Who is Sheikh Ashiq?
Thank you very much for giving me chance to speak on Carpet industry. It is my desire to see people debating this industry for its success and progress. Now speaking about myself, I am professionally a mechanical engineer but grew up in a family associated with the carpet business. My elder brother was running a manufacturing unit of Carpet but in 2000-2001 I saw this business at decline which disturbed me. Even the top exporters of this business were shifting from the trade. Since I had all my financial support from the same business till I finished my engineering I though it will be disservice to it if I would not give my bit to it. Lakhs of people were associated with this industry in Kashmir and it was a brewing concern for me. So I decided to revive the industry. But in 2004-05 there was no carpet business but I continued my efforts to revive it and started exploring the local and international market. I started doing its promotion, branding at global level and continued to deliver my efforts for its revival. That is how I came into this carpet industry.
What are the challenges of this industry in present times?
First of all I am thankful to Allah that this 700 year old trade is still surviving in Kashmir brought to us by Sufi Saints. But we need to bring some innovations into it though we do it at individual level. This industry is so rich that some local manufacturers have grown up as top exporters. But the bigger challenge for its survival is design and development. Recently our government made a working group to look into the issues and concerns of stakeholders and I was also taken on board. The craft bodies proposed some recommendations to state government for its revival but nothing has been heard since then.
How is the carpet business right now especially of your Ferozson export limited?
Our annual turnover was upto 20 crores in 2014; however, the business is in decline now due to various reasons. Amid such economic challenges you can imagine how difficult it is to run offices, showrooms in Kashmir, Delhi and at other places and sustain the staff and other requirements. It is no more a healthy industry, I must tell you.
Do you think that technology has also invaded into carpet industry?
Internationally, there are machine made carpets valuable now. And we use manually 20 colours for one carpet and the machines use upto 15 colours right now. They manufacture 50 carpets a day and we just make one carpet in six months manually. So normally the customer is not able to understand the difference between the man made and machine made product. We have been insisting our government to launch some awareness and promotional campaigns worldwide so that the customers interested in original and handmade Kashmiri product may not fall in trap which can in turn help us to survive this industry.
How is government responding to your demands?
In last few months they sought our recommendations but we need a full and sincere support though we also need to introspect to preserve this craft. This industry falls under the handcraft department which is unfair. We demand full-fledged department and a separate ministry for it like we have floriculture, horticulture sericulture etc. As I said it is 700 year old industry and even it deserves under the culture ministry for its preservation and to pass on as culture to our coming generations.
Ferozson Export Limited has received so many awards?
Yes, when your work is awarded and acknowledged you feel good. Even our company was awarded by the Union textile ministry. But we have already passed this stage and now we want to really contribute to this industry so that it can survive and flourish. In case there is any damage to this industry we may add more 3 lakh unemployed youth to the existing 6 lakh unemployed population.
In carpet industry it is seen that Artisans are paid less. That seems also the reason that people feel dejected and give up this trade?
As I told you that it can only become attractive trade when the global demand of the product is up. So we need to do its international marketing for its demand. Similarly at local level, we need to explore the areas where people have interest in the carpet manufacturing and set up the cluster units. We need to give them suitable working place where they have all the arrangements and feel motivated to work. If the government is taking this step for the welfare of artisans, the stakeholders won’t step back.
As a successful entrepreneur what is your message for budding entrepreneurs?
Any budding entrepreneur needs to have passions. When you get recognized you feel good but sometimes you face lots of difficulties and your business is slowing down with no acknowledgement and recognition. That is the time when you have to fight and show positivity. You have to be contended to your work and the success will follow.