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Kashmir’s changing business landscape

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Kashmir's changing business landscape

Digital transformation opens new opportunities for traditional enterprises

Syed Jesarat

Like any other part of the country or the world, online businesses in Kashmir are flourishing fast. The use of social media and online display of products is making it convenient, both for the sellers as well as buyers.

Not only have a large number of online businesses come up in Kashmir in the last few years, particularly post-COVID19 lockdown, but the traditional businesses, who had made their name and reputation offline, have also partially, if not wholly, switched to online mode.

Shopping through virtual mode has become highly popular and profitable during the COVID19 times as it made everything available a click away when people could not move out of their homes. So post COVID19, people, particularly young consumers, didn’t change their behaviour much. They continue to shop online.

Kashmir's changing business landscapeFrom daily groceries, to clothes, to farm tools, anything you name is just a click away in Kashmir’s digital landscape. It became a challenge for traditional shopkeepers. To compete, they pioneered the trend of operating both offline and online. With the use of social media, like Instagram and Facebook, successful offline businesses also began to grow in popularity online. With the ease by which customers can access and purchase items online, these businesses have recently experienced a surge in popularity.

Business Kashmir interacted with some of these successful businesses, that operate in both worlds, physical and virtual.

Shop For Kitchen

Kashmir's changing business landscape

‘Shop For Kitchen’ is one of the offline businesses, which is now available on online platforms as well. Brothers Mudabir Shafi and Zeeshan Shafi own the physical store at Nowhatta, Srinagar. These days with its extensive social media presence, the store has become very popular. The COVID19 lockdown created an opportunity for the store to go online, and there is no looking back.

The crockery store has a loyal following of customers and the business graph is on the rise. Customers from all across the nation ask for the crockery after scrolling through their social media posts online, but presently they deliver within J&K only. They have entered a business partnership, Fastbeetle – Srinagar-based logistics service provider, and deliver in far-off places of Bandipora, Baramulla, Ganderbal districts.

“We are also attempting to connect with other distribution partners in the valley, so that we can reach out to more and more areas,” said Mudabir.

Now they are also exploring options to sell on Amazon and Flipkart – two biggest eCommerce stores in the country – to reach out to customers across the country.

The brothers are upbeat about their prospectus using online mode.

“The response was delayed initially but then it gradually gained pace online, and our experience transitioning from offline to online proved worthwhile taking chances. We only connect buyers via the Instagram platform,” added Mudabir.

Kashmir's changing business landscapeDuring the wedding season, the sales increases significantly. Customers who shop at the store in-person or online do get discounts. UPI and COD are the available payment methods.

Since switching from offline to online platforms, the store has advanced significantly. “It’s a very good thing and great development, the world is changing so, should we. We have gained a lot by going online. It’s necessary and important in present times, and I even advise others to use online platforms,” said Mudabir.

As a team of three employees, they manage both offline and online themselves. To garner as much social media involvement as possible, the store follows musical trends and everything else that becomes viral.

The store’s expectations for profit were met at the early stage, and since then the graph is now upward.

As Mudabir explained, “We began off really low, wanting to see how this will go, but it went well, so we decided to do this as extensively as possible.”

Modest Attires

Kashmir's changing business landscapeThe store ‘Modest Attires’ is a store selling Abayas, scarves, hijabs, prayer mats, fragrances, and Islamic accessories run by a married couple Uzma and Umar. The business is located in Chadora, Batamaloo and Lalchowk. The store was founded in 2012 as a small home-run outlet business run out of a home, but in 2014 it became full-fledged and also become active on online platforms. It is a site where everything ‘Islamic’ is available. They have accounts on Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, and YouTube. Numerous pamphlets were distributed as part of the marketing strategy, which assisted in building a clientele for this small business. The graph of this internet business is improving with time. Customers at the store can receive discounts both offline and online, both COD and UPI are accepted forms of payment.

The store’s owner, Uzma, said that everything is simple to handle and hassle-free thanks to the online platform. Apart from the duo, the store has other partners who manage both online and offline businesses.

To attract the widest audience possible, the business keeps up with trends. To help promote this, they create reels featuring well-known nasheeds and inform the public of new arrivals or items that are currently in stock.

“Online platforms are important for business growth since they reach everyone and aid in business development,” said Uzma.

To reach customers more readily, the store plans to create a website and a mobile application in the future.

As anticipated before beginning the business, the profit has met expectations. Customers can call or text the store after selecting their clothing, Islamic books, etc and order accordingly. There is no hurry or haste in anything as the online presence has made everything easy.

Pet Master

Kashmir's changing business landscapeThe pet industry is garnering a lot of attention in the city, where owners are making sales both offline and online. Following the establishment of an internet store for the clients, pet shops have expanded. Due to social media channels, the company has a wide geographic reach. One such establishment with the slogan ‘It’s a zoo inside’ is PetMaster in Bemina. Sani Yasnain, 25, owns this pet business since 2021 both online and offline. The shop has a large selection of pets and pet supplies. It has only been two years since the pet store opened in the community around Bemina.

The pet industry is benefitting from social media presence, and as a result, many individuals are aware of the company. One of Kashmir’s most recent industries is the pet industry, and online media is greatly contributing to its development. Many people only have access to online platforms to learn about pets and to buy pets.

A crew of four individuals manages everything at Pet Master. The pet store is growing online and now only has an Instagram account, which is helping to expand its reach. The customer base is growing quickly as a result of media exposure, and it accepts COD in addition to all forms of online payment.

“Social media has proven quite helpful in times of covid shutdown, we were fortunate to use Instagram, and this generated a profit for us,” said Sani.

Traam-the Kashmir Craft

Kashmir's changing business landscapeA home-based copper manufacturing business, ‘Traam-the Kashmir Craft’ in Srinagar, has been working offline for the past 50 years and has now shifted to an online wholesale retailer as well.  A family business is being managed by a business student, Faisal Ahmad Misgar since 2019.

During the covid times, the businesses got hit severely, but  ‘Traam- The Kashmir Craft’ online business experienced significant growth. They manage Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp as their online platforms, and customers can now readily contact them on these platforms. The relationship between buyers and sellers has become much more seamless due to the internet.

“We chose to use online platforms to excel our retail brand, retailers exploit customers a lot these days in terms of high prices, quality is not ensured, we ensure quality in reasonable price here,” said Faisal

“We distribute nationally to Gujrat, Rajasthan etc. We have a large spectrum of consumers in Kashmir as well,” said Faisal.

Initial feedback was quite overwhelming. They used social media to promote their items online. “Our online business is increasing, and we are reaching out to a bigger audience,” said Faisal.

The prices are already marked down since they are wholesale sellers. In addition to cash, they accept all payment methods. The transition from offline to online proved very beneficial for the family’s long-standing copper manufacturing business. It offered a retail market for the wholesale business.

“I believe that from online to offline, things are extremely convenient and customers can very easily choose items they want,” Faisal said.

It is a very vital platform for business. To be at par with other online businesses the ‘Tramm-theKashmirCraft’ follows the trend of reaching out to customers.

Products and prices can now be compared due to the competition that the digital world has created. Limitations exist for international trade, decorative goods are in demand, and copper is an item which is merely an addition to a physical store, as the defined criteria aren’t available for copper due to changes in social media images.

“We are considering creating a shop as well so that we can bring in clients from our online platform,” said Faisal

“There is intense rivalry for people’s trust in Copper, due to images but the online platform has proved best for our retail market, our 100% handmade products gained reach,” Faisal added.

Mir Arts Papier Mâché

Kashmir's changing business landscapePapier Mâché is a long-standing enterprise of Faizan Mir, is managing the online platforms under the moniker Mir_arts for the past five years. The physical shop is located at Hawal, Srinagar. The company’s customer base is already established but online marketing is used to expand it more. The social media response was low at first, but it steadily picked up. “Mir_arts” only uses the Instagram platform for its online presence. The only interaction with customers is through their Instagram profile, and the graph is progressively rising since their online presence.

“The online business has helped in reaching customers very easily, everything is at customers’ doorsteps, everything becomes quite easily accessible,” said Faizan Mir.

During the pandemic, there was a loss of customer base from outside the state, but making people aware of the business’s existence through an online platform has helped to make up for this.

By offering discounts to customers and accepting all forms of payment, the store increased the size of its customer reach.

“The online platform is accessible to everyone and we were able to reach a larger audience, I guess 90% of people prefer an online purchase,” said Faizan.

In the future, the shop is considering going more digital by developing its website.

 

In this era of digitization, moving from offline to online retail is beneficial for every firm. Businesses today use online platforms to expand their reach to every corner of the world. Every customer now has an easy and seamless life due to globalisation and digitalization. The products are easily accessible, comparable, and readily available. Everything is now at the fingertips due to digitization, and businesses are expanding mainly due to their widespread online presence.

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Integrated Farming System

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Integrated Farming System

Kupwara woman runs profitable farm business with KVK assistance

Aijaz Ahmad Dar
Kaiser Mohiuddin Malik

Somia Sadaf, a native of Kupwara’s Batargam area has started her own dairy business. Sadaf has 10 Holliston Friesan and Jersey cows, 25 Kanal of irrigation land, and 200 Keystone Golden birds with technical help from Krishi Vigyan Kendra Kupwara. She uses a lawn cutter to maintain her property of land and cows.

Somia has also given instruction in the scientific raising and management of cows. She keeps herself up to date about new technologies regarding the maintenance of her land and the marketing of milk. She receives technical assistance for livestock illness management in order to optimise the production of milk and poultry. KVK continually performs and monitors the vaccination and deworming of animals at her farms.

Integrated Farming System

KVK has provided all assistance necessary to set up vermicompost pits so that cow manure is turned into a more lucrative vermicompost. Red worms have also been supplied by KVK for the pits. For additional revenue creation, KVK has also assisted in establishing 200 Keystone Golden-based backyard poultry farm. She has recently started fish farming under the NRLM. Somia’s farming is the best example of an integrated farming system, which can serve as a model for the rest of the farm women.

She manages to sell 150 kg of milk every day worth Rs 6,000. She collects 150 eggs and sells 100 eggs daily. Her daily poultry revenue is Rs 1500 and her daily net income is Rs 7500.

Her marketing plan includes selling products at Kisan Melas hosted by SKUAST Kashmir or the line departments, as well as supplying milk to nearby hotels and neighbours and eggs to neighbourhood clients.

Over the course of her entrepreneurial venture, her family has consistently supported her.

“Support from the family is highly commendable when it comes to managing and feeding cows,” says Somia.

Her accomplishment is partly a result of Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Kupwara’s ongoing technical assistance and supervision.

She was honoured with the district, state, national level and National Rural Livelihood Mission-related certifications, medals, prizes, nominations, and recognition as a successful woman entrepreneur.

Additionally, she has trained 200 farm women in knitting.

Integrated Farming System

Department of Animal Husbandry, Government of J&K, and Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kupwara, strengthen and encourage self-motivation in her to set up and run a livestock-based business.

 

Dr Kaiser Mohiuddin Malik is the head of KVK Kupwara and Dr Aijaz Ahmad Dar is an assistant professor of veterinary medicine at the Directorate of Planning and Monitoring, SKUAST-K

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Women shaping informal sector in Kashmir

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Women shaping informal sector

Dhaar Mehak M

 The informal sector is defined as the unregistered part of an economy. In a traditional economy, it is assumed that every business entity is formally registered with the government. A proper registration of a business unit is associated with a number of economic, political and social factors. All the registered units to begin with are enumerated in the industrial census. It keeps the government and policy makers informed about the number and nature of the units. The economic and industrial policies are made and shaped in light of these numbers. Social welfare is decided based on the outcomes coming from these registered units. And the long run industrial and economic planning is carried systematically based on information and evidence from the ground.

Quite contrary to this established smooth channel of economic growth and transition, the developing and under-developed parts of the world have been reflecting self-curated unique trends. First of all, the formal sector has not been able to expand as expected. This has led to limited employment opportunities coming from this sector to the ever-increasing populations and youth bulges. As an instinct to survive, people are forced to find some or other kind of employment. This has led to the creation of and the growth of the informal sector across these pockets of the world. The case of India is one of the fundamental ones. The Indian economy is characterized as having one of the most unique and large informal sectors across the world. 80% to 85% Indian population is estimated to be employed directly and indirectly in the informal sector.

Empirics show that Jammu and Kashmir has reflected growth in the informal sector over time. On the eve of the creation of the welfare state in the region headed by Sheikh M Abdullah, a socialistic model of development was brought into practice. It was called, ‘The Naya Kashmir Manifesto’. Among other things, one of the main agendas of the manifesto was to set in place a public sector-led industrialization process in J&K. As such, all the industries established under the Naya Kashmir Manifesto are a-priori classified as the formal sector firms. The political instability and fragility in the region kept on increasing and the focus of the government as predicted by theory and validated by practice shifted to peace restoration activities. This gave a back-lash to the public sector lead industrialization process in the region.

Steadily people began to look for alternative means of livelihood and subsistence. This set in place the informal sector across all the pockets of the region. The instability during the decades of 1990s, followed by various political and natural shocks during the 2000s made people realize that each person must be skilful and must practice the same in order to keep on bringing in sustenance money. The Kashmir division is particularly known to be diversified in various types of craft. From Ari work, through Tilla designing, people have bene utilising their skills to cash in some money. The wood-carving, Pashmina making and many distinct skills indigenous to Kashmir have been practiced in the informal sector by both men and women over time.

Of late there has been an Information Technology boom. The 2000 AD has seen a drastic revolutionising of the world through the spread of the World Wide Web. Mobile phone penetration has made the world an accessible global village. The social media applications of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp have empowered people in a number of ways. People started off with sharing their pictures and highlighting their skills online on social media platforms. On receiving appreciation their confidence rose and soon people started to ask if some of their skills could be shared or used.

These platforms have greatly affected the economic well-being of the women located across various regions of Kashmir. Initially, women from different ages and social backgrounds strolled these platforms. Some of them enhanced their existing skills or learnt new ones online. This was followed by trying a hand at the commercialisation of the same, which in many cases has yielded a positive response. There are a number of examples that can be quoted as brief case studies in the present article.

The Instagram page by the handle of @makeupshakeupbynidanazir evolved over time. Nida has always been fond of make-up and lipsticks. As a child she always bought makeup and accessories from her pocket money. Applied the same on her dolls, herself, her cousins and her mother and grandmother occasionally. Over time she mastered the skill. From turning pages of magazines to learning online through YouTube etc. her skills enhanced steadily. It was her friend’s engagement and Nida offered to do her make-up. The outcomes were really appreciable. The friends decided to open up on online platform to display her make-up skills. The bookings soon followed and today Nida is a known name in the local make-up industry.

Saba married a doctor who lived in Saudi Arabia. Soon after her marriage, she moved to KSA with her husband. She always liked chocolates and began exploring the chocolates of KSA. Later in 2016, she shifted back to Kashmir with her kids. The kids and herself started missing the unique chocolates of KSA. One day Saba decided to curate her own. The chocolates turned out to be good. She shared the same with her sister and cousins. She was influenced to upload the same on Instagram. Steadily, the popularity of her chocolates grew and orders started to flow in. Today Saba is an established name in the curated and customized local chocolate industry.

There are innumerable other success stories which will be discussed steadily. But the underlying point of the present article is that the informal sector in Kashmir has been growing ever since the formal industrial set-up took a back-set during 1950s. Initially it was hidden and the returns were menial or limited. However, with the growth of the internet boom the women in the region have been able to harness the benefits and the informal sector has been growing steadily and sustainably. In Kashmir, this sector can be directly related to women’s empowerment and is expected to increase steadily over time.

 

The author teaches at the Department of Economics, Islamic University of Science and Technology, J&K and can be reached at dhaarmehak@gmail.com

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New venture: Zero miles Grill and Cafe opens franchise in Handwara

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New venture: Zero miles opens shop in Handwara

Syed Jesarat

Zero miles, a restaurant chain, opened a new outlet in Handwara. It had three outlets prior to the opening of this outlet, with each in Sopore, Bandipora, and Kupwara.

On October 3, 2022, the father of franchisee owner Adil Hussain Mir officially inaugurated their new Handwara outlet in the presence of Jibran Khan and Javed Mehru, the Zero Miles Cafe’s founders, the president of the Auqaf committee, and other local traders of Handwara. The north Kashmir reach has almost been achieved with this outlet opening.

New venture: Zero miles opens shop in Handwara

                            Jibran Khan

This year, according to the business’s owner Jibran Khan, one more outlet will be opened in the Ganderbal district. Additionally, new locations will be added in Chadora, Pampore, and Sumbal the next year.

Jibran states, “We have a plan for Srinagar as well, but for now we want to focus on North and South.”

Zero Miles is becoming well-known due to its high-quality meals, appealing ambience, and friendly service.

“Our menu is very vast, we cater to almost every age group, and people prefer our restaurant for our pleasing ambience,” says Jibran.

The zero miles franchise is providing employment to many youths in the valley as well, till now almost 40 people have been given employment.

The response from the public has been overwhelming, and the Handwara store, in particular, received a lot of ‘warm reactions’.

The biggest opening in Zero Miles’ history, according to Jibran, had a throng of around 200 individuals on opening day.

Jibran Khan, an MBA graduate, is going to elaborate further on his restaurant chain.

“It is going places with the best quality food and hospitality,” says Jibran.

 

Address: 2nd Floor, Hayati Complex Oppositie JK Bank Main Branch Handwara

Contact No.: 9541578710; 7889802425

Home delivery available within the town

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