Tenacious Ten

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It all started with a dream to make big in life. With financial help from J&K bank under its SKEWPY scheme they turned their fortunes around while generating employment for others. Bilal Handoo talks to the ten budding entrepreneurs who were recently awarded for their excellence and hard work

CM Omar Abdullah awarding the successful entrepreneurs.

CM Omar Abdullah awarding the successful entrepreneurs. Photo: Bilal Bahadur

Ashiq Hussain, 27, from old Srinagar’s Kawdhara locality wants to be a business tycoon. His confidence is sky high after receiving the budding entrepreneur award along with nine others in a recently concluded Dastkaar Mela in Srinagar’s Badam Vari.

Hussain hadn’t a hunch that he would strike a name for himself in entrepreneurship. But it all started a year ago, when he availed the finance under State’s SKEWPY scheme. Within a year, his turnover touched Rupees 1 crore.

Five years ago, Hussain was in college studying commerce. But back home, dismal financial condition couldn’t encourage his hopes to continue with his studies. To support the financial needs of his family, he went to Delhi where he worked as chief accountant in a firm selling Kashmiri handicraft. For the time being, everything appeared fine.

But slowly in the heat of Delhi, he grew restless. After improving the financial condition back home, he wanted to set himself free from the orders of his bosses. He wanted to do something of his own now. As the feeling touched the threshold, he packed his bags and returned home.

But back home, he faced the harsh reality. He needed money to start his venture in Kashmiri handicrafts. There wasn’t any helping hand around until an advertisement flashed in local daily changed the course of his life. The advertisement was calling applications from the young and educated youth of Kashmir for starting up their own entrepreneurship units with the help of J&K Bank. He sniffed an opportunity and went on to register himself at Entrepreneur Development Institute (EDI) in south Kashmir’s Pampore town.

Shortly afterwards, he received training at EDI along with others and subsequently, received Rs 8.60 lakh for his project from J&K Bank. He invested good amount in making Pashmina shawls, and Kashmiri embroidery.

“Mere manufacturing of goods isn’t good enough,” says Hussain. “One should market the products as well.” He soon launched a website (www.cashmerecraft.in) with an aim to promote his manufactured products at national and international levels. “The website really helped me in amassing a good turnover,” says Hussain. “I am satisfied because I really worked hard to explore new markets.”

But Hussain isn’t alone who seem to ride on the entrepreneurship success.

Ara Jan, 32, a daughter of Kashmiri handicraft artisan is equally paddling with feat at the moment. She has transformed from as a little girl, who used to take care of her father’s accounts to a successful entrepreneur in handicrafts. Seventh among eight daughters and one brother in her family, she parted ways with handicrafts soon after her marriage.

But the affection for handicrafts revived her ties with it. And then one day, somebody informed her about state’s SKEWPY scheme. She applied in EDI, and after some time was sanctioned Rs 8.57 lakh for her project. Within a year, her turnover spilled over Rs 60 lakh.

After availing finance, she rented a space, raised handlooms, and hired workers for weaving cashmere. And within one year, she was supplying her products to the major cashmere dealers. “This is the next challenge for me to overcome,” says Ara Jan, a resident of Nowshera Srinagar. “My immediate challenge is to deal with my customers directly.”

Like Ara Jan, Tanveer Ahmad, 31, of Zoonimar Srinagar had a little cashmere experience. But it was dearth of financial strength that was an immediate challenge for him. Since Class 8, Tanveer had developed affection for embroidery. As his love for Kashmiri craft peaked, he stopped studies soon after passing out Class 12 and concentrated hard to pursue profession he held dear to his heart. In between an opportunity presented itself when EDI published an advertisement. After passing through registration, training and other procedures, his financial package was sanctioned.

And soon Tanveer got involved in the making of jackets, shawls, and embroidery products. “During last one year, I put some serious efforts in work that was duly rewarded by good turnover [around Rs 80 lakh]and the award that followed,” he says. His relentless efforts into his venture are now being recognised by the results he produced.

The story of success emanating from entrepreneurship ventures in the valley doesn’t end there.

All Ten Entrepreneurs seated in a row on the first day of Dastkaar Mela. Photo: Bilal Bahadur.

All Ten Entrepreneurs seated in a row on the first day of Dastkaar Mela. Photo: Bilal Bahadur.

Hilal Ahmad, 31, from Srinagar’s Rainawari is one more beaming face in entrepreneurship sector right now. Hailing from the locality known for carpet weaving, his family had no links with the trade. But deep down in his heart, he wished to do something related to carpet only. The wish was granted when he was selected for entrepreneurs program by EDI and sanctioned Rs 11.50 lakh financial assistance.

He opened small carpet weaving unit in his home, besides spilled his handlooms in Shopian and Kulgam districts of south Kashmir. The venture kept him on his toes. Unlike local market, he went to Delhi to sell his products directly to dealers. “I think one of one of the reasons which really worked in my favour was the introduction of new designs in carpet weaving,” says Hilal. His turnover stood at around Rs 80 lakh.

One more recipient of budding entrepreneur award is Farooz Ahmad, 33, from old Srinagar’s Narwara area. This Class 12 pass-out was sanctioned Rs 8.60 lakh by J&K Bank in 2012 which he invested in Pashmina and embroidery works. One year down the line his turnover stood at Rs 55 lakh.

After getting the financial assistance, he opened a small unit in his home and hired workers. To make his venture work better, Farooz did some extensive marketing in and outside Kashmir. But he feels that marketing of Kashmiri handicraft still needs some makeover. “If somehow the marketing of cashmere would be made smooth, I am sure then our products will reach at new global levels.”

Ajaz Dijoo, 31, from Chattabal Srinagar reflects the similar views. A son of wood carving artisan, Dijoo worked as salesman in Jaipur soon after his graduation. In 2007, he returned to the valley and started Kashmiri Arts unit. The following summer in 2008 his venture stalled when Amarnath land row hit the valley. The situation in 2009 and 2010 didn’t encourage his hopes to revive his venture. To sustain his living, he again worked as a salesman until 2012, when he applied in EDI.

He started his unit in Bemina Srinagar with the financial assistance of Rs 9 lakh, but had to wind it up soon after locals complained about the noise created by his unit. He finally settled down his unit in Zainakot HMT in August this year.

Within four months of starting his unit, he produced a turnover of Rs 60 lakh. “I focussed on market which I believe is more important than money,” says Dijoo, who wants to become the biggest exporter of cashmere in the valley.

Rohit Kumar, a J&K Bank executive says the award given to ten young budding entrepreneurs was based on their “turnover and product quality”.

“J&K Bank is focussing to boost the entrepreneurship sector in the valley, especially with an aim to revive Kashmiri handicraft sector,” says Kumar. “These budding entrepreneurs really showed a promise and potential to take the sector to next higher level.”

Jehangir Ahmad, 29, from Chattergam in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district is another budding entrepreneur from Kashmir. He decided to lay his hands on entrepreneurship soon after completing his post-graduation in Business Administration (MBA). As state’s SKEWPY scheme was started, Jehangir prepared a full-fledged project report which won him accolades from screening committee of EDI. Soon he was sanctioned Rs 21 lakh for a joint project.

He set up a yarn manufacturing unit in Ganderbal Industrial Estate, hired 15 workers and subsequently supplied raw material to local markets. His turnover too ran over Rs 50 crore within a year. “Though, it [turnover]could have been more had there been a better market options available to me. But anyways, it is just the beginning,” he says.

Irshad Manzoor Zarger, 36, is another face which featured in the list of top ten budding entrepreneurs. Hailing from Nowshera area of Srinagar, Zarger had faced a collapse in his cosmetic business before his fortune flipped in entrepreneurship. The loss in his earlier business forced him to live separate with his newly-wed wife. Being an MBA, he applied in EDI as he wanted to do something in Kashmiri handicraft. He was given Rs 8.60 lakh which later ballooned to Rs 50 lakh in the form of turnover.

With the amount, he started a Pashmina weaving unit in Zonimar Srinagar. As the word of the quality product weaved by his unit spread, many foreigners and Indian tourists started making rounds of his unit. And subsequently, not only he paid the losses suffered due to the collapse of his earlier business he also established a potential business unit. “J&K Bank really helped me a lot,” says Zarger. “All I wanted a little support, rest I was tenacious enough to strike a change in my life.”

Driven with the sense of change, Firdous Dar, 28, turned to entrepreneurship after leading a lavish career as medical representative for six years. Since his family was into handicraft business, he wanted to carry it forward. With an amount of Rs 18 lakh, he showed a turnover of Rs 1 crore within a year. “I focused on innovative designs in Pashmina,” Dar says. “Most importantly, I was prepared to do what I am doing. I guess that really helped me achieve the award as the recognition of my fine work.”

A daughter of labourer, Shaheena Akhtar, 28, from Nowshera Srinagar is one more face among budding entrepreneurs of the valley. Being the only graduate among six siblings, she always wanted to do something different in her life until a newspaper advertisement by EDI caught her sight. She applied, got selected and subsequently received training. “Those 10 days of training changed my life,” says Akhtar, whose turnover stood at Rs 60 lakh against Rs 8.50 lakh project sanctioned amount.

Soon she involved many women workforce in many parts of the valley making Pashmina and Kanni shawls.

“There weren’t only 10 people who were selected for entrepreneurship program,” she says. “There were about 2000 persons enrolled for the program. Many falter, some fumble, but a good number of people became success stories. I am happy, that I am one of them.”

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