KASHMIR is another name for challenges. It’s filled with duels of narratives and wars of survival. Yet, people sneak in life and livelihood amidst all these tensions. The forerunners of business this time around have been women, who are taking up the digital space to fund their pockets and fuel their dreams. More and more women are starting home based ventures which balance the precarious patriarchy out. The investment costs are less, public dealing is curtailed and access is democraticsed on the internet. Additionally, those who wish to invest more, open physical stores and expand, no longer have to rely on the benevolence of others to trust women with business.
Kashmir Observer got in touch with such, small home-based business run by women digitally. These interactions unleashed all sides of narratives. Ones of challenges in a male dominated society but also of a society with allies in mothers, fathers and family. A story of tribulations on account of conflict and the challenges thrown at everyone by the pandemic. But all in all, a tale of resilience.
Masha by Malika by Malika Galib Shah
Instagram Handle: @masha_by_malika
“The idea for Masha started soon after I completed my LLM (Masters in Law) on the prestigious Chevening scholarship, from UCL, London. On my return to the state, I realised I had some time off to do what I enjoy doing i.e. prepare some homemade oils and face packs. The only thing I did differently this time was that I put it up for sale on a Facebook platform. It was then that I had my moment of epiphany and I realised that I could create a business that stands for change out of this passion of mine. I did not want to make it profitable for me alone, but for the society too. Hence, I started employing local Kashmiri women in the production process and also ensured that most of my ingredients were locally sourced indigenous herbs. The idea was to benefit everyone involved in the “MaSha” chain.
Running the entire show online isn’t easy and the August 5 decision made it worse with the complete communication blockade. No internet, no phone, and a complete lockdown ensured we had no business. Despite losing sales we weren’t willing to give up on our women workforce so we retained them throughout the period which was an additional financial responsibility that lay on us despite no sales during that period.
I have bootstrapped this business but I have huge plans for it and the workforce involved. I am trying to expand, both in terms of the product range as well as the market”
Sweet Treats by Tanya
Instagram Handle: @sweettreatsbytanya
“I have always been deeply interested in food and a keen home cook and baker. Baking has been a major part of our family repertoire with my grandmother and mom being seasoned bakers, laying the foundation for my interest in it. Cakes and other things I baked would invariably become a hit at family get togethers and parties with friends. They encouraged and insisted that I should consider making these available to a larger group of people. My colleagues with whom I shared the results of my baking were particularly encouraging and instrumental in helping me take the leap. The appreciation and boost I received from this gave me the confidence to take my passion further and turn it into a home based venture.
As with most businesses, the recurrent lockdowns since August 2019 had a big impact on my venture. Being a business that’s solely dependent on the Internet for promotion, sales and networking, the complete digital blackout was a severe blow. Recovering from the setback took some time, effort and major restrategising. After the initial disorientation settled, I realised the hurdles and challenges were also an opportunity to evolve and adapt as an entrepreneur. With innovation, creativity and constant support and understanding of my clients I could continue and gradually build my business.”
Wedding Bunch by Faleen
Instagram Handle: Wedding_bunch
“My startup which sells wedding accessories and offers customised products as well is currently running online through social networking sites.
I was always at the forefront of organising and managing events at school, family get-togethers, friends birthday parties an so on. I would always enjoy making the arrangements, helping with the decorations, planning and executing the events. My love for this was reinforced when everyone started appreciating my skills to effectively manage these events. This is when I considered taking up something on these lines as a career.
In 2017,at my cousin’s wedding we went to buy accessories in the local market. There were not many customised options available based on the customer needs and we ended up ordering custom made decorations from outside Kashmir. That is when I realised the gap and focussed on fulfilling the fondness of this art in people, as it’s very inconvenient for everyone to order from outside the state and even worse to settle down for less.
My biggest inspiration has been my Grandfather.”
Kashmoir Studio by Mahoor
Instagram Handle: @Kashmoir
“The pandemic, as brutal as it has been, has forced a lot of people to reflect, pursue things they otherwise wouldn’t have the courage/time to and same was the case for me. As a final year law student having little familiarity with the inner workings of a business of this nature, it was something that I probably wouldn’t have delved into despite being passionate about it. It was only after the lockdown that I pushed myself to do the research, interact with people behind these beautiful products you see on our page and understand the underlying process which brings the craft to life.
Coming from a family that has been associated with Kashmiri handicrafts for generations, the art has always been close to my heart. With all other businesses taking a hit, I decided to start this small online venture of my own. It is an extension of a family business, but allows me the creative liberty to experiment, incorporate new ideas and reach a wider audience.
My family has been very supportive. I am lucky to have parents who don’t impose and on the contrary, encourage me to take responsibility for my pursuits. Talking about people, when I had just started I was barely expecting the warm response that Kashmoir received. The internet is indeed a magical place and I truly am grateful.
However outside the unexpected and encouraging responses from total strangers, there have also been times when we’ve had to face backlash from people – be it the uninvited misogyny or judgements based on assumptions. What this experience has taught me though, is that as long as one has a vision and the intentions behind it are pure, nothing can demoralise you or throw you off.
I want to bring back Kashmiri craft to the younger crowd and propagate versatility while taking inspiration from our art. Another driving motivation behind this venture is the empowerment of our local artisans, making sure that they are paid well for their skills and the hard-work they put in. I intend to create a friendly workspace between designers and artisans to come up with new ideas that you’ll see in the coming months. Our art is way more than what can be displayed on an Instagram page, so my focus is to reflect it through our products”
Token By Zara
Instagram Handle: @tokenbyzara
“ I always wanted to come up with something of my own. Since childhood ,I have loved to pack gifts and add a creative touch to the packaging. My family would always appreciate me for that. After my marriage, my husband also encouraged me to start it as a business and that’s how it began.
I started my work in 2019 and the abrogation of article 370 and 35 A happened in the same year. The turmoil that erupted disrupted my work to a large extent but I plan to hit back!”
Mokhte by Nida
Instagram Handle: @mokhtebynida
“I’m a civil engineer but I always had a passion and flair for designing apparels. My family pushed me to turn my passion into reality. The only apprehensions I have are about the precarious political situation here. The August 5 move, the shutdown and the internet blockade made it impossible for me to carry on with my work, it was halted for about two months and I had to start all over again. But I stand unfettered, I am expanding my business gradually. I started with footwear and now I’m also selling apparels and customising these.The next milestone for me is a physical store”
Maaji Hinde Aath
Instagram Handle: @maaji_hinde_aath
“My mothers passion for cooking and my passion for doing something out of the box is what propelled me to come up with this venture.The response that we got was overwhelming, everyone was supportive of our endeavour. The uncertain political situation is an obstacle but there’s nothing we can do about it. In Sha Allah if time and circumstances allow I intend to expand my business.”