Sheikh SuhailSrinagar, Mar 18
Social media is often blamed for recurrent unrest and violence in Kashmir, but many youngsters in the valley are using various online platforms to realise their entrepreneurial dreams – fashioning inspirational success stories.
In a place where generation of employment for a growing number educated youths is one of the biggest challenges in view of limited opportunities – in both government and private sectors, the youth are carving out a niche for themselves by taking the entrepreneurship route and realising their dreams.
The trend is increasing by the day and several youngsters are shaping their destinies by honing their creative skills and turning ideas into actions.
While many of them take to conventional entrepreneurship, the new-age entrepreneurship using new technologies and social media is fast picking up among the young in Kashmir.
Several youths here have taken to social media to give wings to their dreams and started online marketing of their produce, brands, fashion labels and other stuff – using business to consumers sales model.
Hundreds of online stores have come into existence in the valley in the past few years, most of which primarily deal with fashion, clothing and accessories.
Tul Palav is one such store. Started in 2015 by 26-year-old Iqra Ahmad, a resident of uptown Sanat Nagar locality of the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, it is one of the first online fashion stores of Kashmir.
Iqra says she always wanted to follow her passion and was not made for a government job.
“I wanted to do fashion designing, but there was no institute in Kashmir where I could opt for such a course and I did not want to go outside the valley as I was too attached to Kashmir. So, I took Linguistics. Then, like others, I too was compelled to go job hunting, even as a job was never my target. This idea came to me then. I knew what I had to do. So, that is how I started,” she told PTI.
Iqra said when she thought of the business, a shop in the city was unaffordable for her, so she took the social media route.
“I could not think of (opening) a shop as one needs a large amount of money for it and I did not want (to take) a loan and also, I could not sustain the rent because most of the times the shops remain closed due to the situation (in the valley).
“I had a personal page on Instagram, so I started by uploading pictures there and I received a huge response within one hour, which boosted my morale. Now, whenever I upload my collections online, I sell them off within an hour,” an ecstatic Iqra said.
She puts up pictures of suits, dresses and accessories on her page, her 21.2 thousand followers go through the collection and she receives orders, after which she starts working on those.
“I work right from the scratch – from procuring material to designing and embroidery – everything is done by me here,” she said.
“When I started, I was the only one (online fashion store). Now, if you open Instagram, you will find many such pages. So, it feels proud that people are learning and that I was the one who started this,” she added.
However, while she was supported by her family all the way and business has been good, it is not a smooth ride often.
“I always got full support from parents and everything went smoothly. The biggest challenge is the strikes and disruption in Internet services. Whenever Internet is banned in the valley, uploading pictures and accessing Instagram is affected, which also impacts customer orders and thereby my business,” Iqra said.
Another success story is of two teacher-friends who turned their skills into a thriving business model.
Omaira Qayoom and Binish Bashir, who met each other while studying at a college here, took teaching jobs at a private school and started an online venture together - Craft World Kashmir.
With over 14 thousand followers on Instagram, the duo make and sell hand-made crochet items.
They attracted fame and the orders started pouring in.
“People were interested in our work and we started getting orders. We had to quit our teaching jobs to focus on the business,” one of them said.
It is not just fashion products that are selling like hot cakes in the valley through social media. There are other businesses as well like crockery and other kitchen appliances, ornaments, products of art and even services such as bridal makeup which use social media to project their ventures.
Haris Rehman (26) has a Masters in Computer Networking, but he never wanted to go with the crowd. Immediately after his studies, and while others kept looking for a job, Haris and his brother Burhan struck an idea of transforming their family's small-time crockery shop into a booming online venture.
“If we see today, everyone accesses social media - children and adults alike. Social media is a new tool for us. It has transformed everything...,” Haris said.
However, like others, Haris also believes Internet shutdowns and gags on social media are challenges one has to keep in mind.
“There are challenges. While my whole focus is on my business using social media, frequent Internet gags or social media bans affect it. That is a huge drawback and one has to be wary of it,” he said.