Meet Manzoor Ahmed Wangnoo

‘When Bill Clinton visited India, he met me before meeting the PM’

Manzoor Ahmed Wangnoo, founder National Cottage Emporium (NEC) enjoys the distinction of being the only Kashmiri trader the US President Bill Clinton met before calling on the Prime Minister of India when he visited New Delhi in 2000. Wangnoo, a devote Muslim, who owns a chain of shops of Kashmir Art in New Delhi says: “When Bill Clinton visited India, he met me before meeting the Prime Minister. He spent 45 minutes at our shop in Maurya Sheraton at New Delhi and made purchases.” “I showed President Clinton a carpet with more than 7000 knots per square foot that he was ready to purchase. But I politely declined and told him that it’s a symbol of our heritage and I want to preserve it.” The next day New York Times carried a story, “Let there be a world record: Before meeting the Prime Minister, President Clinton met a Kashmiri dealer.” Wangnoo said Hillary Clinton wife of the former US President first came to his shop in 1995 and after that she became a regular customer. Wangnoo believes that quality and honesty are key to success in business. “My business has spread because my customers made me popular and never complained about the stuff which they purchased.” Tracing his humble beginning to selling of paper machie items to tourists at the world famous Dal Lake in 1973, Wangnoo says he has never raised any loan from any financial institution. “Almighty Allah has been kind enough to us and till today He has always showered his choicest blessings on our family business,” Wangnoo says. He says: “My father and my brothers have been my strength and all of us together have successfully treaded the business path. We faced crunch situations on many occasions but we never approached any financial institution for assistance.” After completing his schooling in 1973, Wangnoo was offered a government job. “I didn’t take it up and preferred to start my own business. For first three years I used to sell paper machie products to the tourists at the world famous Dal Lake and in winters I used to go to Delhi with my consignments.” In 1975 Wangnoo entered into a partnership with a widow, who owned a shop in hotel Imperial in New Delhi. But in 1977 the hotel carried out some expansion work and the shop was demolished. Wangnoo who has won three international awards and very recently has been awarded a KCCI certificate of appreciation says, “My dream of owning a shop in Kashmir came true in the year 1978 after Auqaf committee announced to auction the shops along Boulevard road.” Wangnoo, who has been active in carrying out a campaign for preserving Dal lake over past some time says, “My father supported me and borrowed from his friends to make sure that I buy the shop. Our business started picking up and there was no looking back after that.” In early nineties Wangnoo along with his employees and artisans shifted to New Delhi, as there was a decline in number of tourists visiting the state. “We had to restart our business journey from New Delhi and with blessings of Almighty Allah today our family owns chain of shops in top hotels of New Delhi.” Giving credit to the artisans and employees for the success of his family business, Wangnoo says, “First it’s Allah whom I am thankful to and then it’s my artisans and workers who through their relentless efforts made our family business a success.” (GK Business under ‘Business Leaders of Kashmir’ will be doing a series on the success stories of people who have carved a niche in business over decades despite hiccups and have emerged as leaders in different sectors.)