Her father gifted her a piece of orchard on the roadside and sought a promise that she would utilize it for a sustainable activity. Joined by her husband, Bilquis started selling homemade apple products and it is a success, reports Babra Wani
Bilquis believed her father’s wish to be a command, unaware of the transformative journey it would set her on. Known as Nancy to many, Bilquis now operates an Apple resort with her husband, where they sell a range of homemade apple products.
Residing in the Hutmurah down South Kashmir, Bilquis and her husband Imtiyaz Ahmed Bhat have established a small resort nestled in Apple Valley – an expanse dominated by apple orchards spanning from Hutmurah to the neighbouring Aishmuqam on the highway to Pahalgam.
Establishing the Resort
A year ago, the couple embarked on their entrepreneurial venture, utilising their apple orchard. “This is our joint effort,” Bilquis said. “We have both invested significant effort into this. So, we decided why not create natural and authentic apple juice?”
Before venturing into their resort, the couple held modest private jobs to support their family of three. “Although my husband holds a master’s degree, he was unable to secure a stable job,” she said. “Given the difficulty of finding employment here, we felt it was better to create our opportunities.”
Their resort offers an array of meticulously crafted products, including apple juice, chutney, muraba, jam, and pickle, all made exclusively by Bilquis. “We began on a small scale, but with Allah’s blessings, we have expanded and now offer additional amenities like parking lots and sightseeing.”
Every product available at the resort is derived from the apples grown in their orchard. “The process is time-consuming,” she explained. “Preparing a single glass of juice takes approximately two to three minutes, but it takes longer when there are more customers. It involves using around five apples and separating the peel and pulp before you can enjoy a glass of fresh apple juice without any harmful additives like sugar or ice.”
Authentic Apple Products
Bilquis acknowledged her husband’s support. “While I handle the production of every item, my husband helps with the management,” she said. As orders began pouring in from tourists and locals, Bilquis felt encouraged. “I strive to meet every order.”
The business has connected them with non-natives. “We recently received an order for three boxes of pickles, which we promptly prepared and shipped,” she shared. “Another customer requested twenty packs of apple chutney. We are thrilled with the positive response.”
To ensure accessibility, the couple has printed visiting cards for their resort, enabling customers to easily reach out to them.
Besides, Bilquis offers a selection of beverages like Saffroni Kahwa, coffee, black tea, and dry fruits during the winter season. “Since winters are extremely cold here, we aim to provide products that keep our guests warm. However, some guests still prefer our juices,” she remarked.
They encourage tourists to enjoy taking pictures in the orchard even if they won’t buy any products from them.
It was her father’s promise that ignited Bilquis’s journey. “He made me promise to use the land for a productive purpose, to create something enduring. He asked me not to let it go to waste,” a heartfelt Bilquis explained. “That’s why we embarked on this resort project. Though it is still a work in progress, we are giving it our all.”
Bilquis also highlighted her daughter’s cooperation in balancing work and family life. “I drop her off at school at 9 am, and then I come to the resort. I leave at around 7:30 pm. When she returns from school, she attends her religious lessons at the Madrasa and plays with her pet rabbits at home to keep herself occupied until I come back.”
On an average day, around thirty to forty vehicles visit the resort. “Some try our juices, others purchase our products, while some simply explore the surroundings and capture photographs,” Bilquis said. “We never impose a sales pitch or pressure them to try our offerings. It’s entirely their choice. We just want people to visit and experience the beauty here.”
The couple has placed their resort at the top of their priority list, ensuring there is no compromise on the quality of their offerings. They are also contemplating introducing fast food options soon.
Around a month ago, a social media influencer visited the resort and it led to an increase in local footfalls. “I gave an interview to a friend of my husband on Facebook, and ever since, people from all over Kashmir, not just outside it, have been coming here to try our products,” she said. “Locals, especially from Srinagar, now visit my resort on Sundays solely to taste our juices.”
Success has not been so easy. Bilquis talked about the financial challenges they encountered throughout their journey, yet she remains deeply appreciative of the progress they have made. “Alhamdulillah, we are thankful for everything.”