Weaving A Dream

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Overcoming financial limitations, Arifa’s determination and optimism to excel  in handicrafts helped her create a niche in the male-dominated sector, Ikhlaq Qadri meets the young entrepreneur to share her success story.

Arifa, 25, wanted to be in the handicrafts sector. Despite various shortcomings, both financial and strategic, she not only managed to create a space in the otherwise difficult market but excelled in it.

Arifa, a post-graduate in craft management with the products that she has started marketing with vigour to help the craft improve its profile. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

Born in an economically modest family Arifa did her schooling from Vishwa Bharti higher secondary institute Rainawari till class 12thand bachelor’s in commerce from  Government College for women Nawakadal.

Initially, Arifa could not get the right platform to work. Her qualification did not tempt her to go for a salaried job like most others. Instead, she wanted to be a successful businesswoman and help the artisans to improve their standard of living.

Later, going by her friend’s advice, she joined a course in ‘Craft Management Entrepreneurship’  at Craft Development Institute, Srinagar. She was one of the 20 candidates who were selected for the course through a screening test.

Arifa couldn’t afford the fee of Rs 95,000 but then she was helped by the J&K Bank to secure the degree. She had to deposit only Rs 25,000 herself, the Bank took care of the rest.

“The Bank sponsored my degree after I showed good performance in the course. The amount I paid as the first instalment would be paid back to me,” says Arifa.

The course, according to Arifa, was highly interesting.  Whatever she was taught about design, technology and management enabled her to refine her knowledge.

“It is similar to an MBA, the only extra course is design management,” says Arifa.

As a part of the curriculum, Arifa did internship programs with various reputed institutions of India including Fabindia, Delhi for one month, Desert Artisan Handicrafts Furniture’s  (DAH) Faridabad for two weeks and  Karika India in Noida for one month. This helped her to grow and emerge as a strong contender in the market. The exposure from outside of Kashmir made her learn new ways to approach the market.

“We learnt how to assess the market needs, ways to approach the market, see the sensitivities of the customer and market demand. All this is a yet vague term in Kashmir,” says Arifa.

Later she decided for a project for ‘Revival of Namdah.’ The project was sponsored by the J&K Bank. The cost of the project was around Rs 2.45 lacks and it got completed in four months with the production of 300 pieces of patterned Namdah.

“Dr Haseeb Drabu was kind enough and showed keen interest in helping the craft,” says Arifa. The internship fetched Arifa Rs 3000 per month as stipend.

Arifa completed her degree with 95 per cent marks. She was chosen by CDI to participate in an exhibition of handmade items, Dastakaar- The Nature Bazar in Delhi. “We took sixty pieces of Patterned Namdah and sold forty-five,” she says. Only five were bought by Indians and the rest by foreign buyers.

She then decided to make samples of her unique work but faced financial constraints again. Her participation in Dastkaar exhibition helped.

There she had met a lady, Gulshan Nanda, who was working with Craft Council of India and was impressed by Arifa’s work. Impressed with her work and enthusiasm she offered Arifa Rs 50,000 and later gave me Rs 75,000 more.

Arifa during her time in CDI also met two young people, Muhammad Saleem Sofi and Farooq Ahmad Ganai, who were involved in Pashmina business. The trio started their own venture, ‘Incredible Kashmiri Crafts’ and participated in an exhibition in Almond Villa- Karan Singh palace in Srinagar. The response was very good. Now twelve artisans are working with them and Arifa is planning to make them partners in profit once the business is firmly established.

“I feel the pain Artisans are going through, and how much they are exploited. But what I plan is to give them respect and be a source of their dignified earning,” Arifa asserts.

2 Comments

  1. i m a kashmiri living outside & i would like to check with entrepreneur about her business plans. i think i could be of some help in terms of finance or business management. kindly share any contact you may have.
    thanks..

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