a couple of months he moved to a textile mill in Jhelum and his monthly wage increased to 90 rupees. But Saleem had a burning ambition in heart. He yearned to run his own business, "I knew there was no way I would be successful working for someone else. I had a deep desire to strike out my own but I didn't have the means".
Two of his brother-in-laws ran a grocery store in Mirpur Kashmir and seemed to be doing well. He had no money but was determined to start his own business. He knew that if he wanted to make something of his life he needed to branch out. He asked his father for permission, but as his father had pointed out, he had no collateral. But Saleem was determined. His brother-in-law had vacant premises and with the help of family and friends he managed to scrape together 800 rupees and was soon in business with a small grocery store, selling lentils, fruit and vegetables. After three months he sat and went through the books and realised his original 800 rupees had swollen to 2700 rupees. Naturally he was overjoyed and began thinking of ways of expanding and like many people at the time, he made a plan to come to Britain.
He came to England in July 1961 with £5 and settled in Birmingham but was unable to find work. Frustrated that he made such a long journey leaving behind his family and friends, he came to Bradford where another friend was living. "There were a lot of mills here and people who couldn't find work anywhere else managed to get jobs in the mills". He started working in a mill again at W.E Yates Mill, Bramley, Leeds. He learned about textiles and found the work hard but enjoyable. Saleem still nurtured the wish of running his own business. He returned to Pakistan and married in 1966. He returned again briefly to Birmingham and then Bradford to continue working in the same mill.
After six months he and his friend Mohammed Khan, rented a shop on Leeds Road. He ran the shop for about three years supplying fruit and vegetables from the nearby St James Market. But Saleem was still not satisfied. He continued working nights at the mill and then started work at the Commonwealth Restaurant, run by another Bradford business, FD Farooqi, as a driver. This was probably the turning point of his life. He gave up his job at the mill and began driving around the country supplying Asian sweets as part of Mr Farooqi's growing business. Mr Farooqi then decided that he wanted out and wound the Asian sweet side of business up.
Saleem decided this was the chance he needed to make his dream of having his own business come true. Diversifying from his groceries he began to taste sweet success producing Asian sweets in 1966. "It was all by the grace of God," said Saleem "I had £55 in total to my name, with that I bought a gas cooker and a few other items". He was told to go ahead and start the business by a friendly Health Inspector Mr Keighley. A few months later Mr Keighley came to the shop and took away some samples of Asian sweets in sealed containers to analyse. A few weeks later Saleem received a letter saying in short "what you produce is perfect". This was just the encouragement he needed - and he was in business.
He bought his first shop in 1970 in Carrington Street, off Killinghall Road, Bradford and was kindly given a two week crash course in baking by the then proprietors Mr. And Mrs Whitehead. He then employed Mr Prescott, a traditional baker, for the princely sum of six shillings a day. He bought a mixing machine for £3 from a second hand shop on Lumb Lane. Together they experimented in making cake Rusks and it was during this experimentation process that Saleem stumbled on the recipe for the best selling and prize winning Crown Cake Rusk. The product is still made according to the original secret recipe!!!!
The Asian sweet business also continued to flourish and in 1974 a second shop opposite the Commonwealth Restaurant opened. It was called the 'Crown Bakery'. "In the first year of trading the accountant said we had made £8000". Now Kashmir Crown Bakery are a multi-million pound business.
Pakistan obviously means a lot to Saleem. His children grew up in Pakistan so that they would develop their cultural roots and are now helping their father run the successful business. Kashmir Crown Bakeries is a major local employer and there is probably not a corner of the world, which has not heard of Kashmir Crown Bakeries. KCB proudly states "Our products go to many shops in England and Europe Day by day the business is expanding to independent retailers, wholesalers and local stores."