A handicapped 27-year-old who had ventured into a little known business succeeded in earning a handsome living, without any help from either the government or his family. Umer Beigh reports.

Firdous Ahmed is not like others; he is physically handicapped. But that has not stopped him from establishing a business which was not so popular just a few years ago. He makes and sells fish aquariums.

Firdous, a resident of Dalgate, Srinagar, is among a handful of businessmen who trade in fish aquariums. He has named his business Fun Fish Aquariums. These aquariums are small containers made of glass in which ornamental fish are kept. These are used for interior decoration.

He says that he has not received any help from any government agency. “I didn’t try to get any financial assistance, and I didn’t seek any concession for being handicapped,” says Firdous.

According to him, he had only Rs 1700 in his pocket when he first started to make his first aquarium for sale. “Now with blessings of almighty I am doing business in lakhs. Today an aquarium can cost more than Rs 20000,” he says.

The idea of making aquariums for sale struck him when his uncle, who works in the State’s fisheries department, brought one for his mother.

Firdous says, “I liked it very much and I asked my uncle about it. He assured me he would teach me how to build it.”  As he learned to build a fish aquarium, he started to think of it as a business.

There have been times, Firdous recalls, when he didn’t even have enough money to make another aquarium. “As soon as we used to collect money from our customers, we would rush to the market to procure the material for making another piece.”

His younger brother, Imran, has supported him in his endeavor. However, Imran says, “I am nothing in front of him; he has immense will power to do such a risky business. I just went along.”

To learn the art of making fish aquariums and train in latest techniques, Firdous made many trips to outside the state.

Many people can’t afford fish aquariums as these are costly but Firdous claims that people in Kashmir, show a lot of interest in such things. “I tried to make some aquariums using cheap locally available material so that even poor people could afford one. Believe me I have sold aquariums to a person who does not even earn Rs 3000 in a month. Interests depend on the nature of different people.”

Firdous had very little encouragement from his parents before the business turned into a success. “My father would never give attention to me, he used to say throw them (the aquariums) out. It was because people can’t trust you until you succeed. Now things are different.  He also takes care and helps a bit when required.”

Terming the government claims of helping the physically challenged financially a farce, he says that he had once tried to raise a loan but was refused by authorities. “I had a dated income certificate I pleaded in front of the chairpersons at that time but nothing came out. I tore all those documents in front of them. What I am today is my individual struggle and my luck,” he says proudly.

Firdous says that to run a successful business one must understand all its facets.

“Initially I would get scared when a customer would seek a guarantee for the aquariums, but now I can reassure the customers even about the life of the various aquarium fish.

“Motivating a customer is essential and I think I got it now,” says Firdous.

After gaining confidence, he has tried to make aquariums of various designs.He sells aquariums throughout the valley and his clientele include the army and other paramilitaries.

“Until you won’t look after your business you won’t improve. I urged many politicians to support my marketing and spread awareness among people about such thing,” says Firdous.

During a trade exhibition at “Exhibition Ground”, he displayed aquariums to “spread awareness among local people.”  He said, “some people did not believe that the fish in the aquarium were real. They thought these run on batteries.”

 “You can achieve results only when you work hard,” he adds.


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