The Extraordinary Kashmiri

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“Ideas are good, but we don’t have venture capital investors here to scale them up,” says Abid Rashid, developer of Pipe App that lets consumers receive only such information that they are acutely interested in and which is relevant to them. Abid later joined hands with another start-up MyRahat.com that is now providing various e-governance services across 1,500 centres in the Valley.”

David Durani

Instead of changing the world through revolution, we change the world through innovation. This is the tagline of Startup Kashmir, an online platform that aims to find and foster entrepreneurs with innovative ideas that address today’s developmental challenges focusing on the Kashmir valley.

The state does not boast of ground breaking start-up ventures. Neither does it have an age old legacy of producing top notch entrepreneurs. In fact, even today, if I heard a kid saying that he wants to be an entrepreneur on growing up, I would be really surprised. The irony is that despite of living in the twenty first century, entrepreneurship still sounds unfamiliar in the State.

Since childhood, we as kids were made to believe that if you didn’t grow up to be a doctor or an engineer, you would not feature in the ‘respectable’ job category. Passing the grade 10 examination is till date considered as a herculean task. However, no sooner did the child achieve this feat, he was made to choose between medical and non-medical. In most of the cases, the child followed the instruction of parents, without realizing what his/her interest area is. Choosing Arts would almost warrant the world to certify that the child wasn’t capable to do much in life. The decision was unanimous and irreversible.

It is a different story that most of the kids today are willing to take up Arts without a second thought, so that they can prepare better for the impressive Kashmir Administrative Services (KAS)prospect. That seems to be the new phenomenon. Even qualified doctors and engineers are seen applying for civil services.

Amazing how time changes! So basically, if the people are the same, the curriculum content is the same, what has brought about this change? The logical answer would be ‘success stories’. It’s intriguing and funny at the same time to see highly qualified applicants not progressing to the second round of civil services examinations.

What is even alarming is to see the rising number of unemployed qualified people in Kashmir. While everyone tries hard to find the ‘good jobs’, the fact is that there is no absorption even in the ‘not so good jobs’

The number of unemployed youth registered in various District Employment and Counselling centers had crossed 6.01 lakhs ending September 2011, Economic Survey for the financial year 2011-12 revealed.

Out of the registered unemployed youth, only 3203 were illiterate, while 77,087 were middle pass and 1,65,208 were matriculate. More than 85,000 were graduates and more than 20,000 were post graduates. The unemployed youth included MBBS and engineering pass-outs.

With the unemployment crisis all around in the state and hardly any alternate livelihood generation opportunities for the youth; they are forced to take up odd jobs. The traditional mindset has always been of finding job security. No wonder why people are willing to pay large sums of money as bribes, even for a menial government job.

However, there is another breed of people who think differently, process things differently, and consequently do things differently. They have an appetite to explore the unknown, take risks, innovate and create. This is the entrepreneur. They do not believe in sticking to the routine, rather they have a strong belief and conviction about what they do.

 Going against the orthodox norms of being a part of the rat race, they step aside to carve a new path for themselves. Interestingly, such people are always thought of as ‘not good enough for the conventional profession’.

But when one looks into the details, you find inspiring stories like that of Mir Muneeb. Muneeb’s proposal to open a Barista Lavazza franchise in Srinagar was discarded by the coffee restaurant chain citing that there was virtually no business in Kashmir. 

Had he not faced this rejection, the heart of Srinagar would have always stayed deprived of The Other Side Café, a multi cuisine café and lounge that Muneeb started on his own, and which by the way is progressing by leaps and bounds. Well that not all, the heartening fact is that now there’s Baked Bliss as well, another venture that evolved out of his café lounge success, where customized bakery items are sold. This is not just Muneeb’s success story.

It shows that one can do things differently yet successfully. The Other Side Café is just one example of an enterprising Kashmir. There are other similar well-known ventures like Kashmirbox.com, Go Kash adventures, loudbettle.in, iQuasar etc. These start-up ventures are taking the service delivery in Kashmir to a never experienced level.

“Ideas are good, but we don’t have venture capital investors here to scale them up,” says Abid Rashid, developer of Pipe App that lets consumers receive only such information that they are acutely interested in and which is relevant to them. Abid later joined hands with another start-up MyRahat.com that is now providing various e-governance services across 1,500 centres in the Valley.”Banks charge a high interest rate and don’t even invest in such ideas.” Abid further shares. Lack of investors and strong network continues to be the major challenge for the start-ups in the valley. 

It is time that the valley gets a boost from venture capitalists as well as a cushion from the government so that entrepreneurship emerges as a viable option for promoting indigenous products and services. This would also help in local employment generation. As a famous saying goes “You never get different results if your keep doing the same things every day.” Let us hope that the different Kashmiri soon gets recognized as an extraordinary Kashmiri.

 

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