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Sagg Eco Village holds Kashmir’s first ecological entrepreneurship festival

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Sagg Eco Village

MALIK NISAR

The first-of-its-kind festival on Ecological Entrepreneurship, ‘Kashmir Festival for Ecological Entrepreneurship’ was held at Sagg Eco Village in Kashmir’s Ganderbal district during the weekend.

The event was organized by Sagg Eco Village and Mool Sustainability Research and Training Centre, in collaboration with Next Mile Co., a Mumbai-based sustainable business consulting firm.

The Kashmir Festival brought together a diverse set of panel members and participants with varied interests in farming, ecological sustainability and sustainable agri-businesses.

“This was the first edition of the Kashmir festival, and we are grateful and overwhelmed by the excellent response. The event will go a long way by sowing the seeds of ecological entrepreneurship in Kashmir and beyond. The work to organise the next edition of the festival has already begun” 

Fayaz Ahmad Dar, Founder, Sagg Eco Village

The event proceedings began with introductions, followed by an ecological tour of the Sagg Eco Village Campus followed by a panel discussion.

Sagg Eco Village

The entrepreneurship festival brought together a set of diverse panel members- Abdul Rashid Chadinoo (Managing Partner, Aarafh Foods & Spices), Insha Mir (Founder, EcoKash), Tawfeeq Yousuf (Founder, Bee Tech Kashmir), Dr Maleeha Gul (Dept. of Management Studies, University of Kashmir), Zitin Munshi (Founder, Next Mile Co.) with participating moderator Fayaz Ahmad Dar, Founder, Sagg Eco Village.

The panel discussion started with moderator Fayaz Ahmad Dar inviting the panellists for opening remarks to share some highlights on their entrepreneurial journey after which each of the panellists also shared their top learning advice for the audience.

“Research and mapping is important for building a holistic enterprise in Kashmir and we should also identify the opportunities for creating markets within J&k and outside,” said Abdul Rashid Chadinoo Managing Partner, Aarafh Foods and Spices

Zitin Munshi spoke about her journey for sustainability among small businesses and making it possible through her venture, she also talked about her work with youth in Botswana and Africa that inspired her to work towards business sustainability at the core of the entrepreneurial model.

“There is a need to look for long–term growth of a business, which is the essence of building any successful business,” she said

Insha Mir spoke about two main points that made her enterprise; handicrafts have been invaded by machine craft and there was a lot of negative environmental impact which needed to be addressed in some way. Therefore the focus of EcoKash is to channelise the artisans and do work in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly fashion.

Tawfeeq Yousuf spoke about the entrepreneurial journey in space sustainable beekeeping. He talked about the importance of bringing in new ideas in business and giving consumers the right knowledge about the usage of sustainable products such as raw honey.

Dr Maleeha Gul on the occasion said that there is a need to address the gap between academia and industry so that students can gain practical exposure to entrepreneurship. She hailed the interactive session at the Kashmir festival for gaining practical exposure regarding entrepreneurship.

“This was the first edition of the Kashmir festival, and we are grateful and overwhelmed by the excellent response. The event will go a long way by sowing the seeds of ecological entrepreneurship in Kashmir and beyond. The work to organise the next edition of the festival has already begun,”  said Fayaz Ahmad Dar, Founder, Sagg Eco Village.

Sagg Eco VillageSagg Eco Village, a natural farm cum retreat centre located on foothills in the Ganderbal district of Kashmir, was founded in 2013. Sagg Eco Village designs, develops, builds and promotes recreational, educational and lifestyle services, spaces, products and programmes based on the integration of natural resources, cultural wisdom and modern needs.

Over the years Sagg has developed many creative services, spaces, products and programs promoting a healthy and procreative lifestyle that are much appreciated by the participants. These include educational, work and leadership capacity building and consulting programs for individuals, groups and organizations.

 

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Entrepreneurship

From Dubai to Zero Miles Sopore: Jibran Khan building north Kashmir’s first café brand

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Dubai to Zero Miles Sopore

Malik Nisar

Mesmerised by the beauty of Kashmir’s Gurez valley, Jibran Khan was passionate about tourism since his childhood. To fulfil his passion, he graduated in tourism studies after his Class 12th.

Dubai to Zero Miles SoporeHowever, his parents thought otherwise. They wanted him to look for a stable job instead of going after his childhood dream. That made him join an IT MNC in Chandigarh. But his desire to work for Kashmir tourism brought him back to start a tour and travel company in his home district of Bandipora, catering to the tourists interested in visiting Gurez.

It turned into a temporary affair, as the travel business didn’t flourish given the untoward situation Kashmir faced on and off.

“The eating out culture in Kashmir from last few years inspired me to go for food business. So my idea was to provide a space to the youth of north which suits their taste so that they don’t have to go to Srinagar to look for such places and food”

Jibran Khan, Founder and Owner, Zero Miles – Grill & Café  

On his parents’ advice, Jibran again left Kashmir and joined another MNC,  this time in Dubai. Despite a well-paying job and comfortable life in the city of dreams and gold, his passion didn’t let him stay there. At the end of 2017, he left the second job and returned to Kashmir to do something that interests him.

Dubai to Zero Miles Sopore:

Thinking that the situation in Kashmir is not conducive for tourism, Jibran started exploring other business ideas. Given his interest in hospitality, when his cousin Javid Ahmad Mohroo told him about opening a café, it struck at once.

After a lot of research and discussions, the cousin duo decided to set up Zero Miles – Grill & Café in apple town Sopore.

After the grand success of Zero Miles, as the café become the most popular eat out place, not just in Sopore town, but the whole of north Kashmir, there is no looking back for 34-year-old Jibran Khan.

“My motive is the expansion of the franchise to other towns, because of that I started it from Sopore, then to other parts of north. Most franchises go from city to town, but ours will be the first one to grow from town to city. And I also want to bring the facilities on doors of the people in rural areas of north”

Encouraged by the success of the venture, Jibran started another outlet in his hometown Bandipora and today Zero Miles has turned into a brand with a franchise outlet in every town of North Kashmir.

Dubai to Zero Miles Sopore:

“The eating-out culture in Kashmir from last few years inspired me to go for food business. So my idea was to provide a space to the youth of north which suits their taste so that they don’t have to go to Srinagar to look for such places and food,” says Jibran.

Jibran is not someone who gives up easily. After one year of the inception of Zero Miles, business in Kashmir was put on halt due to abrogation of Article 370, so was the Zero Miles, but he faced every situation like the ship against storm and kept increasing the outlets in other parts of north Kashmir with each passing year. Today, Zero Miles has six franchise outlets with two in progress.

“Profit and loss is the part of business, but over the years positivity and patience played a big role in reaching the place where I am today,” he says.

Jibran says his franchise of food outlets differs from other establishments in the valley because of the quality of food Zero Miles provide to its customers. “The love and energy our team puts in bringing up new food concepts that magically turns everything into gold.”

“We have designed every outlet on famous things related to a particular place because its keeps people connected to their roots and also brings uniqueness to our franchise from the rest others”

Dubai to Zero Miles SoporeA few years before food outlets with quality service were limited mostly to Srinagar city, but Jibran took this concept to northern towns and started his first outlet in Sopore, then to other places.

“My motive is the expansion of the franchise to other towns, because of that, I started it from Sopore, then to other parts of the north. Most franchises go from city to town, but ours will be the first one to grow from town to city. And I also want to bring the facilities on doors of the people in rural areas of the north,” says Jibran.

Shelter in rural style

The interior of every outlet of Zero Miles is designed on a traditional pattern of a particular place like Sopore is often associated with the cliché of 3 R’s Ropaye (Money), Rub (Slush), and Reade (Horse cart) and  Bandipora for 3As- Alim (Knowledge), Adab (Literature) and Aab(Water) to make it attractive and attach the people with their identity. Fancy tables, beautiful chairs and various sections are allotted to each section of the place. The minutest yet eye-catching is Tonga (horse cart) on the wall of the Sopore outlet of Zero Miles.

“We have designed every outlet on famous things related to a particular place because its keeps people connected to their roots and also brings uniqueness to our franchise from the rest of others,” says Jibran

Jibran Khan is a real source of inspiration for many youngsters who want to pursue their dreams. A self-taught man from Bandipora who has mastered all the skills for being a young entrepreneur.

The business that was started with just two people now has 32 employees, who manage the franchise, handle the sourcing the supply of raw materials to various outlets and look after marketing and R&D.

 

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Cousin trio’s roller-coaster ride on entrepreneurial journey

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Cousin trio’s roller-coaster ride

Mahajan brothers’ plastic manufacturing unit survives many upheavals

 Dhaar Mehak M

The entrepreneurs approached SIDCO in order to call for help.The entrepreneurial spirit needs to be inculcated in a way that it survives under the harshest conditions. The highly motivated trio of cousins, who are manufacturing plastic household items in the Industrial Estate Lassipora, under the name ‘Mahajan Industries’, have proved this well. The conceptualisation dates back to 2012 when ‘cousin imaginative’ Idris, coming from a humble background, was working as a salesman in a wholesale plastic shop in the Jamia Masjid area of Srinagar. Idris, who was working as a salesman right from class 10th, recalls how worried he was always thinking that he could not stay inside the shell of a menial job for a long time or who knows forever!

During one of the family functions, Idris discusses his idea with only a silver lining, with some of his cousins. The thing Idris knew, back then, was that he wanted to do something, and he wanted to do it big. Hard work, he says, has been his blood and soul, but smart is what was missing from the equation. At the same time, coming from a humble background, says Idris Mahajan, comes with its own good, but dying in the same or worse situation is all a situation of blame putting directly on the shoulders of own persona. As such, two cousins seemed to pick up what he was dropping from his mind palace. One of them said that JKEDI was helping out in a big scheme, and the decision was made.

Taking a quick training of 15 days, three Mahajan boys: Idris, Suhail, and Waseem, got a workable sum from the EDI approved. Starting a land hunt from Khonmoh, the trio ended up in Lassipora when the estate was quite raw and undeveloped. One Kanal of land was allotted for construction and production. The idea for ideal production floated back through the old times. Idris, using his experience from his salesman days, proposed setting up a small plastic manufacturing plant. The trio went to Delhi to buy a machine, bargain for it and push the boundaries of life and entrepreneurship.

Seconds, minutes, hours, weeks and months of labour from grassroots to the rooftop was put in by the trio and the production process kick-started in 2015. The major lockdown of 2016 was only a year away and like any other fellow entrepreneur, the production process of the Mahajan brothers suffered immensely. The plant was closed for six months with dot zero production. For a startup to prevent itself from turning NPS a year after the initiation of production is the major roller-coaster anyone can ever be in, and so to speak, the Mahajan brothers have had their super ride. Brainstorming and jotting along with determination was put in play by the trio and the production process was restarted in 2017 amid chaos and commotion. The socio-political and socio-economic shocks of 2018, ’19, ’20 and ’21 came and went, the interest was paid due on time and the factory almost secured to their own name at the time of this conversation.

Currently, the unit makes plastic products like mugs (1.5 litre), dustbins, dustpans, ice-cream bowls and tubs. One of the stark features of local industrialisation rightly manifested by Mahajan Industries is the infinite market demand. Though the products of ‘Samrath’ have a fair market share in this bracket of products, Idris categorically says that they have never left any shortage of demand for their product. Instances like these highlight the consumer-oriented nature of the Kashmir economy over a production induced self-sufficient exporting economy. The only thing holding these guys back from capturing the local market is administrative bottlenecks.

They have applied for the allotment of more land in the same estate two years back. The paperwork is still going on. No positive outcome has surfaced over time. One of the most dynamic entrepreneurial features of these Srinagar boys is their business dedication. They put up in the factory for months at a stretch, living there and working there! In the beginning, Mahajan industries hired the machine operator, and the shock of 2016 sent him home, possibly never to return. That is when Idris took charge of operating the machine, and brothers followed in doing the rest. Since then, the Mahajan brothers operate their own factory, save their profits and live on a workable wage! The saving is made to do what?

‘To expand the business that the market is calling’… Idris talks so passionately about expanding the unit, getting a heavier machine, producing big drums (of 50 liters and above), the apple crates after all, and so much more! They work, they save, they are ready to invest, and they have ‘Himmat’, says Idris. But the authorities and the administration totally fail to see through the same. This is a case that can be generalised pan Kashmir where the administration fails to uphold the entrepreneurial spirits and the dynamic ideas of the people! As dynamic as the dot of plastic that Idris expands to shape into a number of utilises used by each one of us! Nothing can be better than a basket in our kitchens made and shaped by our own boys over some imported decorative show-off piece bought from YOYOSO outlet endorsing the multinational, multi-crore business of a Japanese money giant!

The Mahajan brothers are a positive externality to the whole industrial estate, and so are many of our dynamic entrepreneurs. Government, however, need to wake up and open the closed doors for these manufacturing enthusiasts.Cousin trio’s roller-coaster rideCousin trio’s roller-coaster rideCousin trio’s roller-coaster ride

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SKUAST-K student bags Rs 1 lakh prize at IIT Jammu startup competition

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SKUAST-K student bags prize

Faculty member Dr Khalid Masoodi wins special prize  

BK News

Srinagar, Feb 7: SKUAST-K student, Ahmer Bashir Shah, has won first prize and a Rs 1 lakh cash award for his startup idea of converting human hair into organic fertiliser in a contest organised by IIT Jammu.

IIT Jammu’s Institute Innovation & Entrepreneurship Development Centre (I2EDC) has organised the ‘Startup Competition for Enterprising Teams with Million Dollar Ideas’. Ahmer Bashir of SKUAST-K’s College of Agricultural Engineering and Technology (CoAET) has secured the first position among 130 contestants from various higher education institutes of Jammu and Kashmir.

Another member of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir Dr Khalid Z Masoodi, Assistant Professor at the Division of Plant Biotechnology, has won a consolation prize of Rs 10,000 under ‘Best Local Resource Relevant Project’ for his idea of anti-cancer food from a local underutilized crop.

Vice-Chancellor Prof Nazir Ahmad Ganai congratulated Ahmer Bashir and Dr Khalid Masoodi for bringing laurels to SKUAST-K. He said to make SKUAST-K the best innovation university in the country, every possible step is being taken to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurship and startup creation at the university.

Ahmer Bashir, mentored by the IDP-NAHEP team of the university, has won many awards, previously as well, for his idea to solve the poor solid waste management problem in the country, particularly keratinous wastes, including human hair, which are the hardest protein and take more than 50 years to decompose naturally, making it an environmental concern. It took him several attempts to devise a method for converting all these keratinous wastes into an organic liquid that can be readily used as an NPK, mineral and micronutrient-rich fertilizer in Indian agricultural systems resulting in restricted use of toxic chemical inputs into soil.

Dr Masoodi has screened 25,000 medicinal plant extracts endogenous to Kashmir valley, resulting in the discovery of 16 new anticancer molecules against Prostate cancer and Lung cancer. SKIDDDL-1 was one of the molecules isolated from an underutilized crop TaxO that has been consumed for ages in Kashmir as a vegetable. Dr Masoodi and his Team designed a Magic food from this.

At the IIT Jammu competition, the second and third prizes have won by Harkeerat Kaur of Azad Identity Solution and Mansi Sharma of Manukrishi, respectively, for Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,000 cash prize.

To encourage entrepreneurship in J&K and Ladakh, IIT Jammu hosted the competition for startup ideas exclusively for the teams led by Higher Education and Research Institutes fraternity, including students, faculty, and staff in J&K and Ladakh.

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