Google Goes Gaga in Kashmir

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When a Google team visited Kashmir last week, many young would-be entrepreneurs felt their e-dreams energized. Shams Irfan reports on what the Google-power visit was all about.

About a thousand strong gathering of young boys and girls from different colleges and universities attended g-Kashmir, an interactive event with a team Google executives at Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre [SKICC]. The event was organized by Mercy Corps Kashmir.

The event was aimed at making participants aware of the ‘tricks and tools’ to win digitally and make them aware of the new applications that Google has devised for the benefit of small businesses and enterprises.

The team was led by Mary Himminkool, the head of Google’s global entrepreneurship outreach division, who interacted with budding entrepreneurs of Kashmir and shared ideas about how small businesses can benefit from Google and use it effectively for online promotion of their products and services.
        
The seven-member team touched upon different aspects of the world’s most visited search engine Google, including how to create and market content using Youtube. The team then spoke at length about the proper use of available digital tools to encourage technological innovations, businesses and entrepreneurship skills among young Kashmiris.

The main focus of the event was after lunch interaction session between young entrepreneurs of Kashmir and the Google team. The team responded to queries asked by enthusiastic entrepreneurs who had been waiting eagerly since the morning to know about how Google will help them in growing as a business entity.

“Our aim is to understand how Google owned technologies can be made accessible to Kashmiris online so that they can benefit from them in the long run. We are here to learn how we can help to create and build business,” said DebuPukayastha, Principal New Business Development at Google.”We are not here to invest. Our aim is to inform developers and entrepreneurs on Google product and technology.”

Tariq, a young Kashmiri entrepreneur, who along with his friends is in the process of setting up a web application company that will include creating applications for mobile phones in Kashmir, wanted the Google team to help him promote his services online using Google tools.

Replying to Tariq’s question, Mary Himminkool said that during the initial stages of promotion one could also use social media networking sites like Facebook, Orkut, Twitter and G-Plus. Then there are more customized tools and applications from Google that can be used to promote a new business venture.
      
Najm-u-Sahar, a first year student of Convergent Journalism at Central University of Kashmir, attended g-Kashmir hoping that the event will help her in realizing her long standing dream of launching a website through which she could promote Kashmiri handicrafts internationally.

“I don’t want my dream to remain confined to Kashmir only. The reason I am attending this event is to learn new ways of promoting my business among international consumers using Internet,” said Sahar.

“Google provides its users with options of promoting their products and services by using either paid or free of cost advertising services. One can earn revenue by placing an advertisement through Google Ad Sense [Paid] or by using our free of cost business listing services,” said Mary.

She noted that there is lot of online business potential in Kashmir tourism industry. People can use Google to rent their hotel accommodations to foreign tourists and also promote locally made products like, shawls, handicrafts, papier-m?ch?, honey, carpets etc.            
   
Internet users in India are low in  numbers right now. Only eight per cent of the population [around 100 million]people have access to the Internet.“The world is slowly moving from real to virtual marketing where distance between a buyer and a seller is no longer an issue,” said Mary.
 
Addressing the gathering Olivia Ma, who looks after YouTube operations, said that Youtube is one of the biggest platforms for young entrepreneurs to promote their business.  Around 800 million people visit Youtube every day. With around 3 billion views per day Youtube is the third largest website in terms of web traffic. Another 400 million access Youtube services on their mobile phones.

“My suggestion for the people of Kashmir is to use Youtube for business purposes. It has got huge potential in terms of making a product globally visible,” said Olivia.

Most of the young entrepreneurs were concerned about the impacts of conflict in setting up their businesses in a place like Kashmir.
A concerned participant enquired from the Google team head Mary about how Google is going to help a start up enterprise in conflict prone Kashmir where access to latest technology is limited and often censored.

“The best thing about working online is that you do not need large set ups to start your business with. One can start from a garage [Google was started from a garage] or from his home,” replied Mary.

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