LeLafe: Connecting Kashmir

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With an aim to take local business units to the global stage, LeLafe IT Solution, started an online marketplace exclusively for Kashmiris. Saima Bhat talks to Shameem Ahmad Shah, the man behind the idea who left his lucrative job in the USA to help Kashmiris get connected to the world.

LeLafe  IT Solution has shifted its two employees to its US office.

LeLafe IT Solution has shifted its two employees to its US office.

With an urge to empower the local businesses in Kashmir, LeLafe IT Solutions started  Kashmiri’s largest online business to business marketplace, for small and medium size businesses to promote their business and products online in 2012. The concept of promoting local business worldwide was conceived by Shameem Ahmad Shah, the CEO of LeLafe IT solutions.

LeLafe is an IT services and software firm that specializes in providing solutions in technology improvement techniques, innovative software, sub-contracting and IT talent augmentation.

The company was started from Shah’s private residence in Nishat, Srinagar with just two employees under the name of Ishber Technologies.

After that they shifted their base to Software Technology Park, Rangreth and then to Rajbagh. The concept of starting this IT Company was to generate ‘employment for the educated and talented IT professionals’ of the Valley.

The founder of the company, Shameem Ahmad Shah, who was previously based in Florida USA, said he after spending 15 years in the USA,  he wanted to come back and serve his people.

 “There is really only one thing I’m good at and that is developing software solutions, so I used my skills to do something about high unemployment among Kashmiri educated youth by opening  a Software Development Company,” said Shah.

Shah has held executive level positions in many companies outside India and has successfully developed multimillion dollar Software solutions for various technology giants. He says he has built applications in financial, banking, Insurance and education sector for the past 16 years.  Some of the applications he has designed and built include transaction engines, algorithmic search engines, workflow management systems, underwriting and payment processing and back office clearing systems.

Despite odds and ground realities in J&K, LeLafe IT Solutions has managed to grow from 2 employees to 33 IT professionals in just 2 years. Shah says to open a company in Kashmir one has to get various registrations done from various government offices. Though he met many high level officials who encouraged him, but the actual people in these offices responsible for moving the paper from one table to other made it extremely difficult for him to start his company. “It is very difficult to deal with them,” feels Shah. “Internet availability, speed, high internet tariff, unreliable and unexpected power cuts, political situation” added to his woes, Shah says. “I really think it discourages many businessmen from investing in Kashmir,” says Shah.

With all its clients in the USA, LeLafe has successfully provided software solutions to various companies in North America, the US and the UK. Their services include the development of software like Application Development and Maintenance, Web and Mobile application development, Information Technology professional services, IT consulting services, managed outsourcing and e-Governance services.

The CEO of the company says, “for now my focus is to bring work from outside India. At LeLafe we are executing projects from various parts of the world, I travel a lot to make it happen.”

Presently, LeLafe is associated with eight projects like Community Force, an innovative software solution that helps in managing the entire scholarship application lifecycle from online application submissions to their review, award, and renewal. Besides that it helps in publishing customized scholarship application forms online where applicants can apply while defining pre-qualification criteria, managing funds eligibility criteria, specifying committees to review and score applications, and generating their reports all online. Other clients,  Bilbus – A Single Hub for Cash Flow, Manage Invoicing, Reminders, Collections, Cash Forecasts and Credit Applications. 14 Muslims an online database where people can search when it is convenient for them as well as see what is available in the entire area around them or any other area they plan to visit. This needs to be easy to use and understandable by the vast majority.

LeLafe has now started its first project KashmirSearch.com from Kashmir which offer products that enable small & medium size businesses to generate business leads (online catalogs/store-fronts), establish their credibility (third party verified trust profile) and use business information (finance, news, trade shows, tenders) for their business promotion. The company has done its pioneering role in promoting SME business in Kashmir. “It is an online directory of Kashmir and we are only bridging the gap between Kashmir and the world,” says Shabir Ahmad Bhat, the manager operations and first employee of LeLafe.

KashmirSearch.com is planning to offer an online sale of genuine Kashmir Arts and Crafts products beginning from August 2013.

LeLafe in association with certain local concerns has also launched CRMS (Customer Relations Management System) to help business establishments to manage and serve their customer base.

Happy with services of professionals of LeLafe in Kashmir, two employees were shifted to the US office. The two employees Showkat Mir from Budgam and Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat from Channapora Srinagar are presently working in USA.

Shah says during initial stage,  government was not supportive at all towards IT sector, but now that attitude has changed.

“This year I have noticed some encouraging signs from government. Commissioner/Sectary IT and MD SIDCO are really working very hard to breathe new life in IT industry in Kashmir,” says Shah. But Shah feels government must take IT sector seriously and help it grow.

Quite satisfied with what Union minister for Communication and Information Technology, Dr Kruparani Killi said recently that state governments should give preference to local IT companies before ‘outsourcing’ anything abroad.  Shah says, “Government should make it mandatory for any outside Kashmir company to outsource 25% of J&K government awarded IT projects to local IT companies. This is happening in many developed countries to help small businesses.”

Shameem Shah,  an alumnus of  University of Kashmir and Nova Southeastern University, Florida has done his Masters in Computer Information Systems from NSU, Florida USA. He is expecting a growth of 50 employees by 2014.

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