It was a gamble to leave lucrative construction business to manufacture washing detergent for a market that is obsessed with multinational brands. Suhail A Shah maps Javaid Ahmad Malik’s journey from a helpless orphan to a budding entrepreneur
On 15th of April 1994, while India and Pakistan locked horns on a cricket field at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, militants laid an ambush for the Indian troopers in Thajivara village of Bijbehara in South Kashmir’s Islamabad district.
Javaid Ahmad Malik, a 31 year old entrepreneur, was a 5th standard student back then. He vividly remembers his father Ali Muhammad Malik, an ardent cricket lover, dropping his family off at a safe place in a nearby village before coming back to grab his transistor for the live cricket commentary.
“Everybody, except my father fled the village,” recalls Malik, who after braving all the odds has went on to become an entrepreneur, a detergent manufacturer, “That was the last cricket match my father witnessed,”
As the gunfight between militants and the troopers got intense, the senior Malik a Carpet weaver by profession, tried to make an escape from the village. He however was spotted by the troopers.
India lost the match that day in Sharjah and Malik, his father.
“They took him to the nearby fields and pumped several bullets into his body,” said Malik, “He died at the SKIMS in Srinagar after battling it out for about a week,”
After his father’s demise life has been a long hard struggle for Malik, who was endowed with the responsibility of the family at a young age.
The senior Malik ran a carpet weaving unit at his house and that’s what his elder son continued to do, “My elder brother made sure that we studied while he took care of the household and the carpet weaving unit,” says Malik.
The fear of his brother joining the militants and some bickering within the household led his elder brother enrol Malik, 2nd in five siblings, at a boarding school in Aishmuqam area of the Islamabad district.
“All through my school I was acutely aware of the situation at home and all I wanted to do was to take my family out of misery,” Malik said.
School finished and soon did college as well. As Malik graduated from the Government Degree College in Islamabad in 2005, he was sure about only one thing. Not to study further.
His elder brother had parted ways by then and had started living separately with his wife and children. The responsibility to marry off his two sisters and the education of his younger brother fell upon Malik.
After trying his hands at a couple of odd jobs, in 2007 Malik started working as a contractor at the Flood Control Department in Islamabad. He worked as a contractor for four years.
“It did not took me long to realize that the work was not meant for me, given the corruption and other adverse things but then I did not have a choice,” says Malik.
In 2010, Malik came to know about the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) in Pampore through a friend. He stopped working as a contractor immediately and pursued his case at the EDI.
He, however, was given some technical reasons at the EDI and was told to apply again in 2011. Starting with the training process in February 2011 and subsequent submission of project report and other necessary formalities, Malik’s Detergent Manufacturing Unit was finally approved in April 2012.
“It was a long agonizing wait,” said Malik, “I hope things will be moving smoother at the EDI now.”
What followed the approval of the unit was no less than a nightmare. A single No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Pollution Control Board (PCB) took more than four months.
“From the registration at the District Industries Centre (DIC) to the NOC’s from various departments it was a nightmare to get the things done in time,” said Malik.
The irony is, Malik says, that he wanted to advertise his product in the local newspapers but was advised against it lest he garnered the attention of the higher officials of some concerned departments.
“I floated a couple of ads in the local newspapers but some lower rung government employees told me that they were being pressurised by their higher ups to extract money from me,” said Malik.
It took Malik the most of the year 2012 to complete the formalities, including getting an import license for the raw material, which was issued in October.
It was finally in December 2012 that Malik started manufacturing the detergent; he named YAWA, from the tin shed constructed in the lawn of his house.
“Some people think YAWA is a Chinese name, but I make it a point to explain,” says Malik, “It’s a Kashmir word meaning ‘fine’.”
It was difficult for Malik to sell his product to begin with. To capture a market within the cut throat competition between the Indian, well established detergent manufacturers; was not easy by any stretch of imagination.
Malik however had his goals set. After the first lot was ready, he hired a vehicle and did shop to shop marketing for his product, mostly in South Kashmir.
The response, Malik says, was cold to say the least. However he did not lose hope and managed to convince some of the shopkeepers to sell his product.
“I was not in a position to set any terms and conditions. The competition was stiff and I was forced to make the necessary adjustments,” said Malik.
The shopkeepers were not ready to pay cash for his product and Malik agreed to get paid only after his product was sold. During the first quarter of his business, January to March 2013, Malik was able to sell detergent worth 1.62 Lac Rupees.
Once the product was introduced in the market, it was a big leap for Malik. The sales for the next quarter, April to June 2013, were more than doubled at 3.88 Lac Rupees.
“The money now is being paid in cash and the orders are being repeated,” says Malik, who has already out done his target of 6.5 Lac Rupees in the first three quarters. Besides, he is now marketing his product in North Kashmir and the response thus far has been good.
Two things, Malik says, he is striving very hard for. One is to maintain quality and another to train local work force. He has 3 outsiders working at his unit as of now, however he is training boys from his own village to work at the unit.
Malik is now thinking of expansion and has already proposed so to the EDI. The focus for him as of now is to expand and train some local boys and be a source of income to their families as well.