Gazi Shakeel had his future turf laid when his love for sports made him to try his luck in sports infrastructure in Kashmir. Saima Bhat meets the man behind some of the world class sports facilities in Kashmir.
The aim was to get people employed in his business ventures and that’s what has made Gazi Shakeel try his luck at different business ideas over the last twenty years now.
Gazi started his business by establishing a Nitrogen plant for food processing in Khanmoh area of Pampore and over the years he has dealt with different ventures including constructions, government outsourcing and handling of computer hardware projects. “I am the man behind Kashmir’s first Yellow pages,” Shakeel proclaims.
An Arts graduate, Gazi decided to venture into entrepreneurship after he attended an entrepreneurship development workshop organized by Industrial and Technical Consultants (ITCO) at the directorate of Industries and Commerce.
Things were moving along well till 2008; however the volatile situation in Kashmir during the summers of 2008 and then 2009 subsequently made Gazi’s business suffer like many other ventures in Kashmir valley.
Dejected, Gazi decided to shift his base to US and start a business venture with some of his friends but while he was getting his travel documents ready, he changed his mind and stayed back.
After a year and a half long survey and deliberations about what the new venture should be, Gazi decided to invest in the Sports sector of the state.
The decision, Gazi says, was easy for him, being an ardent sports follower and a footballer himself. Moreover it was the desire to do something for this ‘deprived’ field he decided to invest in the sector.
“After a proper professional surveillance of the sports sector I concluded that our state lacks in sports infrastructure,” Gazi said, “and as a businessman I found the sector more lucrative than others.”
The surveys and the deliberations done and dusted, Gazi finally got in touch with a Hyderabad based company, ‘Great Sports Infra’. The company deals with the laying of sports surfaces throughout the world. According to Gazi his company has the license to deal with all SAARC countries. The products company uses for surface laying include, Field Turf (artificial grass), Snap Sports, Sub Air (for Golf courses and bigger stadiums) and Porplastic (for athletic tracks).
“Al these products are recommended and approved by world organizations like FIBA, FIFA, IFH and ITF,” said Gazi.
The company, as per Gazi, has so far developed 7, 000 football grounds worldwide and some of them have even been used for world cups. Besides, the company has also developed hockey grounds, golf courses, lawn tennis courts, basketball courts and athletic tracks.
Gazi contacted the company, got trained and started a franchise of the said company in Jammu and Kashmir to shape the sports infrastructure of the state.
“I wish to get all these products in our state so that the younger lot of Kashmiri sportsmen get a platform, a launch pad,” said Gazi, “and obviously being a businessman I can earn good money as well.”
Gazi belongs to Solina locality of Srinagar which, Gazi says, has a history of around 6 decades in football clubs.
“Football to me is a passion and I, through my work, want it to be taken forward to the future generations as well, without compromising the quality of my work.”
Presently Gazi is working on more than five projects, including the basketball court at Sheri Kashmir stadium where SnapSports developed in USA and approved by FIBA was used.
The project in MA stadium Jammu and the recent turf for the lawn tennis court in SP College are some other projects Gazi is handing as of now.
“We use the best quality products imported from US and European companies,” says Gazi, adding that all these surfaces come with free maintenance, while some products come with a warranty of up to 16 years.
After his first project of landscaping in Bulbulshah locality in Srinagar, people were apprehensive that the material used will not withstand the harsh winters, says Gazi.
“However the first winter passed and the all apprehensions were laid to rest. Our honesty and hard work paid off,’ said Gazi.
Gazi has many more projects in his kitty and he feels that his venture is finally streamlining.
As a private entrepreneur, Gazi says, he is quite satisfied with what he is doing. At the same time he maintains that government should come forward and work towards sports infrastructure development in the state.
He is of the opinion that better infrastructure gets out the best of a sports person.
Gazi recalls the time when he finished the project at Basketball court in indoor stadium of Srinagar.
“GoAir Airlines had sponsored an event and the players called me to appreciate my work and how it helped them to win the game,” said Gazi.
For the next three years, Gazi is aiming at a turnover of 50 Crore Rupees and is looking for the opportunities when he will be able to provide sports infrastructure to all areas of J&K state.