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The Rise and Fall of ESSAI Industries | A tale of Kashmir entrepreneurship

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Rise and Fall of ESSAI Industries

Dhaar Mehak M

The entrepreneurs approached SIDCO in order to call for help.Given the context and historicity of the state of affairs in Jammu and Kashmir (JK), the public sector influence on the industrialization process in the region has been considerably high. As such, the Department of Industries and Commerce has been the nodal public sector agency to control, coordinate and guide the industrialization process in J&K right from 1970.

One of the main corporations of the Industries Department is the J&K State Industries Development Corporation’ (SIDCO). The aim of the government behind setting up this corporation was to accelerate the process of industrialization in J&K in an advanced and modernistic manner. The main function of SIDCO is to promote the development of the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in J&K. It is equally responsible to undertake all the Research and Development (R&D) pertaining to viability of potential units in light of location, economy, market and other business viability conditions. The smooth functioning of the firms located within the industrial estates falling in its jurisdiction are completely the responsibility of the ‘Institutional Entrepreneur’ that SIDCO is described to be.

In light of the growing job demand and falling job availability of the people, the J&K Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) was established in 1997 as a premier training institute of the DIC. The main aim behind establishing the JKEDI is to put in place, foster and uphold the growth of entrepreneurship in J&K. As such, the JKEDI has been facilitating young enthusiastic and potential entrepreneurs with training, seed capital and other resources to undertake productive activities.

Rise and Fall of ESSAI Industries

And on the receiving end in one unique case are two young dynamic entrepreneurs who left their jobs in order to venture together into self-employment giving vent to their entrepreneurial spirits. Having decided to quit the 9-5 job, two of them began to research the local market and the suppliers that dominated the J&K market. One stark thing found during 2010-11 was that 98% of ‘nails’ used in the construction of all sorts across J&K are imported from the rest of the country and only 2% of the demand is met by local production. No matter the size of a nail, the fact of the matter is that the construction industry dominated J&K and ‘nails’ are a fundamental requirement in any sort of construction.

After exhaustive research, the two young men decided to start the first ‘Wall-Putty’ unit in the region. The ‘ESSAI industries’ as they named it in high hope, were facilitated by JKEDI in setting up their plant. The unit was started by employing eight people in 2013 in the Lassipora Industrial Growth Center, Pulwama falling under SICDO. The unit started off well as recalled by the duo with a market response better than their expectations.

The Flood of 2014 disrupted the production for around six months and the production was resumed in the spring of 2015. The shock of 2016 partially hampered the production process and during 2017 the production, supply, marketing and demand were as high as it could get. With this, the obvious business plan of the extension was set in the plan and the ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NoC) for the construction of ‘Plaster of Paris’ (PoP) was attained from SIDCO itself. The construction of the unit began in the March of 2018, on 4 Kanal of land in the same estate. The project cost of the PoP plant was 3.56 crore in 2018 and the trial batch was produced in the March of 2020.

Rise and Fall of ESSAI Industries

Soon after the production of the trial batch the dusting issue surfaced, which was obvious given the existent technology and practices of production pan-India and ironic in light of the NoC already given to the entrepreneurs. The vicinity reported dusting issues. Queries and complaints surfaced. And given the principle of ‘greatest good of greatest number’ the production of the PoP plant was brought to a halt. The market share of the unit declined drastically. The unit failed to meet the suppliers’ demands on time. Delays became a routine and order cancellations increased. About 45 people employed in the unit lost their jobs with the shutting down of the plant. With this, the ESSAI industries and their celebrated PoP vanished from the market leaving the entrepreneurs to find non-obvious ways to pay off the debts.

The entrepreneurs approached SIDCO in order to call for help. The very genuine and obvious demands of the unitholders are to auction the closed unit and relocation of the firm so that production could be resumed. It has been observed that the authorities have failed over the past two years to undertake these two simple tasks in order to liberate the duo from the crisis they are facing. The auctioning notices (one or two) have failed to materialize. No relocation is being facilitated and no committee is being made to look deeper into the issue and no solution has been proposed to date.

Rise and Fall of ESSAI Industries

At the individual level, the duo has been liquidating their household assets to repay the debts and pay the banks. During 2020-21 they have repaid Rs 32 lakh to the bank while there has been no production. Both the entrepreneurs who are in their 30s are facing hypertension and are on high medication. They have been living stressful lives all of a sudden with the halt in production and facing a downfall that is technically unjustified. While narrating their woeful story they sigh remembering the good times when they were capturing the local market and doing excellently well in business.

The most important outcomes from examples like these are the wrong market signalling. Instances like the above one make entrepreneurship look risky and non-rewarding. In the region of J&K where the job market is already constrained and the unemployment rate is 22%, the only viable solution is that of self-employment, the scope of administrative bottlenecks and callous approach is literally nil. DIC and all its affiliated corporations must revisit their mandates and understand the serious role they are charged with. While the above issue should have been sorted out in a weeks’ time, it can’t be left lingering in thin air for years at a stretch. This write-up will be followed back in three months’ time to access the latest development on the self-employment scenario in the region in light of the case just highlighted here.

The author is an industrial researcher and can be reached at [email protected] 

 

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Entrepreneurship

Exquisite in taste, Nava’s homemade jams and pickles ‘sell like crazy’  

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Homemade jams and Pickles

Syed Jesarat

Nava Shah was always passionate about cooking and creating new recipes. However, it was only after her marriage and the birth of two children that she decided to turn her passion into a full-fledged business.

After completing her MBA from the University of Kashmir in 2015, Nava started teaching in a local school. Though she was doing it with full dedication, but her interests lay in the kitchen where she would be always experimenting.

In February 2021, she said goodbye to her teaching job and started making pickles and jams under the brand name ‘Jamklejars’. With her experiments and new recipes, she was able to attract regular clients quite early on. Presently she has two more people helping her to run the affairs. They distribute items via JhelumCart, both logistics and packaging are managed by a team of three.

Exquisite in taste homemade jams and pickles 'sell like crazy'  After the jars have been cleaned and sterilised, they are filled with content in the most hygienic manner possible before being packaged. ‘Jamkle’s’ store is located inside the house itself. Nava explains, “We have a cloud kitchen, and we administer everything from there.”

Customers can choose from a wide variety of homemade jams and pickles. Due to their natural preservation and fermentation, pickles come in a wider range of flavours, including mutton pickles, chicken pickles, date pickles, garlic pickles and other veg pickles.

Nava just recently began making jams this year. Her jams and pickles are produced with fresh ingredients and contain no preservatives. Strawberry, mulberry, quince, and other fruits are among the jam varieties. She also sells organic honey in addition to jam and pickles. Fresh produce from the local market is utilised as the primary ingredient in jams and pickles. Her pickles and jams range from Rs 200 to Rs 650 and come in several jar sizes.

She has thousands of followers on Facebook and Instagram, where she sells a substantial number of products under the handle ‘Jamklejars‘. Additionally, she draws clients from outside the state. Most orders are placed online through social media platforms: Instagram and WhatsApp. They provide delivery services all over India.

“I receive orders from Kerala, Odisha, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and other states in addition to J&K, I already have a huge customer base within the state,” says Nava.

Exquisite in taste homemade jams and pickles 'sell like crazy'  

Although Nava had the idea for the business before, she never actually carried it out. A very ambitious businesswoman from Nowshera, Srinagar, Nava has supplies readily available and doesn’t keep customers waiting for purchases.

“At first, I tried making it multiple times until I mastered it. It took me three months to get into pickle perfection, and once I was sure in my ability to make them, only then I started selling,” she says.

Nowadays, online media gives many businesses a platform and has made it easier for small firms to reach their target markets and get noticed.  Due to the online boost, “Jamklejars” has also made progress.

“I believe that 90% of the business setup was made possible through online platforms. Additionally, I’ve visited exhibitions and engaged with visitors there, who purchased and tasted the ‘Jamklejars’ products,” she says.

Being an entrepreneur is never easy, especially for a married woman, yet Nava succeeded in achieving her ambition.

She says, “I’m grateful to have great people in my life. My in-laws, especially my husband, have supported me through the journey,”

The venture’s goal was met pretty quickly, at the very first stage. The amount of money made exceeds the expectations of owner Nava. In the future, the home-based business will be seen in the retail sector as well for its easy accessibility to consumers.

“We are considering launching a website as well, but not right now. For the time being, we are just concentrating on the retail sector because it is convenient for clients to make purchases there.”

Nava encourages potential entrepreneurs to create innovative ventures without reluctance.

“Setting goals and making baby steps toward them are always beneficial,” she says.

“Once we have faith in our aspirations, we can achieve them. Business is the finest choice one can have because jobs are neither possible nor available in the current environment,” she adds.

Launching a small business from home is a labour-intensive procedure. Nava encourages people to support and purchase local items, especially from women business owners who run their businesses from home because they have a lot to balance between family and business.

Exquisite in taste homemade jams and pickles 'sell like crazy'  

 

On the online platforms, Nova gets get feedback. One of the comments on an Instagram post states: “Jamkle genuinely has pickles of the unique recipe, I rarely have come across such great jams and pickles in Kashmir.” Another comment reads:  ” I Liked the pickle very much, it was wonderful in taste”.

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Saalas: Food and grocery app delivering happiness at your doorsteps

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Food and grocery app delivering happiness

Syed Jesarat

Over the past few years, not only eating out but ordering food home from a restaurant has become a recreational activity in Kashmir, particularly as COVID19 restricted people’s movement. However, Kashmir doesn’t have too many platforms guiding us on where and what to eat. Saalas: Food and grocery app aims to fill that gap and connect people to authentic food places.

Salaas is an application that delivers things to your doorstep by making a few clicks on your phone. Salaas is the story of a business that expresses the desire, dedication, and service of a person toward his society.

“It is just an initiative through which I can serve the people of my town and my aim is to digitalize Kashmir by bringing some tech solutions,” said 33-year-old, Farooq Ahmad Seeru founder of Saalas. The app is presently operational in Sopore town, but Farooq wants to expand its footprint across Kashmir.

 How it works

The app is available in the Google play store for all Android phones and the App Store for ios phone users, download it, enter your location, explore all the grocery shops and restaurants in your town, check their menus, and ratings, and order right from the app and pay from your wallet. You can order from any restaurant available in the town.

“We built every feature of the app keeping in mind the location. We also analysed the pros and cons and how to go with our brand in the market through research and we have tie-ups with almost all the local restaurants and the grocery shops of Sopore town. It’s still in its initial stage. the response as of now is good and we are expecting more in the coming future as we are planning to expand it in other towns and districts,” said Farooq.

“It was initially difficult because nobody supported the idea due to prevailing conditions in the valley and secondly it was difficult to organise the unorganized food delivery concept.”

 What one can get through Saalas app?

Saalas app is presently operational in north Kashmir with delivery feet consisting of eight deliverymen delivering everything from fresh fruits to vegetables, rice to dals, spices to seasonings to any packaged products, and many more with a minimum amount of 199.

“Every day in the morning time, we have orders piling up mostly on vegetables and other grocery items and in the latter part of the day, we get orders for junk food and other items. We have kept a minimum checkout of Rs 199. We have also the option of picking and choosing different things,” said Farooq

Food and grocery app delivering happiness Farooq is a software engineer by profession presently working as head of data (artificial intelligence and machine learning) for Hyke.ai in Dubai. Hyke is a state–of–the–art technology powered by analytics AI, Machine learning, and predictive analytics, completed by a robust supply chain that balances efficiency and speed.

He also has experience working as a data scientist with Rakuten Japan. Rakuten is Japanese electronic commerce and online retailing company based in Tokyo, it business to many e-commerce platforms and is one of the largest e-commerce sites in the world.

“I have the experience of working in various countries like England, Japan, Thailand, and Dubai but, the feeling and satisfaction you get when you have the startup at a place where you have spent your childhood and among your own people is always special. And with that startup people are getting livelihood is even more special,” said Farooq.

Farooq, the youngest among four siblings, born in apple town Sopore to a family of farmers, has proved that with hardwork and proper goals in life anyone can be successful in life and considers his elder brother also a computer graduate as an inspiration.

“My brother is my inspirational it’s because of him I came into this profession,” he said.

 Customer-friendly app

Saalas is turning out to be one of the best online food and grocery apps through its poised approach. The professionalism of the people associated with Saalas has won the hearts of people.

“Saalas app has come as a sigh of relief for me because being the elder child in the family of five and a cricket enthusiast. Every time my parents used to call bring this and that sometimes in the middle of a cricket match. I have been regularly using it for the past many months and literally, it has brought inner peace in me,” said Sajad Reshi from Sopore

Food and grocery app delivering happiness“Lot of food and grocery apps were e-launched before saalas but, could not survive due is various reasons.  Saalas has laid its mark; the people associated with Saalas are professional in terms of app management and the services it provides. Saalas is a good app people should take benefit from it. We are benefiting a lot from it. It has come very much handy for us as restaurant owners. I hope they really grow more and I am one of the big supporters,” said Jibran Khan owner of Zero Miles, one of the premier restaurants of apple town Sopore.

In the coming months, Farooq Seeru owner of Saalas app is planning to start another startup on the name of Kashmir Rides to help daily commuters book taxi and bus seats online.

“Kashmir Rides is our upcoming project. We are working on it; through Kashmir Rides, one can book any taxi or a seat on the bus from Baramulla to Srinagar. If a person from any place like Sangrama has to travel Srinagar he can book the seat in sumo that seat will be kept reserved for him till the stop,” said Farooq.

“We are hopeful with Saalas and Kashmir Rides; we will continue to provide the best and most affordable service to the public all over Kashmir,” he concluded.

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Rafia’s homemade bakery sells like hot cakes

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homemade bakery cakes

Syed Jesarat 

A baked food shouldn’t be only mouth-watering but must be a treat for the eyes and heart, as the famous adage goes, ‘we eat with the eyes first’.

Keeping this in mind, self-taught baker Rafia Manzoor has created a niche for herself. She has become a popular name in the Chatabal area of the city when it comes to homemade bakery be it birthday cakes or any other confectionary required for special occasions.

Though becoming a professional baker was never on Rafia’s mind who completed her journalism degree in 2019 from the University of Kashmir, the COVID19 pandemic became a reason to hone her skills in bread making. Always passionate to do something, she could not stay idle at home. So, with the help of the internet, she started experimenting with the dough and soon turned into a cake specialist, who could make a variety of cakes and other bakery items.

homemade bakery cakes

Never an easy job, Rafia has learned all the art and science of baking and makes tasty varieties of designer cakes, cupcakes, croissants, muffins and other such items.

She handles her business online on the Instagram handle by the name ‘Sweet Craving Bakery’ under the tagline ‘You Crave, We Bake’ and delivers her clients specialised bakery as per their will.

She also handles the packaging and delivery herself.

“I do everything myself, from baking to packaging, everything is done by me,” Rafia said.

The idea came to her in 2020, during the COVID19 lockdown.

“It has been a slow process for me, initially everything was spun around my passion, but by then friends and family encouraged me to change this into a business,” she said.

“I wanted to earn money and wanted to do something, since jobs are hardly available and it’s hard times for journalists, I decided to follow my hobby and turned this into a successful business.”

The clients are growing bit by bit, in the early stages it was essentially confined to her friends and relatives only, as of now the graph of her customers is growing. The logo was designed by artist Sadia Mir, who is friends with Rafia.

“My friend, Sadia made the logo, she was among the first ones to encourage me to acknowledge this as a business,” she said.

Rafia has always been enthusiastic about achieving something all through their regular day-to-day life, being the most energetic one she was continuously encouraged and asked to do what her heart wanted to do.

Rafia is a self-made and well-trained professional baker. She gained all that without assistance from any other person, except for the occasional help from Youtube.

Rafia says the graph of her clients is going up, and people demand again from her after ordering the first time. The quality is amazing, as per client reviews.

“I serve quality Bakery, it tastes best and I get positive responses, for the most part, I haven’t got a lone negative feedback on my food quality or packaging right now,” she said.

homemade bakery cakes

Family support for a younger child in her twenties is grateful to see, and a change of calling with a positive system is barely seen nowadays.

“Friends and family have always been major areas of strength for me,” she said.

“Notwithstanding, in case lockdown is set up again, I’ve my client base at this point,” she added.

Sweet craving bakery, at this point, is not on the web but instead using virtual media, Instagram and Facebook at present. The orders are mostly received on Instagram.

“I have no inspiration as such, I wanted to follow my dreams,” she said.

She encourages everyone to follow their dreams and don’t keep away from things which they like.

“Baking is no rocket science, if one wishes and is determined to follow passion one can do it, if one has a goal, patience is the way to everything. Nothing happens in one day,” said Rafia.

The orders can range from as little as Rs 200 onwards.

Some reviews on Rafia’s Instagram handle:

“Delicious cake, one of the best,” reads one of the comments

“Keep the good work up, the doughnuts are tasty,” reads another comment.

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