E-commerce has changed the way world shops, quite substantially. However, in Kashmir, the concept of selling products online is yet in its infancy, but growing. Saima Bhat reports about some of the successful initiatives
In November 2011, two friends, Muheet Mehraj and Kashif Ahmad Khan, came together to launch Kashmir’s first online shopping portal, Kashmir Box. “The aim was to showcase Kashmiri art and crafts on a global platform,” recalls Mehraj.
Before launching the portal, the duo gave artisans individual identities. “The idea was to help artisans create their own brands,” said Mehraj, a graduate in computer applications.
Five years later, Kashmir Box offers more than 4500 locally made products including décor items, handicrafts, apparels, food items etc. “Around sixty per cent of goods are shipped in India while rest is sold across the world,” said Mehraj.
By 2016 ending Mehraj and Kashif are hopeful to have a ten thousand plus product list on their website. “We started with just two employees, now we have twenty,” said Mehraj. “So far we have served more than 12000 customers.”
In January 2016, Qazi Zaid, a tech-savvy, took his father’s three decades old handicrafts business to a new height by selling Kashmiri products online.
Qazi created Kashmina, and tied up with five major online shopping websites in India, and collaborated with a business house in Pakistan (www.daraaz.pk). “I am working for a franchise based in Malaysia,” said Qazi.
Though Kashmina struggled to register decent sales during winters, Qazi is hopeful that demand will improve for his summer collection. “It is very important to build trust first,” feels Qazi. “We are still in the experimenting stage.”
The main attraction of Qazi’s collection is embroidery on suits, bags, stoles, shawls etc. that come from Pakistan. “These products are quite affordable,” said Qazi, who is planning to sell embroidered mobile phone covers through his online window.
Lately, a number of online portals, dealing exclusively in Pashmina products, were launched in Kashmir. One such portal was www.Phamb.co.in.
Junaid Shahdar, CEO of Phamb business house, said the aim is to sell products from around two hundred elite brands of Pashmina throughout the world. “We have introduced Pashmina blazers, trousers, shirts, handkerchiefs, mufflers and other items,” said Shahdar. The website offers products in the price range of Rs 10,000 and 50,000.
Launched in 2015, www.gazabmall.com – a multi-vendor, multi-brand and multi-category online marketplace – is free for all local vendors. Its founder, Engineer Sharafat Ali, a resident of Kupwara, who is presently settled in Dubai, wanted Kashmiris to enjoy the same kind of online shopping experience that others do. “I want the local craft to reach millions of online buyers throughout the world,” said Ali, who employs fifteen people at his office. Ali’s online portal focuses on women fashion needs besides offering electronics, home and kitchen appliances etc.
Within a year of its launch, Ali’s website is getting a great response. “I have got some investment proposals too,” said Ali, who draws a six-figure annual package in Dubai. “This is not for earning profit only. I want to help local craftsmen to get international exposure.”
Ali has more than a hundred sellers from Srinagar listed with him, who sell around ten thousand products through his website.
Gazabmall has around eleven thousand registered users at present, while more than five thousand people visit the website daily. Ali, who monitors his business from a Dubai office, says, poor internet connectivity and e-curfews by state administration hamper growth in Kashmir.
The website delivers orders across India, while for Kashmir based customers they have cash on delivery option too.