After working as truck conductor and labourer early in his life, Niyaz Ali eventually becomes Kargil’s first entrepreneur to avail much-talked about EDI scheme. But as Bilal Handoo finds out, Ali is also Kargil’s first man to setup the stainless steel railing venture
After finishing 12th Standard, Niyaz Ali, now 32, of Kargil followed the routine route to college like masses. But while others moved ahead, he failed to make it to second year. The failure left him badly discouraged. His improvised home condition then derailed his ties with studies. Being the eldest son of his family, Ali then started working as a truck conductor.
Two years after working as a conductor, he grew disillusioned and quit. For a son of a labourer, however, being jobless wasn’t an option. Realising it well, Ali continued with his job search amid the family pressure. Among the five siblings, he was the only one expected to become an earning hand. But his search often ended on a disappointing note.
To break free from his idleness though, Ali became a labourer. For a long time, Ali kept sweating by doing physical work, which started taking toll on his health after a certain point of time. While he continued labouring, he never gave up an idea to start something of his own. Lack of good money, however, would discourage him. But he didn’t stop dreaming big in life.
By 2012, his eureka moment had arrived.
That year, Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) had started its SKEWPY program in Kargil. As the news spread, Ali went for it. He was the first person from Kargil who applied for the EDI program. He received 15 days training. “Those 15 days completely changed the outlook of my life,” Ali says. “I got the platform, which was till then, eluding me.”
Within a short span of time, Ali setup Kargil’s first stainless steel railing shop. His project cost was Rs 12 lakh, but he was sanctioned Rs 9 lakh. At the outset itself, Ali managed good sales. “My first monthly sale was Rs 3 lakh,” he says. “On an average now, the monthly sale remains staggering around Rs 1 lakh.”
In first year, his total sale was Rs 7 lakh that rose to 9 lakh in the following year. Due to Kargil’s harsh winters, his trade faces seasonal slump. “My sale comes from the seven months of business only,” he elaborates. “For rest five months, the shutter of my shop remains down due to harsh winter.”
As of now, Ali is getting major orders across Kargil. The market response is good: “Every new hotels and restaurants in Kargil book orders from my shop.” To spread a word, he has floated advertisements in a local channel besides in dailies.
Ali purchases supply material from Jammu which costs him less amount than the supply from Kashmir, he claims. “One truckload of 8 ton iron from Jammu costs me Rs 27,000. The same would cost me around Rs 42,000 if ordered from Kashmir,” he says.
Working from the rented house that cost him yearly Rs 50000, four workers are presently working under him. The salary of his workers is between Rs 10,000 and 50,000 per month.
Other than railings, Ali has started manufacturing gates and other iron items. “And to introduce many new varieties,” he says, “I am hiring new workforce from UP and keeping Kashmiris or locals their assistants. The motive is to train the local workforce as well.”
After tasting early success in his venture, Ali now plans to try his luck in other ventures. “As my business remains closed for five months due to weather conditions, so I want to start some business that will remain continue throughout the year,” he says.
His success has motivated many in Kargil who are planning to follow his footprints. But Ali downplays the apparent competition staring at his face. To combat competition, he says, reducing margins will be his instant move. “There will be an assured competition in near future,” he admits, “but given the position of my venture, I believe, I will be able to tackle it very easily.”
Ali now wants to involve some of his siblings in the same venture. “I have never seen any labour or conductor to progress in life,” he says. “That belief motivated me to change my professional line.”
As Ali seems too reluctant to take off smile from his face, it is certain: things have indeed changed ‘far better than expected’ for the son of a labourer.