Aurora Magazine

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Published in Nov-Dec 2018

Changing Lyari one lunchbox at a time

Lyari lunchboxes is the beginning of an initiative aimed at changing the lives of the people of Lyari.

Jadeed Lyari (which means ‘New Lyari’) is an online welfare organisation that came into being earlier this year, with the aim to uplift Lyari economically and provide employment opportunities to people living there. The organisation’s first project is called Lyari Lunchboxes, a food delivery service based at I.I. Chundrigar Road, Karachi.

Jadeed Lyari is the brainchild of social activist and entrepreneur Abid Beli (a former resident of Kharadar, a neighbourhood adjacent to Lyari) who ran as an independent candidate from Lyari during the 2018 General Elections. (He also runs a courier service called Delivery Walay, which he established in 2014). Beli says that the idea for Lyari Lunchboxes came to him while he was campaigning for the elections. During those days, the neighbourhood was abuzz with political activity as major political parties were spending huge sums on their campaigns.

“As an independent candidate, I never had that kind of money to spend; instead, I went door to door to distribute flyers and asked people to vote for me. Wherever I went, people asked me one question: ‘What have you people [politicians] done for us in all these years?’”

This led Beli to call off his campaign and ask the people of Lyari to join him and form a team that would work towards bringing in change. “I asked them to vote for me in 2023, only if they believed I had done something for them.”

Lyari is a large neighbourhood and one of Karachi’s oldest and densest. Although its population is ethnically diverse, the majority of residents are descendants of people from cities and towns in Balochistan, including Kalat, Lasbela and Makran and have a passion for football and boxing in common. Unfortunately, the town has been overlooked by the local administration for a long time, as a result of which, there are only substandard hospitals, a poor infrastructure and unhygienic living conditions. Even worse is the fact that Lyari has a very high level of poverty and is notorious for its high crime rate and for being a sanctuary for criminals.

“People abroad have a very negative perception of Pakistan and within Pakistan, Lyari has a very negative image and I want to change this,” says Beli.


Thanks to Lyari Lunchboxes, Saeeda Bibi now earns Rs 1,200 a day and as a result, she is able to provide three decent meals for her family. She recently enrolled her oldest son in school, thanks to her income.


He began his work in an area named Miran Naka in Lyari, where he says most men, young or old, do not work. Those who do, earn daily wages as labourers or garbage collectors and the majority spend their time watching YouTube videos on their phones or chatting. “Women are usually the bread winners and responsible for feeding their families. They work as domestic help in households.”

It was while talking with men and women in Miran Naka that the idea of Lyari Lunchboxes popped into Beli’s mind. In 2009, Beli and his wife used to run a lunch delivery service called Sadia’s Kitchen, but the service lasted for a year and ended when Beli’s wife was paralysed; he therefore had the necessary experience to launch a similar business.

“I knew that Lyari’s food is delicious; during my campaigns here, I often ate barbecued botis and kebabs sold on wooden carts. To attract outsiders, we had to ‘brand’ Lyari,” and he came up with the name Lyari Lunchboxes. The next step was to find someone who could cook well and be willing to join him; he then met Saeeda Bibi.

“When I tasted the food she cooked, I really liked it. So I asked her if she was willing to prepare 50 lunchboxes every day.” Saeeda Bibi promptly agreed, as her family consists of two unemployed brothers who are married and have children, an unemployed husband and a father (who earlier sold second-hand clothes at Landa Bazaar and can no longer work due to old age), in addition to her four children.

Thanks to Lyari Lunchboxes, Saeeda Bibi now earns Rs 1,200 a day and as a result, she is able to provide three decent meals for her family. She recently enrolled her oldest son in school, thanks to her income.

The menu for the lunchboxes is determined by Beli and no item costs over Rs 100; chicken curry costs Rs 65 while rice and chicken costs Rs 70. Beli has set up a small kiosk at I.I. Chundrigar Road where the lunchboxes are sold; he has hired a young man from Lyari to sell them and pays him Rs 8,000 a month.

Out of 50 lunchboxes on average, 35 to 40 are sold every day. Beli says he chose I.I. Chundrigar Road for his kiosk because it is not too far from Lyari and there are a lot of people who work in offices on the lookout for cheap lunch options. His regular customers are people working in banks and freight forwarding companies; they order five to six lunchboxes every day.

The delivery area is limited to a two-kilometre radius of I.I. Chundrigar Road. “Despite inquiries and orders coming in from residential areas, we have restricted our delivery area because for a Rs 70 meal, it is not possible for us to deliver far and wide. It would raise our costs and we don’t charge a delivery fee,” says Beli.

According to Beli, the food is clean and not too spicy; the majority of the people who have tried it have placed subsequent orders. “People have given us great reviews on Jadeed Lyari’s Facebook page.”

Yet, he is finding it difficult to acquire new customers; he believes the reason behind has to do with the name of the service. “There is a fear in people’s mind about Lyari.”

Despite this, Beli is not one to give up and nor will he change the name of the service. He plans to set up another kiosk at Shahrah-e-Faisal near Nursery, where a lot of offices are located, and relocate and expand the I.I. Chundrigar kiosk to a small shop on Burnes Road. “The food will be cooked in front of the customers,” he says, “they will then realise how good it is and this may help rid them of negative perceptions about Lyari.”


Beli says he hears a lot of people harping on about Pakistan’s inevitable economic growth because 70% of its population consists of young people. However, he says, these people should know that only 18% of this population dwells in cities; the remainder (82%) live in smaller towns, villages and underprivileged neighbourhoods like Lyari.“Young people in areas such as Lyari need motivation to be a productive part of our society. Unless you help them, by providing them education and employment opportunities, you will never be able to bring about change.”


Despite this challenge, Beli has started a new project similar to Lyari Lunchboxes; delivery of frozen food products prepared by women in Lyari such as samosas, rolls, wontons and chicken lollypops. “We prepare our frozen food only after we receive an order and deliver it within 24 to 48 hours anywhere in Karachi.”

To improve Lyari’s reputation and give its people employment opportunities, Beli has several small projects in mind. What stops him is a lack of resources. “We have asked people all over Pakistan to donate funds to our projects and purchase our products but we have not received a single rupee in donations.”

Giving his final word on the subject, Beli says he hears a lot of people harping on about Pakistan’s inevitable economic growth because 70% of its population consists of young people. However, he says, these people should know that only 18% of this population dwells in cities; the remainder (82%) live in smaller towns, villages and underprivileged neighbourhoods like Lyari.

“Young people in areas such as Lyari need motivation to be a productive part of our society. Unless you help them, by providing them education and employment opportunities, you will never be able to bring about change.”