We first wrote about our friend, Imran Saleh in February, 2013 when he was making cheese in his home (click here). Within a few years, he had created the first artisan cheese business in Pakistan, while still working full time at his longtime business – Faisal Traders. Now, Imran is a full time cheese maker with many employees.
Our last update article about Imran was in May, 2017 – http://blog.cheesemaking.com/imran-saleh-expanding-again/. He had just moved his business into a new, air conditioned facility.
Since then, he has expanded his product line and his marketing. His business is thriving.
When we told him we were doing this update article, Imran wanted us to share this with you:
I guess I never shared with you that when I was trying my hands at cheese making in 2012, my wife was totally pissed off by my hobby since I was making a lot of mess in the kitchen. Eventually she had to kick me out of the kitchen and I moved to a room at the back of my home.
It was not not much later when I was kicked out from there, too, and I made my first small cheese facility which you have covered in your blog.
Today I call it “Kick to Success.” We both enjoy this and laugh at the past and I am so grateful to her – had she not thrown my hobby out of our home, I would have ended up as a hobbiest cheese maker.
Secondly, all this success was not sudden – I made lots of mistakes, but I learned. I failed hundreds of times, but I raised up and tried again the next day. I found out that I never liked my business, Faisal Traders. It was a way to earn a living and I was pushing myself to be a money making machine.
Today I am a leading name in artisan cheese making in Pakistan. Today, I am living my life and I am satisfied and happy.
My message to everyone is that life is once. Live your life. Be positive and, if possible, do in life what you want to do. Take risks, face failures, face attitudes but keep doing what you want to do. Either you will become successful or not but at least you will feel happier in life.
Imran has always kept in touch with us, never failing to wish us well at all our holidays, etc. The update below is composed of quotes from his emails.
This is a month of Ramadan for Muslims and we all fast. One day more to go and then we will celebrate the Eid festival (which will be June 5th in 2019). For this Eid, I introduced a cheese platter, which was a big hit and we are over busy with orders. It’s going to be a tsunami in the next few months. People are using it as gifts and a valued addition for their dining tables.
Lahore is very warm these days, around 108F (42C). The air conditioning unit is a blessing for me in this season. Surprisingly, there is not much decline in the cheese orders due to the unbearable heat.
I wish you could try my cheeses. Since I make cheese from unpasteurized milk, it’s the best taste you can find anywhere.
I have found that unpasteurized cheese is the safest thing on earth – it’s only the working conditions which can produce bad bacteria. If proper sanitation and hygiene is adopted, it’s as safe as any other food. Any food which is processed in a bad hygienic environment can develop bad bacteria – cheese is not any special case. I have been eating raw milk cheese for the last 5 years and I feel much better than I did in previous years.
Last year, I started making goat milk cheeses but, due to a scarcity of goat milk, I gave up the project. That’s the reason I want to raise my own goats and I would love to have a personal goat farm.
Right now, I am focused on spreading my cheese into the country. Our eating habits in Pakistan are very different. People like oily, spicy food and they like to eat in quantity. I want them to eat healthy cheeses with fruit and nuts, for breakfast and dinners and to return to healthy living. That might sound crazy, but that’s how I am.
As I told you, I have moved to my new cheese facility which is a controlled unit with much bigger capacity for cheese making. From outside it’s just an ordinary house, but when you enter the cheese facility, you get a feel of Italy or Switzerland. You might be surprised at how Italy is so “in” in our culture – it’s because of the Italian foods people love to eat.
Since my passion is transformed into business, I intend to achieve a target of processing 2,642 gallons (10,000 liters) of milk daily, though, at the moment, it’s below 264 gallons (1,000 liters). Targets are high this time, so let’s see if I can climb this mountain.
We are a team of 6 people who I have thoroughly trained. I am always scared of losing employees, so I always hire one or two extra. This enables me to focus on other hard issues.
I am proud to tell you that after going through trial and errors, I have managed to make a wonderful cream cheese which is just cheese.
A few restaurants are on-board and they make cream cheese cakes out of it with great satisfaction. It is much denser in nature then any other cream cheese. I have also developed a number of flavors including garlic peppers, olives, figs, walnuts and raisins, cheddar, Taleggio cream cheese, almonds and a blue cheese, too.
We now produce 40 assorted cheeses.
“We are children of the world …watching every day go by … changes my life, changes your life, keeps us anticipating…” This Bee-gees song (my favorite) was playing as I was driving back from Islamabad after attending g a Christmas gala at the German embassy. The ambassador was dressed as Santa and we had people from different nations.
I was invited for this occasion by my German friend, Claus Euler who makes and sells wonderful German sourdough breads. Our stall was the hit of the day and we sold out every piece.
Business is continuously increasing. I have to built a cold storage within 1 -2 months to meet the demand. People are becoming aware of the difference between non-processed and processed.
By the way, my cheddar, halloumi, buffalo mozzarella, and cream cheese are best sellers.
I started making raclette for a high end cafe and I am producing a reasonable quantity of it.
The cheese “ Cambrie Jerry “ is suddenly recognized by the same cafe and I have 44 pounds (20 kg) order per month now. It resembles brick cheese and they tried it on pizza.
Hopefully, in coming years, FCM will be the largest artisan, non-processed cheese producer in the country. Many others are getting inspired and trying their hands at making cheese. A few are selling at farmer’s markets, too. Thus, an era of cheese making has started here in Pakistan.
I was doing the farmer’s market in Lahore up until last year.
Since now the business has improved 1000 fold, I and my team are too busy to meet the demand. We are working around the clock and it’s increasing day by day, leaving no time for having stalls in farmer’s markets.
To me, farmer’s markets (FM) are wonderful platforms, especially for selling and introducing cheese. Here you are face to face with end users and you get realistic feedback right away due to offering free tastes. Since its a limited market, you get the right audience and their feedback helps you improve if you are a passionate cheese maker.
I not only used to sell small portions, but we were making goody bags including various cheeses in small portions so that people could taste many of them at home and decide which ones suited their taste pallets.
I was busy, busy and very busy in upgrading our facility which is now a proper bulk manufacturing unit. We have chillers and cold storage, a completely computerized system, an office (however we are shifting the office into a business area soon), an accounting office, a general manager, a supervisor and everything which a small industry requires. So, from the kitchen to an industry is a journey accomplished.
Finally, we are successful in negotiations with a famous chain of food marts and soon our cheese will be selling at 9 different locations – pre-packed as well as live cutting and selling. It was a big mission to accomplish this and finally we are on the way to spread our skills in the country.
Today my company is selling cheese at many super stores with live stations where we offer it for customers to taste and purchase. A large variety of artisan cheeses are sold over the counter. This is turning into a trend and many other stores are contacting us for such displays. Eventually, we will take it to all the major cities, turning FCM into a brand.
All this is not so easy. Despite large man power including cheese makers, packing guys, managers and general manager, we still have to work 10-12 hrs daily. But, my team which was trained by me are dedicated and hard workers and we come out ahead of problems.
There are other artisan cheese makers too, in Pakistan now, including a few trained by me. I feel happy to have given Pakistan other artisan cheese makers.
Today we are turning into a brand and I enjoy cheese making more then ever. We are not only spreading fast but I believe soon we shall be exporting our products to other countries. In another few years, I plan to make a model dairy farm with the cheese facility on the site, producing cheese at international standards.
Goals are big, targets are high, the journey is tough, but hopes are high, too. I feel wonderful when people I don’t even know, meet me and show their love and respect. I feel so humbled.
We asked for more information about the display cases:
At all the stores we have a live station to taste and to purchase.
There we keep all types of fresh and mature cheeses, from small sizes – 7 ounces (200 g) to 1 1/2 pound (2/3 kg) blocks.
I give the display chillers to the stores. The stores provide vertical coolers where the cheese is stored.
Tastings are from 9am to 12pm and there are 2 employees for 2 shifts. The people behind the counter are hired by my own company.
Our supervisor visits all the stores in our delivery van almost every day. He carries stock in styrofoam boxes and he replaces and collects the products that are close to expiring. Usually fresh cheeses tend to expire in a week , but luckily we have very few cheeses come back to the factory. For inventory, we use both software and paper work.
We are in contract with these stores to be the only artisan cheese company in their chains.
In the beginning, it was difficult since everything was new to us, but we managed to build a system which is running smoothly now. We have display stations at 3 stores and now we are ready to add 2 more. The plan is to start with at least 20 stores in Lahore and another 30 in different cities in Pakistan.
Now, also, we are starting contracts with restaurants which purchase bulk from us. Having a cold store has helped me to maintain a big stock of almost 2 tons only for mature cheeses. This is now helping me to open new counters at more stations without much pressure.
Fresh cheeses are produced on a daily basis.
To reach this far, one needs to walk extra miles, but I never underestimate competition, though I believe everyone gets rewarded proportional to the efforts made. I wish my competitors good luck since they are also adding value to the art of artisan cheese making in Pakistan and now people have choice and availability of a large variety of non-processed cheese which was not known few years back .
Life is very busy and time flies. It has been around 8 continuous years of making cheese on a daily basis. “Farmers Cheese Making “ is now a brand in at least 2 major cities. We are selling cheese at counters and in shelves in many (10) branded stores with a number of sales girls and sales boys who are specially trained for this purpose. I have a target of 40 such locations in Lahore as well as Karachi and Islamabad. I hope to get it done within 2019.
Our field staff is trained for offering tasting sessions and promotions. Non-processed, artisan cheeses are making their way to the general public and we are now considered a trusted company. We have developed an IT office to handle day to day operations and everything is now computerized.
Being on shelves in the retail business is a tough job. We did face some serious issues at the early stages but now we are trained to handle multiple food tastings at various locations and even in different cities. I am grateful to the dedicated team and friends who made this happen. I truly love them. We often work 10 to 12 hrs and sometimes without taking a day off. But, we all enjoy the success which comes after collective efforts and struggle.
I wish you were here and could see us busy like bees. We have trained ourselves to work in pressure situations. I saw this dream, and it started becoming a truth within a decade. More equipment is being fixed to increase production, and the factory is being extended to another floor. I still read the Moos-letter and enjoy to see how cheese is being loved everywhere. When it comes to cheese, the world is a global village.
BTW, the Keto diet (short for ketogenic) is quite “in” here these days. It is a low sugar, low carb diet with lots of fats. This helps to reduce weight significantly and quickly. No sugar, no flour, no ice creams or cold drinks, no milk, no fruits, nothing which helps produce insulin in your body. After some time, the body shifts it’s energy source from insulin to fats. This diet discourages processed food and non-processed cheese is encouraged. Since we produce non-processed cheese, its 100% liked by people on the Keto diet. All we do is to take small pieces of cottage cheese, bocconcini and paneer, put them in a box and place some green and black olives on top. The Keto box is ready. If we mix in zucchini and tomatoes, the keto salad is ready.
Today, January 16th is my birthday. To my surprise, I received a parcel at my cheese facility address which was sent from the USA, and it turned out to be a Home Cheese Making book by Ricki Carroll with a forward by Ari Weinzweig (tough to pronounce) right in front of my eyes. Going through, still surprised, I came across my own story. What a coincidence. It made my day! These were unbelievable moments for me. I had almost forgotten the interview given and there was that great book delivered right on my birthday.
You all are such an amazing team, remembering an ordinary person living at the other end of the world. I’m so blessed to have known you in this life.
Some developments to share. The new government of Pakistan is keen in promoting local cheese making and to that end, our ministry of live stock conducted a seminar in which I was invited to represent my company. The government is looking for a road map to help cheese making.
An Italian professor, Dr. Antonio Borgees was invited to head this seminar which was about cheese and buffalo milk production in Pakistan. Later, Dr. Antonio visited my cheese facility and was impressed by the variety of cheeses produced and the SOPs we follow.
It was a great moment, looking 10 years back when I started cheese making from home and today we are a brand. Some proud moments are enough to feel fresh in life. I am preparing a nice and comfortable office which is at a little distance from the factory. Accounts, IT and HR will be shifted there. Currently, I am working with around 396 – 475 gallons (1500 to 1800 liters) of milk per day which is intended to double in the next 6 months.
Also, I am trying to assist the food authority to maintain standards for artisan cheeses since it’s a new subject with them. I also have an invitation to visit Italy in May and learn from Italian cheese makers. I believe one day Pakistan will be among the top cheese making and exporting countries since we rank 3 in milk production.
Farmers Cheese Making
Hours of Operation – Mon-Sun: 9 – 9pm
Imran sent us this link to his Facebook page so we could see his new video. It isn’t translated into English, but you can see how they make Mozzarella there.