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Capturing Artificial Intelligence Startup Wave



Capturing Artificial Intelligence startup wave

By Jasir Haqani

The influence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on every sector, virtually, cannot be overlooked, from the automation of simple and repetitive tasks to the performance of particular and highly complex functions that are hard or even impossible for humans to accomplish. The advantages of AI as a crisis management mechanism have been shown by different countries during the pandemic. Some of the nations were able to recognize trends from big data with the aid of AI supporting their health systems and monitoring the spread. A clear example of the success of Artificial Intelligence in China is how it helped speed up the diagnosis of large numbers of patients with the novel Coronavirus in radiology technology. Other nations integrated different skills to enhance the established capacity of Artificial Intelligence to combat COVID-19. In order to save lives and minimize human exposure to the COVID19 outbreak, the current global situation is driving the production of robots and the improvement of AI. It could lead to a new age of human-robotic helpers. Robots are used by a hotel in China to deliver food to people put under quarantine. A fleet of robots is being prepared in Spain to assist with coronavirus testing in the region. Not only does the interest in AI increase in replacing individuals, but also in helping them in their daily work. The majority of workers in the workplace will work from home. This “pushed” digitisation of the workplace is likely to introduce a new trend with new needs in Work from Home culture. It is very clear that the coronavirus, from its core technologies to its applications, has driven and will continue to push for the advancement as well as further progress of AI & Automation. Globally, COVID19 has undeniably altered billions of lives. Although many long for a “return to normal,” many facets of the community will never quite return to the state things were and the economic environment has been permanently altered by the shock. Once a vaccine is widely accessible and distributed, societies, schools, companies and global infrastructure will also have to adapt to a post-COVID environment.

Opportunities and Scope of AI Startups in different sectors

In the majority of the industrial sectors, the uncertainties caused by COVID19 have created great havoc. Across the technology market, there are marginally more positive effects than negative ones. The pandemic has created a stage to prove its worth for new-age technologies such as data-driven technologies and Artificial Intelligence. We are most likely to see an upsurge in the requirements of AI skills because of the growing acceptance of AI across different industries. In combating COVID19, BigTech has already shown how beneficial AI can be. For example, to recognize vulnerable populations and serve as an “early warning” system for potential outbreaks, Inc. collaborated with researchers. BlueDot, a startup client of Amazon Web Services, used machine learning to sift through vast quantities of online data and forecast the spread of the virus in COVID hit countries.

Market behaviour has also been influenced by pandemic lockdowns in ways that will spur the development and growth of Artificial Intelligence Startups. The rising e-commerce sector: as customers purchase more online to escape the risk factors of shopping in shops, more information on tastes and shopping patterns is given to sellers. Startups that allow customers to shop, study, work and connect have almost unexpectedly skyrocketed to mass acceptance as the world adapts to new ways of life so to connect the customer with the market via AI models.

Roadmap towards the New Normal

The loss of human lives is just the tip of the iceberg to state, what remains are the dangerous ashes of today’s scenario. Inside the startup and MSME environments, the most damaging aftershocks will be felt. These rely on a constant flow of capital and investments that have come to a complete standstill due to the pandemic. Since most startup leaders and entrepreneurs are looking for exit strategies to prevent losses, some of us have already given up on the threat. It may take ages to further substantiate aspiring workers, projects and thoughts that were to bloom into reality. Times are difficult and only the tougher ones will be able to survive. Looking at all this from a vantage point, a variety of companies still seem to be benefiting from all this. Since this is not a meltdown driven by the economy, it is a disaster that did not devastate the infrastructure at hand; it just put it all to a standstill. In the midst of all this, few businesses seem to be making the most of the recent turn of events. Although it is a war for survival for some of us, there are a few who have taken this opportunity to make this state a fortune.

There is a huge behavioural shift perceivable among customers, courtesy of the new norms directed by government bodies around the globe. The new standard might not be as bad as we presume it is, from online shopping to social distance and less likely a need to drive to congested high-density areas. The new normal will usher in new prospects for some of these industries. A whole new industry that had previously been untouched is now up for grabs to enter the AI startup market.

To work on with the innovative, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence startups are easily the most common. For several startups, Cloud Computing is vital to the underlying enterprise, looking to facilitate anything from virtual learning to telemedicine to food delivery. This implies that crisis times are not only a challenge, but can provide entrepreneurs with new opportunities, as startups can help tackle the constraints posed by challenging health or economic conditions and adapt to changing needs and requirements.


  1. AI Educational Startups

When schools and educational institutions are not permitted to operate, online schooling, tutoring, workshops, webinars, web courses, etc. have become the requirement of the hour. Irreplaceable, the online education market is experiencing a sudden boom and individuals from all walks of life, from each of the COVID19 impacted nations, are searching for traditional teaching and learning alternatives. People are reluctant to send their children to locations where it is difficult to practice social distancing. Even, for the duration before we have a permanent cure for the COVID19 pandemic, it is easy, holistic and more sustainable.

  1. AI Health & Wellness Startups

More healthcare organisations have been influenced by COVID19 to implement the concept of intelligent data as a platform for migrating to digital health. Several businesses are collaborating with startups who have the means to offer technology-enhanced solutions either by enabling these startups to connect to their networks or by forming a partnership type of customer-vendor. The solutions are not limited to finding issues and offering remedies but must expand to presenting technologies that allow the organisation to enhance its patient records, manage aggregated and distributed data more effectively, and handle a greater amount of information gathered from different sources.

  1. AI Agricultural Startups

India is largely referred to as an agrarian economy, providing a means of livelihood for about 50% of the Indian population. The coronavirus-led lockdown, however, struck the farming community and adversely affected their livelihood because of the constraints placed on transport and logistics, the supply chain, and the closing of local markets.

Even after the announcement of lockdown, the movement of agricultural machinery, the scarcity of critical agrochemicals and other impediments to the entire supply process have been restricted. But the alternative for farmers to trade online has led to massive growth in agricultural start-ups. These start-ups are creating platforms that allow farmers to choose their market at better prices and sell their goods. In order to maintain the sector functional, these agritech startups bring creativity with the integration of emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and remote sensing, start-ups are providing quick solutions to streamline supply processes and help farmers produce more efficiently.

More productive ways of growing, tracking, and selling crops were offered by the implementation of artificial intelligence and IoT in agriculture during the pandemic. It also introduced a new world of farming to support the life of a farmer.

Agritech startups have developed precision-based sowing techniques because farmers have to meet a huge demand. AI-based applications are available and need of an hour to forecast weather conditions and to assess the best time to accurately sow seeds, to ensure better growth and to reduce waste. The IoT-enabled self-reliant apps leverage sensors that track the crop and soil health.

Some of the new AI start-ups in Agriculture:

  • Soil and Crops Health Monitoring
  • Precision Farming with Predictive Analytics
  • Automated Irrigation Systems
  • Autonomous GPS guided harvesting systems.
  • Automated Pest and Weed Control
  • Species Recognition, etc.
  • Predictive Agricultural Analytics
  • Supply Chain Efficiencies
  • Agricultural Product Grading
  • Credit Risk Management
  • Agri-Mapping
  • Disease outbreaks prediction in Veterinary Sciences
  • AI radiograph

Artificial Intelligence is also increasing in other sectors such as biotech, fintech, online gaming, e-commerce, among others, although these developments have taken place in the start-up ecosystem.

Case Study for boosting the level of interest among young AI Entrepreneurs

With the advancement of AI & its various implementations in education, the academic world has really become more easy and customized. Today, as long as students have computers and internet access, they do not need to attend physical classes to learn. The new way of studying and educating students is entirely different from what it was a few years ago. The automation of administrative tasks has also been facilitated by AI-enabled technologies, enabling organizations to minimize the time needed to complete the complex task and day-to-day processes. Not unexpectedly, all the traditional ways of doing things will soon become a thing of the past in the academic world.

Teachers also spend a considerable amount of time in the academic environment on marking examinations, reviewing assignments, and presenting their students with answers. While AI might never really be able to replace human grading, it’s getting very close. It’s now possible for teachers to automate grading. AI-powered technologies can evaluate the awareness of students, analyses their responses, provide helpful feedback and assist teachers to develop customized training plans for students who can struggle with the subject. Although machines can already evaluate multiple-choice assessments, they are very close to being able to evaluate students’ writing as well.

These technologies have changed the landscape of education sector over the years, which paved the way for the edtech industry. According to estimates, the demand in India’s edtech online market is expected to grow to $1.96 billion in 2021. The advancement of technology in this industry is, however, the major element responsible for this development. Edtech is projected to play a significant role in revolutionizing the education sector by tackling new challenges.

Noida-based edtech startup Gradeup has worked with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) with such a vision to provide a robust examination preparation platform that offers live online courses from some of the best faculties in India.

Established in 2013 by Sanjeev Kumar, Shobhit Bhatnagar and Vibhu Bhushan, Gradeup is an online competitive exam preparation platform with a large user base of over 20 million candidates for the exam. Over the last four years, Gradeup has managed to raise $10 million, which has invested in and acquired other popular firms, including Gaana, Delhivery, and MX players.

This platform works to create ML models to read complex image math equations and to use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to help search for equations. In order to improve spam detection in group posts and searches, they have also improved their AI algorithms. The precision of their model currently stands at about 83 percent. In addition, the founders are in the process of developing AI systems from which they can detect the consistency and effectiveness of live classes.

To address a few big issues, Gradeup has been applying AI and ML techniques.

  • Helping students sustain longer periods of learning- An AI system has been designed that recommends students to review a topic after x number of days, based on their precision, last attempts, topic level of complexity, and other factors.
  • Analyzing search issue pictures- Gradeup’s Machine Learning Algorithms are used to detect if equations, histograms, diagrams and other items are included in a query. Based on that, to find an answer to the problem, they run various OCRS and search Algorithms.
  • Spam Filtering- Gradeup has deployed ML models that can detect whether an image or text contains spam or other irrelevant content to create a check on the quality of content generated by users and stop the user from continuing.



Jammu and Kashmir UT has the potential to match other states in AI capabilities due to the degree of innovation that occurs and the accessibility to large datasets. However, there needs to be a wide prioritisation to upskill the younger generation in this space and encourage governing bodies to push an AI-first agenda in a strategic manner. AI has quickly become a focus here in India, with the number of AI startups and private investments growing rapidly.
The government should try to accelerate the application of AI in both agricultural and other sectors so to make a way and space for young budding entrepreneurs to catch the market for making their livelihood and upskill others for bringing an ecosystem of entrepreneurship.

Jasir Altaf Haqani has worked with Citigroup in various roles in leading digital strategy and analytics. Currently, he is part of J&K bank & leads their digital lending group. He can be reached at

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Kya kuchh tha jiske kehne ko: A tribute to father



Kya kuchh thaa jiske kehne ko

By Zeeba Zaka-ur-Rab


کیا کچھ تھا  جس کے  کہنے کو

Kya kuchh thaa jiske kehne ko

وہ  کہنے والا چلا گیا

Vo kehne vaala chala gaya       

سالہا – سال سہا جس نے

Saalha saal saha jisne

وہ سہنے والا چلا گیا

Vo sehne vaala chala gaya

الجھے – سلجھے خیالات لیے

Uljhe – suljhe kHayalaat liye

چپ رہنے والا چلا گیا

Chup rehne vaala chala gaya

With the reality of his having gone away from this world, still to sink in fully despite the passage of four full months, it is with much hesitation as well as with a rather heavy heart that, a daughter brings herself to prefix “late” to her father’s name, and attempts to pay homage to this noble soul today.

Born as the fourth and the youngest child into a reputable, erudite and affluent family of Amroha, a town in western Uttar Pradesh, Abba (our father), Late Prof. Mohammad Zaka-ur-Rab was one of his kind – a thorough gentleman, a man of uncompromising principles, an intellectual par excellence (who was) far ahead of his times,.. and a multifaceted, ineffably wondrous personality. With humility, soft-spokenness and exemplary Husn-e-Akhlaaq (courtesy, politeness and affability ) as hallmarks, the tremendous amount of sabr (patience) this noble and pious soul was endowed with, is beyond incredible. Abba’s grandfather, Janab Abdur Rab, a highly respected Taluqdar of Amroha, had also served as a Judicial officer of the Royal Court at various places in the erstwhile Rajputana region. This highly acclaimed and principled officer, was also a renowned Persian scholar of his times. Abba’s father, Janab  Mohammad Zia-ur-Rab, was one of the only two Deputy Directors of Industries for the entire United Province ( the mother of a much smaller Uttar Pradesh of post-independence era). It is heartening to hear people still refer to him as the most kind and  upright Officer Kanpur has ever had. Not the ones to buckle under any pressures, both these righteous great men always stood up for the truth.  Underneath their tough exterior, however, nested  a soft, sensitive and compassionate heart.   Being extremely close to these two great men in the family, their lives and values left an indelible imprint on my father’s personality. It was actually his grandfather who had inducted the habit of rising early and awakened, in him, the love for books and nature, ..habits which Abba retained life -long, and later remembered to pass on to his own children.    “Zuka” his grandfather would call out lovingly, at 4 o’ clock in the morning, and slipping tiny little feet into his slippers,  Abba would rush to meet him. The two of them, would then set out for a refreshing long walk in their orchards, breathing in the fresh air,  enjoying stories and anecdotes with merry chirps of birds as background melody, and discussing important lessons on life, faith, and nature which were to guide him all through his life. A straightforward and extremely benevolent person himself, Abba, later proceeded to nurture in us, as well,  the virtues of truthfulness, selflessness, punctuality, impartiality, perseverance, and humility etc. etc right from our childhood. “Fear no one but the Almighty …and the Day of Judgement” …he would remind us frequently,…and as we strolled in the garden, with the morning dew caressing our little feet or rested on the terrace gazing at shiny stars at night,  he would, in an effort to ignite the young researcher in us, often say “Learn to observe.. ‘Ghaur karo’ .. Allah himself has commanded”…

Having lost his father,  while his intermediate examinations were underway (and his grandfather even earlier), he learned to endure adversity with great poise and fortitude at a fairly young age. Deeply attached as he was to his father, Abba a very bright and meritorious student all through, did not let the tragedy affect his educational excellence or achievements. Going against the wishes of most relatives and family friends, who, at that time, advised him to skip (the exams), he decided to do what his father would have wanted him to, that is …write the exams and silence them all with his results. So, each morning the very young and grieving Zaka would leave for the graveyard, offer fateha (prayer) and sit crying by his beloved father’s grave,… and when it was time to leave,  the broken-hearted child would pull himself together, and seeking his departed fathers blessings,  proceed to the examination centre. Abba used to often narrate, in a  voice choked with emotion and a sense of great respect and immense gratitude still palpable, how his teachers from B.N.S.D. Inter College (where he used to study in Kanpur), would specially care to come to the examination Centre, which was some 5 kilometres away from their college,  only to place their hands on his head, wish him luck, and comfort him saying “Though your father is no more…Don’t for a moment feel that you are alone…Beta (son), we were there for you,” ..These kind and much needed words for a child in that state,  remained deeply etched in his mind, and Abba continued to remain truly indebted to his teachers, holding  them all in high esteem throughout his life. To this day, his words stressing respect for teachers resound in our ears A teacher must never be disrespected..( for ) anyone who does so, earns nothing but humiliation and disgrace in his life)..”… “The one standing between the table and the blackboard should be listened to with rapt attention, (because) howsoever little one may think he/she knows,.. he definitely knows more than the student”…and “Observe your teachers carefully, .. Resolve never to repeat ( yourself) if ever  you  find something disapproving ,.. but try to do even better whatever you find good (in them)…”

A tireless worker, Abba knew no shortcuts. His analytical mind,  scientific approach and a keen eye for details made research come almost naturally to him.  From a young age, a passion for education and progressive thinking was fired and fuelled by his mother, Syyeda Begum, an enlightened homemaker who, herself, had received only informal education by a lady tutor, especially, hired by her father to impart English lessons at home. “Wo ilm hi kya, jo dil-o-dimagh roshan na karey ! (what use is education which fails to enlighten the heart and soul)” he would fondly recall his mother say. Armed with an insubvertible zest for knowledge, which lasted his lifetime, and an amazingly unparalleled  knack for simplifying tough topics, Abba turned out to be a fabulous and popular teacher himself… one, who could teach just any subject or topic, to anyone, with great ease. It is difficult to fathom or forget how he could make easy for us, complexities of even medical subjects during our graduation and post-graduation days!.. His succinct hand written notes, meant for a quick revision before our MBBS, MD/ MS examinations, and later even for job interviews are preserved with us to this day.

Prof. Abdul Hameed Hakeem Sb. has penned a well-deserved, beautiful and fairly exhaustive  tribute titled The pioneer of agricultural education and extension in Kashmir,”  highlighting our father’s many qualities  and contributions ( Editorial page,  Greater Kashmir, November 24, 2023). Each line, in this article, is so true, and each fact so well-articulated and elucidated, that (reading) it, literally, took our entire family down the memory lane, bringing back memories so vivid and pleasant of our wonderful  early childhood in Wadoora…. A life filled with plentiful laughter and gay abandon in the breathtakingly beautiful, fragrant and picturesque landscape surrounded, on all sides, by blue snowcapped mountains….. the imposing house with wooden floors and sloping roofs standing tall, its walls covered elegantly with luxuriant dark green ivy creeper playing a loyal nanny to generations of little birds, (with) its shiny broad leaves and maze of strong tendrils sheltering their nests and eggs from predators, ….the aesthetic lush green lawns and idyllic gardens laid and nurtured painstakingly by Abba…. A life amidst vibrant flowers, delicious fruits and berries, exotic vegetables, and also pets aplenty,… ranging from hens and chicks, nightingales,  doves, partridges, Japanese quails to even insect larvae… each of which, could boast of a unique name of its own, depending on a characteristic that had managed to catch the children’s watchful eyes.. Ticktika was one such name, given to a fat, fluorescent green larva which constantly produced ticking sounds while nibbling away, ravenously, at fresh piles of tender leaves which our mother introduced, dutifully, in its jar every morning   …whereas Kudki was a broody dusky grey hen, which went “kuduk kuduk”, pecking merrily around on insects, young frogs and seeds.. and, yes, frogs,…how could I forget those creepy creatures !?…there were hundreds of them there, ready to scare the life out of me!… a fear, which my other two sisters, enjoyed to cruelly exploit to the hilt, …chasing me around the house with the little four legged monsters on their badminton racquets …poised to leap (at me), … in a get, set, and  go position…! Horrified, I used to refuse to step out, and it was Abba who always came to my rescue … “Meri beti ko koi tang nahi karega (no one should trouble my daughter)” he gently rebuked my sisters, and ensured the jumpy menace was gathered in baskets from the lawns, and tossed gently across the fence.

Abba, was, in fact, the first non-state subject to have been made permanent in his J& K service…a fact which surprises many. The article by Prof. Hakeem also  brought alive the joy, warmth and PRIDE of being ABBA’s three little daughters. A myriad scenes began to play, before our eyes, …. the radiant glow regularly lighting up our parents’ faces as they saw the college grow and achieve milestone after milestone, and its products attain greater and greater heights … glimpses of the happiness and contentment on his  face as Abba scanned our school report cards, and heard from my mother the feedback from our teachers  ……flashes of Abba, (with) his back resting against the headboard of the bed, a cup of piping hot coffee in his left hand, giving dictations for his research papers etc. to Ammi, our mother, who doubled as his stenographer at home, and whose valuable inputs and suggestions Abba always welcomed … Also came rushing in, recollections of how we would see him off each morning, even proceeding to clamber up the tall wooden main gate, in an effort to keep watching him as long as we could, ….and then as evenings drew near, perched atop branches of Albizia trees, covered in fuzzy baby pink blooms, lining the driveway,  we waited eagerly for him to return. Years later, as if in reciprocation,  even after his frame had been rendered frail by age, Abba would still stress on seeing us off  daily at the main gate, …where he would continue to stand and watch, until the disappearance of the rear of our car into the next lane. Fast forwarding to the present, with his going away forever, that wait (for our Abba),  albeit extremely heart-breaking  and unending this time, has just begun for us all over again …!

Although most of the crops and trees, Abba got planted in Wadoora, do find a mention in the article by Prof. Hakeem, I would like to add a few more which our family could recollect. It was common in those times, for heavy snowing or landslides to cut the valley off from the rest of the country for weeks or months together.  A man of great foresight, energy and grit, Abba wished to see the valley become self-sufficient in sugar production. This thought led him to introduce the plantation of sugar beet as well as sweet sorghum, from both of which,  sugar could be processed just like from sugarcane,.. but at a much lesser expense. Additionally, these two crops could yield animal fodder as well as ethanol. He had also conceived the idea of setting up a Gobar gas plant in the College, to recycle waste from the dairy,  for the production of biogas, a clean, unpolluted and cheap source of fuel in rural settings.  Abba was also the one to have introduced orange trees which, till then, had not been planted or seen to bear fruits ever before in the valley. On either side of the path  to the college, he had got silver poplar trees planted. The avenue of these eloquent trees, with their silver leaves shimmering in the sunlight like wings of little fairies, was a sight to behold…

I would specially like to recount here, an interesting anecdote around sugar beet, which some of his colleagues or students might still be able to recall. Winters were approaching  fast, and sugar beet was still awaiting transplantation. With snowing just around the corner, and an unexpected strike by Maalis (gardeners) of the College, Abba was left very very worried. “Pray beta … pray that, whatever you Abba wishes for, gets to happen today ”.. Ammi urged us, in a visibly worried voice, without disclosing any further details to the younger two of her daughters. Aapa, the eldest, the most serious of her daughters(though not much older than us) who was treated by Ammi as her confidante and friend all along, was, however, often privy to many tensions or problems about which  the younger two of us could only have a vague idea at best. “ I will plant them by myself today … can’t see all of them perish.. at least a few might be saved” Abba thought out aloud, as he started to transplant the sugar beet with his own bare hands… Seeing their college Principal work in the field, ..the staff members, rolling back their sleeves and pants, joined in too…and soon enough, the entire college, including students, had pitched in… It seemed Allah had answered our innocent prayers, and within no time the entire work was done…That day, “Saathi hath bhadana ”  a popular Mohd. Rafi song from an old and famous Hindi Classic “Naya Daur” seemed to have been re-enacted, albeit in a refreshingly new way, in the fields of this beautiful college, tucked away in a remote village of the valley of Kashmir,… and as if in celebration of the team work and spirit, .. a fine drizzle soon followed the planting of the last row. ….The next day, a thick blanket of snow had descended all over the campus.

How much this college actually meant to Abba, can be gauged by another incident, from several years ago, which Ammi often recounts.  It was the winter of 1971 when the valley saw itself embroiled in yet another Indo-Pak war.  Even though almost all other families had moved to safer zones, our father refused to leave the campus, a decision backed fully by our mother. When some colleagues tried to convince him to shift out as well, he retorted calmly “ Does that place have a different and more powerful Allah from the one we have with us here!?”.. One particularly chilly night, our house, standing lone in the darkness, was shaken violently with an ear shattering, loud boom, seemingly from bombardment in some place quite near… Abba rushed out of the house crying out in despair “they have  destroyed my college… sab tabah kar diya”…Ammi had to literally run out and pull him back in pleading “ if , God forbid, it has already happened, your rushing there at this hour, .. in the dead of the night, going change any of it??”

Coming back to the obituary by Prof. Hameed Sb., not only were we greatly overwhelmed and deeply moved by his article, but also felt extremely indebted to him for having, diligently and honestly, put on record, for the world to know, … who Abba was, …what a remarkable foresight he possessed,..  and all that he had managed to do, way back then, for a college he was so completely dedicated to….However,  at the same time, unbeknown to Hameed Sb., another thing which the article also ended up doing, unintentionally, was to uncover some old sores as well. Wounds, which still oozed and bled somewhere deep down within our hearts…and which over the years, even we had convinced ourselves to believe, ceased to exist…A pall of impenetrable silence and gloom seemed to descend on Ammi  and the three daughters who Abba had left behind …  During the entire day,  we could not help feeling that long forgotten pain and  the same anguish all over again … That particular night,  none  of us could catch any sleep… and as I lay awake, staring at the ceiling, I felt compelled to write my own tribute and elegy to a father like none other in this world ..a father, who instead of admonishing his daughters, himself proceeded to teach them to climb trees, offering in the process, his own palms to step on… A father, who in a bid to empower his daughters and decrease their dependence on others, not only taught them to send telegrams, withdraw and deposit money, fill admission forms themselves (from a pretty early age),  but also trained them to change tyres before teaching them to drive!…A father,  who instead of imposing his own wishes or restrictions, opened up the skies in all their entirety for them (as far as his resources could permit).. A father, who, howsoever tired or tense he was , always entered his home with a warm smile on his radiant face,.. and cared to keep up his promise of playing badminton with each of his little daughters… A father, who despite his hectic schedule, not only wrote timely replies to his children, but always cared to enclose (within the same envelope or inland letter),  the original letters addressed to him as well, appending little notes in his trademark neat and mature hand…Notes,  appreciating their tender sentiments, but at the same time, guiding them, gently, on how a particular sentence could be framed better… or an alternative word or expression used….

Abba  not only had great command over both English and Urdu, but he could also speak Persian with great elan. His DSc. (Doctor of Science – a degree higher standing than Doctor of Philosophy [PhD]) thesis won remarkably strong words of praise from highly acclaimed foreign experts,  not just for the exceptionally high quality of his research, but also for the linguistic beauty of expression as well as for the exquisite diagrams which he had himself inked. Not many in Kashmir might, however, be aware that Abba, who was a very fine and sensitive artist at heart, wrote beautiful poetry as well. A great admirer of art and handicrafts,  he never let my mother bargain. Siding always with the seller, he would convince her “ they work so hard all year long, ..why eat into the little profit they wish to make!”

Just like at any other place, life in Wadoora, too was peppered with small worries and tensions. However, despite the usual ups and downs, faced by almost all office goers, broadly speaking, Abba and his small family of five, were happy and contented. Life was fine, until one day, when suddenly like a bolt from the blue, some fairly, unsavoury events  were orchestrated by a few people with nefarious designs and vested interests. Not the one to bow down to pressure or injustice, Abba decided to proceed on a long leave and left for Aligarh. Those unfortunate events, left us terribly terribly hurt and shaken. Our honest, soft- hearted, and sensitive parents were the hardest hit. It, definitely, wasn’t a question of any post or promotion having been denied…(Abba was the last one to have run after position, power, money or fame).. The sorrow and hurt, were all about a doubt having been cast on the impeccable integrity of a person as scrupulously honest and hardworking as him,.. about having been let down by his own  … about having had to go far- far away from where his heart always lay and continued to ( lay) till the very end of his life and…last but nt the least, an illustrious innings having been undeservingly cut short…..

Quiet and uncomplaining ,  Abba,  an epitome of “sabr,never once complained to Allah or cursed anyone. Seldom expressing any frustration or pain, he chose to use a dignified silence as his armour instead.  However, we, as his family, could still sense it all. Although we all tried to put up a brave front before each other, the harsh reality was that, each member of our family was impacted in ways more than one… the temporary, but severe financial hardship,  was just one of the many consequences. Though he came from a rather well-off family, complete immersal in affairs of the college had left Abba with little time to devote to his ancestral property. This inattention, later, cost us dear,.. and before we could realize it, almost  everything including his house, orchards, and other land holdings in his hometown, had been usurped by caretakers as well as outsiders. Ammi who, from the beginning,  multitasked as an efficient homemaker, loyal friend, and a competent research and personal assistant to her husband (at home),  continued to stand steadfast, uncomplainingly, with him through thick and thin … the unimaginably strong bond of absolute trust, care and affection they shared mutually, all their lives, is an example for all…Our parents (who were first cousins) shared many qualities and virues and remained totally inseparable and wholly devoted (to each other) till the very end..

In the ensuing years, Abba a picture of grace, indefatigable and indomitable spirit, and complete faith in the Creator, managed to veer us through all the turbulent and fairly difficult times with dignity and composure. “Have unquestioning faith in him( the Almighty)… uski rassi mazbooti se pakde rakkho..aur uski raza mein raazi raho”…he would remind us pointing at the sky. “Ye kya hai (what is this)!?… Zinda ho beti, tou zindo ki tarah jeena seekho… Learn to live your life with zest and zeal…” he would gently chide, whenever he saw any of his daughters pull on a long face… To pep our sulking spirits up, he would reiterate “Waqt kii sabse baDii Khoobi hai ke guzar jaata hai,..  achha bhi or bura bhi (The greatest beauty of time is that it passes, …both good as well as bad,” …and in the due course of time, we really got to see it happen, when,  by Allah’s grace and our family’s resilience, we succeeded in overcoming the transient  hardships….What could never be undone, however,  was the tragic loss of, what could have been, some of the most productive years of life of this young, enthusiastic, and honest researcher and administrator. Looking back at all that Abba had managed to painstakingly accomplish  during his tenure as Principal at Agriculture College, Wadoora, and knowing what his calibre was, …it pains us greatly to realise how much more he could have contributed, had all the dreams and plans (which) he had envisaged for the future development of his college, not been dashed so abruptly ..and so ruthlessly many many years ago by a few self-seeking men, …some  of whom later went on to personally  apologise to Abba, accepting and repenting the immense and irreversible damage (they had) caused to a person as honest and sincere as him  …

After leaving the Agriculture College at Wadoora, Abba was conferred the prestigious National Fellowship by the UGC which gave him the opportunity to conduct research in the Department of Zoology at AMU, of which he was an Alumnus. He also briefly served as a Professor of Entomology at the University of Benghazi in Libya. It was during this time that America attacked that country, leading us to plead with him to return. Abba eventually retired from SKUAST – Kashmir as Professor cum Chief Scientist before joining the Institute of Agriculture at Aligarh Muslim University as Director. However, despite all that he accomplished in life, Abba sometimes, still rued the unrealised dreams he had for  ‘his’ College  in Kashmir.  Even after the passage of so many years, Agriculture College Wadoora still remained ( and shall always continue to remain)The Collegefor our entire family! There is yet another precious dream which, now,  shall sadly remain unfulfilled forever, … that of taking our parents on a visit to Kashmir, getting them to meet everyone, and see one more time “our” house and “Abba’s college” in Wadoora..“ Hazaron khwaahishein aisii …”

Kya kuchh tha jiske kehne ko

Abba with his college football team (1964-65)

Notwithstanding, all the trials and tribulations he was undeservingly and unfairingly subjected to, Abba harboured no bitterness or ill will towards anyone,.. his pious heart having only prayers, sincere words of advice and good wishes for one and all…a truth, we as his daughters,  can vouch for …

I have (ignoring my rather limited proficiency in vocabulary and expression) attempted to pen down some thoughts and questions (on those ‘unfortunate events’ of Wadoora referred to in the preceding paragraphs) which, I felt, might have played, sometimes, on Abba’s mind. Since, words in any given language may have more than one connotation, I have tried to mention, at places, the relevant context of their use:

کیوں چھین ہَزارَہ مالی سے                  (hazaara: a pot for sprinkling water on plants)

Kyun chheen hazaara maali se

رخ باد سباء نے موڑ لیا ؟

RukH baad-e-saba ne moD liyaa?

گلشن میں جس  جاں بستی

Jaa(n) basti, jis Gulshan mein

کیوں خاموشی کو اوڈھ  لیا؟

Kyun kHamoshi ko oDh liyaa?

گل خاروں مین تبدیل ہوئے                                   (kHaaron: thorns)

Gul kHaaron mei(n) tabdeel huey

بلبل نے نَغْمَہ  چھوڑ  دیا

Bulbul ne nagHma chhoDh diyaa

 تھا عِلْم وَہاں چَھلْک تا  جو

 Jo chhalkaata, tha ilm vahaa(n)

!پَیمانَہ ہی وہ توڑ دِیا

 Paimaana hi vo toD diyaa !

ماںجھی کے سب پتوار لیے

Maanjhi ke sab patwaar liye

طو فاں کی جانب موڑ دیا

Toofa(n) ki jaanib moD diyaa


کیا-کیا کرنے کی خاہش تھی

Kya-kya karne ki kHaahish thii

نے سپنا توڑ دیا بَیری                     (Bairi:one who bears a grudge; adversary)

Bairi ne sapna toD diyaa

نہ جانے کیسی  رنجش تھی

Na jaane kaisi ranjish thii                                    Kya kuchh tha jiske kehne ko

یوں رسوا کھالی چھوڑ دیا

Yoo(n) rusva kHaali ChhoD diyaa

بنجارا گٹھری باندھ چلا

Banjaara gatHree bandh chala

اَپنوں نے ہی  دل توڑ دیا

Apno(n) ne hii dil toD diyaa

دنیا کے تیوَر کیا بدلے

Duniya ke tewar kya badle

نے رِشتْا جوڑ لیا ْ  پھر غم

Phir gham ne rishta joD liyaa

پیر چُھپائے چھپ نَہ سکئ

Peer chhupaey chhup na sakii

 چھوڑ دِیا ہنسنا ثے اور دل

Aur dil se ha(n)sna chhoD diyaa ..

The last seven months of Abba’s life were spent on ventilator in the ICU of Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College at AMU, Aligarh, due to complications arising from a badly messed up tracheostomy procedure conducted, by a callous senior anaesthetist, one fateful April evening. This was the toughest, the most trying of times for all of us, when Allah, it seems, chose to test Abba’s sabr once again and to the fullest. Desperate to hold him back at any cost, his three daughters never, for a moment, left his side,..and kept struggling, clinging on to even the faintest rays of hope, praying for a miracle to happen, .. and trying all that was within their might to see that he recovers ..… The doting father that Abba was, he too played his part well in his daughters’ struggle, … continuing to fight along bravely until the very last, .. bidding adieu to all, on the night of November 13,  perhaps, only when reassured that his Master had infused enough strength to keep his family from crumbling…


سو زخم سمیٹے آن٘چَل میں

Sau zakHm sametey Aanchal mei(n)

پروانہ گھائِل چلا گیا

Parwaana Ghaayal chala gaya


  چمن کا دِیوانَہ اپنے

Apne chaman ka deewana

دِلْ سوز وہ عادِل چلا گیا        (dil soz:benevolent; Aadil : fair)

Dil soz vo aadil chala gaya


کا مظہر تَمَدُّن  تہذیب و             ( Mazhar: manifestation)

Tahzeeb-o-tamaddun ka mazhar

وہ مخلس , لا ظِل،  چلا گیا         ( laa-zil: gold sans any impurity )

Vo mukHlis laa-zil chala gaya


پابَنْدِ تَعَیُّن ، پاکیزاہ                        ( paband- e -taa’yyun: man of his words)

Paband- e -taa’yyun, pakeezah

اک  پیر  کامل چلا گیا                    ( peer- e- kamil: perfect mentor)

Ik peer- e- kamil chala gaya


جب بھیڑ  لِوانے ای تو

Jab bheeD livaane aaii tou

اپنں سے غافِل  چلا گیا                       ( ghafil:oblivious)

Apno(n) se gHafil chala gaya


عآہستہ بوجھل قدموں سے

Aahista bojhal qadmo(n) se

نَظَروں سے اوجَھل چلا گیا

Nazro(n) se ojhal chala gaya


سب شور شَرابہ  چھوڑ  یہاں

Sab shor -sharaaba chhoD yahaa(n)

بیراگی  رائِل چلا گیا                        (bairagi: saint; raahil: traveller)

Bairaagi raahil chala gaya


کیا کچھ تھا جِس کے کہنے کو

Kya kuchh thaa jiske kehne ko

بن  بولے کافِل چلا گیا                 ( Kaafil: a man who fasts often, & during which imposes silence on himself)

Bin boley kaafil chala gaya


سالہا- سال سہا جس نے

Saalha saal saha jisne

وہ سابر  باسِل چلا گیا                        ( baasil: brave )

Vo sabir baasil chala gaya


حسن صَبْرٌ کا پیمانہ

Husn -e -sabr ka paimaana

بےخوف وہ عاہِل چلا گیا                          (Aahil: king)

Be-kHauf  vo aahil chala gaya

اپنے چمن کا دِیوانَہ

Apne chaman ka deewana

وہ مُشْفِق باادِل چلا گیا                 (mushfiq: kind, affectionate; baa-dil: with heart)

Vo mushfiq baa-dil chala gaya….

Even though pages after pages can be filled without doing full justice to the memory of this marvellous human being, but as I proceed to conclude this rather lengthy write-up, I can almost visualize Abba in his favourite blue dressing gown,   standing, near his desk,  glossing over the paper … (with) spectacles in his right hand…  “This time you were totally wrong Abba, with a loss far too great to get over, and a void too huge to ever fill, how did you think your family could stay afloat without you!??…but as you always said ‘Allah ki raza me raazi tou rehna hii hoga’…we must bow to His will, .. Allah Haafiz…. May the Almighty Allah grant, you the highest place in Jannatul Firdaus,  and give to us, just a small fraction of the Sabr which he had chosen to bestow on you, our angel.. Aameen!”

Prof Mohd. Zaka-ur-Rab is survived by his wife and three daughters Simi, Zeeba and Atia Zaka-ur-Rab who are serving as Professors in the Departments of Ophthalmology, Pediatrics and Surgery, respectively at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College, AMU, Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh

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Promoting diversity, equity and inclusiveness in veterinary profession



World Veterinary Day

Sanober Rasool

World Veterinary Day

For veterinary professionals, it is crucial to provide socially conscious learning and working environments as well as to eliminate obstacles to fairness and inclusion. Veterinarians operate in a world that is becoming more diverse and swear an oath to uphold public health. Students, team members, and veterinarians must have the knowledge and abilities necessary to meet every customer’s requirements and foster hospitable workplaces for every employee. Although diversity, equality, and inclusivity (DEI) and mental well-being (MWB) are still crucial for the veterinary profession, there is little information available on how professional bodies throughout the world approach these problems. The veterinary profession is a diverse field that offers healthcare and other services to a variety of different animal species. However, despite working with animals that come from diverse backgrounds, the profession itself has not always been inclusive of diversity in its workforce. There is a growing need for the profession to promote diversity, equity, and inclusiveness to better serve the needs of all animals and their owners. This essay will examine some of the ways in which the veterinary profession can promote diversity, equity, and inclusiveness.

One important step toward promoting diversity in the veterinary profession is to increase awareness of the opportunities available to individuals from different backgrounds. This can be achieved by reaching out to underrepresented groups and promoting the benefits of a career in veterinary medicine. Admissions committees for veterinary schools should take into account the unique challenges faced by underrepresented minorities when evaluating applications. This could include adjusting the emphasis given to academic achievements in order to account for the additional obstacles that students from disadvantaged backgrounds may have had to overcome. Making a commitment to diversity and inclusion necessitates uncomfortable levels of participation. Breaking out of our comfort zones might be one of the most difficult obstacles to achieving change in our environments. Discover activities that can help you get out of your comfort zone and into a daring space, allowing you to boost diversity and inclusion programmes in your organisations.

Professional groups and associations can also provide support by offering networking opportunities and resources that help individuals overcome barriers to success. They can also offer resources such as job listings, continuing education opportunities, and access to research and other publications that can help individuals stay up-to-date on the latest developments in the field. Moreover, in promoting diversity, the veterinary profession must also strive for equity in its workforce. This means ensuring that everyone has access to the same opportunities regardless of their background.

World Veterinary Day

Veterinarians should be evaluated on their merits rather than their race, gender, or ethnicity. This principle is central to the idea of meritocracy, which holds that individuals should be rewarded and promoted based on their abilities, achievements, and potential. Policies should be put in place to ensure that there is no discrimination in the selection process for veterinary specialists or in any other job opportunities.

Some possible policies that could be implemented to prevent discrimination in the veterinary profession include:

  1. Developing a fair and transparent selection process
  2. Providing equal opportunities: employers should provide equal opportunities for all applicants, regardless of their race, gender, religion, age, or other personal characteristics.
  3. Educating employees: Employers should educate their employees about discrimination and the importance of non-discrimination in the workplace.
  4. Establishing a complaints mechanism: Employees should establish a mechanism for employees to report incidents of discrimination and take appropriate action to address such incidents.
  5. Regularly reviewing policies: Employers should review their policies and procedures regularly to ensure that they comply with anti-discrimination laws and best practices.

By implementing these policies, the veterinary profession can become more inclusive, diverse, and welcoming to all individuals who want to pursue a career in this field.

Finally, inclusiveness in the veterinary profession means creating an environment where everyone feels valued and respected. Veterinary organisations should continue to raise awareness and reduce stigma related with mental health conversations at the national and regional levels through webinars, specific training, and broad ongoing education.

World Veterinary Day. In conclusion, promoting diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in the veterinary profession is essential not only for the well-being of veterinary professionals but also for the animals and their owners. Veterinary organizations, schools, and individual professionals have a responsibility to create a welcoming and inclusive environment that supports and encourages diversity, equity, and inclusiveness. By doing so, the veterinary profession can improve its service to a diverse clientele, foster a culture of inclusion, and better serve the needs of all animals and their owners. It is important to continue the conversation around diversity, equity inclusiveness and mental well-being and take actionable steps towards creating a more inclusive and equitable profession for all.

Veterinarians are essential members of society because of their compassion and caring. They are tasked with treating and caring for sick or injured animals until they are whole and content. So take a chance on World Veterinary Day and give our neighbourhood vets a thank you for all they do for the community.

Sanober Rasool is a PhD Scholar at the SKUAST-K’s Division of Veterinary and Animal Husbandry Extension


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Global eCommerce boom and local traders of Kashmir



Global eCommerce boom Kashmir

A Structural Shift in the Market Preferences

Dhaar Mehak M
Tabeen J Wali

The global eCommerce market was expected to be worth a total of $5.7 trillion by the end of 2022. That figure is estimated to grow over the next few years; exhibiting the fact that borderless eCommerce is becoming a profitable option for online retailers. It is giving a market space to one and all with a potential or product to sell. Only two years ago, 17.8% of sales globally were made from online purchases. That number is again expected to reach 20.8% by the end of 2023; a 2 percentage point increase in eCommerce market share. This growth is expected to continue, reaching 23% by 2025, translating to an increase of 5.2 percentage points in just five years.

Economic projections and forecasts predict the global retail sales growth to rise even further and take up more retail market share. According to research completed by eMarketer and Statista, online retail sales will reach $6.51 trillion by 2023, with eCommerce websites taking up 22.3% of total retail sales. Although retail has had it tough since 2020, every national market covered by eMarketer saw double-digit eCommerce growth. The trend continues globally: Latin America (including Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico) saw $104 billion in eCommerce sales in 2022, up 22.4% from $85 billion in 2021. The UK is forecasted to continuously increase by $85.7 billion (+42.88%) within the next years.

China continues to lead the global eCommerce market, accounting for 46.3% of all retail eCommerce sales worldwide, with total online sales just over the $2.8 trillion mark in 2022. It also has the world’s most digital buyers, 842.1 million, representing 39.4% of the global total. The US eCommerce market is forecasted to reach more than $904.9 billion in 2022, a little over a third of China’s. After China and the US, the third-largest eCommerce market is the United Kingdom, taking up 4.8% of the retail eCommerce sales share. The UK is followed by Japan (3%) and South Korea (2.5%). The top five eCommerce markets haven’t changed since 2018. Trends from eMarketer suggest that these markets will stay in the top five until 2025.

While the whole world has been witnessing the structural transformation and shift in terms of market transformations from retailing to online shopping, the Indian economy has been a part of the process. In light of the same, the Jammu and Kashmir economy has had an equal and equally growing participation in the same. The advent of the internet and the arrival of eCommerce technology in the lives of average Kashmiris have changed the shopping preferences and experiences of the locals. People no longer have to battle issues like vehicular traffic on the roads or wait in queues for long hours. Accredited to the growth of eCommerce technology, locals have been empowered to shop anywhere-anytime just at the click of a button.

However, in the recent past, there was no (or very limited) concept of eCommerce in Kashmir. Smartphone availability to the general public was rare. The masses were barely aware about the internet facilities and global communication channels. There was no idea of online shopping, online transactions, etc. With time and the availability of the internet along with the growing mobile phone penetration, eCommerce made its presence felt in the valley. However, due to slower internet connection issues like 2G and lack of awareness, people initially had apprehensions and thus were afraid of buying things online.

Global eCommerce boom Kashmir

Tracing the roots and history of online shopping awareness in J&K, it dates back to the year 2008 when the mobile internet was making its headway into the valley. People were gaining affordable and available access to wireless internet. It was around the same time that after bearing a lot of hardships with sorting out the supply chains Flipkart became operational and function in the region. the initial years were tough and hard but the company stood steadfast. It took some time for Flipkart to cut through lots of hurdles alone and get to success. Being the only player in the online market in the region for quite some time it was a big deal to keep surviving and floating. But the outcomes were a success.

Steadily as people gain access to quality internet services and advanced smartphone technology the word spread. It was observed that doorstep delivery was actually a reality. At the same time, the quality of the delivery matched the promises of the website. The trust factor got built. Witnessing optimism within the J&K market, other companies like Amazon, SnapDeal, and other local online stores, etc., started jumping in to tap into the growing eCommerce market. The consumers got the opportunity of choosing from a wide range of products. Not only that, discounts and sales from time to time offer big benefits to consumers.

All these factors have been contributing towards a structural market shift. People from across J&K have been moving from in-person retail shopping to online shopping. While the consumers in the region have surely benefitted both in terms of utility/satisfaction and profit maximization, the retailers have been losing.

The J&K economy is predominantly characterized as a consumer economy. The characteristics of being a producer and self-sufficient economy have been limited and rather absent for a long time. It is the retailer of J&K, who has been at the losing end on account of the growth of the online markets. Retailing has been one of the most common business ventures of people across the region of J&K. Setting up of the shops and selling various items has been a known venture. People for generations have been relying on this activity. Lately, the structural change is challenging this segment of J&K businessmen and the immediate solution visible is evolution. These businessmen, particularly retailers, need to adjust to the changing market and make themselves competitive enough to compete with global online sellers. The only other option is to let the business supper, deteriorate and shut down.

The authors are affiliated with the Department of Economics, Islamic University of Science and Technology & can be reached at and

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