Dr Gazalla Amin gave up a career in medicine to venture into farming and turned a successful entrepreneur. Ikhlaq Qadri reports.
She cherished her childhood memories of being on a village farm surrounded by orchards and cattle roaming around. She loved agriculture. But she became a doctor.
“Medicine is a very demanding field. It was never my choice,” says Dr Gazalla.
Born in Asham, in Sumbal Sonawari, in a top bureaucrat’s family, Dr Gazalla Amin did her schooling at Presentation Convent Srinagar and her MBBS from Government Medical College, Srinagar.
However, things became quite difficult to manage when she got married, she says. She was in her third year of MBBS then.
“The kids used to take all of my time,” she says.
After completing MBBS, she did a house job in Chest Medicine and later on went to SKIMS Medical College-then Jhelum Valley Medical College, Srinagar where she worked as a demonstrator for three years.
As her kids kept her busy she could not give “proper attention” to the field of medicine. “So I quit the job,” she says.
Dr Gazzala quit medicine but could not get over her love for plants and agriculture. Five years ago Dr Gazalla took up farming. “It was always my dream to do something different,” she says.
Having more than 1000 kanals of land in Asham made her task easy. She started cultivating lavender – a medicinal and aromatic plant, initially over an area of one hectare. Within a short period, she extended the cultivation of lavender to three hectares and then started to cultivate roses. The cultivation continued to expand and took up eight hectares with different kinds of plants. She also established an aromatic oil distillation plant on the farm.
Expanding her operation from North to South Kashmir, she set up a farm over six hectares in Pulwama district in association with Regional Research Laboratory – the first such farm under a public-private partnership in the state.
On the farm Lavender is cultivated over three hectares, Rose, Rose scented Geranium and Rosemary on one hectare. Dr Gazalla later acquired 200 Kanals of land on lease in Tangmarg to grow aromatic and medicinal plants there as well. Diversifying into horticulture she has planted peach and grapes on two and a half hectares in Asham. The plantation is not a traditional one. “We call it high density (intensive) farming,” says Dr Gazalla.
Her successful transition from being a medico to excelling in Agriculture came so easy. “You learn what you love. I think I am an expert in agriculture. I have done fieldwork, run industry, sell products and have seen every aspect of farming,” she says.
Dr Gazalla is selling rose water, rose oil, geranium oil and other aroma oils under the brand name ‘Pure Aroma’. The extraction and packaging are done at the distillation plant owned by her. The aromatic oil extracts are sold in retail in 10ml bottles. Her company Fasiam Agro farms are doing great business having an annual turnover of over Rs one crore.
“I started with Rs 2.5 lakh and right now I am having a turnover of Rs one crore,” says the entrepreneur.
With offices in different places, she has six permanent employees and 70 to 100 daily wage workers. Dr Gazzala procured the seeds, initially, from RRL and has developed nurseries with 3000 plants of Rose and 2.5 lakh plants of lavender.
Apart from selling oil extracts, the company markets packed dried flowers. The products have a huge market outside the valley and are also exported to a few other countries.
“There is a demand worth seven billion dollars for medicinal and aromatic plants in India,” says Dr Gazzala. The reason for a major chunk of the products going outside the valley, she says, is that people here are not well aware of the aromatic products. “Around 80 per cent goes outside and only 20 per cent is kept in Kashmir,” she says.
Most of the products are sold to wholesale dealers outside the valley with oil extracts packaged in aluminium drums. However, Pure Aroma is going to be launched in Dubai this season and the company is planning to market the products directly and make it available to retail outlets. “We won’t sell it now on a wholesale basis,” she says.
The company is now focussing on branding and brand promotion. Dr Gazalla says, “If basmati can sell at high prices what is the harm in our own different types of rice if sold in small packets.”
She wants to help farmers get better prices for their produce.
“I feel for people working hard in fields but still committing suicide and living in very poor conditions. If a shopkeeper who only sells is able to make a good life, why not a farmer who toils hard to produce,” she says.
As a successful entrepreneur, she suggests to the youth to follow their heart she says, “Follow your heart and you will be a success. If I would have been a doctor, may not be a successful one. But I am proud to say I am a farmer and a successful one.”