Nova Scotia·Global Studies

Influx of Indian students at CBU spicing up local food scene

With almost 1,800 Indian students studying at Cape Breton University, some entrepreneurs in Sydney are hoping to feed a hunger for a taste of home. A new Indian restaurant and an Indian grocery are in the works.

Businesses in the works are hoping to provide a taste of home

Lovepreet Singh and Ajay Kumar are co-owners of what will soon be Swagaat, a new Indian restaurant in Sydney. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Global Studies is a CBC series exploring how the influx of international students at Cape Breton University is transforming the school and the community.

The recent influx of Indian students at Cape Breton University has created an opportunity for businesses looking to feed the students' hunger for a taste of home.

Student-turned-entrepreneur Ajay Kumar remembers what it was like when he arrived in Cape Breton to study at CBU in 2017.

"For an Indian student, it's really hard here without the groceries, without the Indian food, just with the burgers, pizza. Like, we are not used to this."

He's been thinking about opening an Indian restaurant ever since. With the Indian student population at CBU having ballooned over the past year to almost 1,800, the time seems right.

"My whole community is supporting me to do this," he said. "Everyone is missing the home taste here."

Kumar and fellow CBU student Lovepreet Singh are renovating a space and hope to open by April.

At the same time, the owners of Sydney's other Indian restaurant are looking to open an Indian grocery.

Athar Ahmad and his family own Mian's Restaurant in Sydney. They're planning to open an Indian grocery. (Holly Conners/CBC)

Athar Ahmad runs Mian's Restaurant with his family. They've been hearing from Indian students, asking where they can buy the ingredients they need to cook at home.

'We want good Indian spicy'

"Some people are actually going like 400 kilometres away, like in Halifax, to get some groceries so they can cook everyday meals," he said.

As those queries became more frequent over the past year, they decided to open the grocery.

"We're going to try to have all the basic spices, which is a lot," said Ahmad. "And we're going to bring in some good quality rice … some good quality flour they use for the bread called roti."

They plan is to survey the Indian students about what other items they need and to open the store by the end of March.

Meanwhile, Mian's is also tweaking its restaurant offerings to suit the palates of Indian students, adding more Indian street foods to the menu, and ramping up the spice level on request.

"They are asking, like, 'We want good Indian spicy'… and we're doing it."

About the Author

Holly Conners is a reporter and current affairs producer who has been with CBC Cape Breton since 1998. Contact her at