Perhaps nowhere in the world is the adage ‘live to eat’more manifest than in Pakistan. In many countries, food is a just a corollary to a main activity but in Pakistan, food forms the core of any social meet, so much so that — with a worsening socio-political situation — food has become entertainment and is easily the most lucrative aspect of our lifestyle industry.
Despite its overarching prominence in our national consciousness, there has never been any formal documentation of food to render it an elevated status of being archived as a part of our cultural heritage. A few years ago, one saw the emergence of the website which functioned as a city directory and did a fairly decent job of fulfilling the role of a food guide. What it lacked, however, was the pizzazz, the vitality and unabashed desire that food inspires and elicits. Enter Food Connection Pakistan (FCP), a website which revolves around food.
The site claims to be Pakistan’s premiere food guide, and takes that claim very seriously. Not only is it super slick visually, it’s packed with all that one needs to satisfy their gastronomic cravings at any given point in time. Replete with a food blog, hot deals and a search engine that considers location, price, cuisine and number of people, FCP is a delicious dream for uncompromising foodies that dot the country. “The medium for us and is the same,” admits CEO Nauman Sikander Mirza, “but our methodology is different. They are an information-based site whereas our objective is to give due recognition to the food industry in Pakistan.”
Since its inception, just a few weeks ago, the portal has held creative contests and demonstrated how alert they are with their proactive planning for Ramazan, which ironically becomes a month of intense feasting rather than fasting. It is common practice for restaurants to take out special offers and FCP has already uploaded its clients’ deals online to arouse their customers’ appetite.
Clearly there has been a positive response to the portal from every end. “People have been very supportive,” says Mustafeez Ahmed, General Manager FCP. “They have begun to understand that digital media is the way forward and despite the power cuts etc, a huge population is at work and surfing the net constantly.” Since FCP’s core team comes from a technical background, they have ensured that, although the site is very exciting, it is not too heavy and can be accessed on smart phones easily. “The creative element of food comes from the visuals,” states Nausheen Shehzad, the brand manager. “Hence the portal offers virtual tours.”
Unlike any other such food portal, FCP places a great emphasis on giving value and comfort to the user by allowing people to comment, respond and actively engage in the process of critiquing food. “We want to give people the opportunity to share their own thoughts so they can become members and start blogging as well,” says Mirza. “The fun part is that each dish gets different and such divergent views and opinions,” adds Shehzad.
To develop credibility for the site, FCP has professional food writers on board who have been reviewing restaurants around the country. Also, to ensure that everything was picture perfect, the FCP team went door-to-door to conduct research to get basics like the menu options and phone numbers for delivery of restaurants correctly. Sixty per cent of the restaurants did not have logos, reveals the FCP teams in shock, which they then designed.
It may just be a simple directory at the moment, but FCP has the potential to change how food is perceived in Pakistan. The team plans on holding food awards and intends to branch out to other smaller cities and towns around Pakistan. It would be great if they could identify hot spots for local delicacies in the more distant but touristy places in the country such as the ‘Chapair Chicken’ from Nathiagali or ‘Pallah’ (fish) from Hyderabad. We have a rich tapestry of brilliant street food that exists n