With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, businesses in Jammu and Kashmir had to comply with government regulations and shut down operations to curb the spread of the virus.
However, the resilience and willingness to adapt to change led many women to start up their own small-scale businesses. At a time when jobs are being lost, these women are using their skills to establish their own ventures.
These women entrepreneurs converted their hobbies into part time successful businesses in Kashmir. With a lockdown in place, several women put their skills to the test.
Here are the stories of 4 entrepreneurs that flourished during the Covid-19 pandemic. They have succeeded in the most uncertain, threatening economy to date.
With a lockdown in place, some women put their baking skills to test, some started their clothing business lines and some started to sell their skills as an artist.
These women entrepreneurs proved that with dedication, hard work and strategic thinking, thriving during these difficult times is possible.
Mehzeena Nabi, a home science graduate who is currently doing her internship as a dietician, said baking was her hobby since childhood, but she never thought to take it as a business.
â€œIt still isnâ€™t business, I am doing it as time pass and hopefully will do it until this pandemic is over or maybe Iâ€™ll continue after that as well,â€ said Mehzeena.
She said she started making cookies and cakes in the month of Ramadan last year and continued to do so.
â€œMy cousins in Ramadan last year gave me an idea to sell these cakes and cookies to friends and neighbours as the bakery was not readily available. I provided a sample of these items to my close friends and relatives,â€ she said.
Mehzeena got some orders for Eid last year and this is how her small business started. She makes different varieties of cakes including chocolate cake, almond cake, walnut cake, resin cake, carrot cake and delicious butter almond and chocolate cookies.
â€œI did not promote my work on social media to get orders, I only get orders through my acquaintances,â€ she said
Mehzeena has recently started making pastry cakes as well.
She believes it is a necessity to be able to survive by using your hobby as a source of income as and when needed.
"I was not earning a single penny before Covid-19 but now I can at-least pay for my mobile bills and can buy stuff for my bakery,â€ said Mehzeena.
They say necessity is the mother of invention and two girls pursuing MBBS proved this right. These girls opened a thrift store which is the first of its kind in the Kashmir valley.
Saiqa and Humaira (Name Changed) are both pursuing MBBS and have started their own venture by the name â€œThrift storeâ€ during Covid-19 lockdown last year.
â€œWe were just sitting idle at our respective places doing absolutely nothing when we thought of opening our own online store,â€ said Saiqa.
The duo sells second hand clothes and footwear at half the actual price and they are planning to expand it further.
â€œWe are at an initial stage of our business and still have a good number of customers, we get orders from the valley and also from different states of India like Mizoram, Assam,â€ said Saiqa.
They get 7-8 orders a month, which they say is a good start that too during the pandemic.
Another girl, Marium Akbar from Chanapora started her own clothing line. She is an engineering graduate and was working in a company based in Gurgaon.
â€œI always wanted to start my own business, but I never got time to research about what product line I should go for,â€ said Marium.
She said, â€œThe pandemic gave me enough time to research and come up with some ideas for my product line and I am not sure I would have gotten here if it wasnâ€™t for Covid-19 lockdown.â€
Marium believes this was her chance to do something that she absolutely loved.
â€œI am not sure if I will continue doing my job post pandemic or just continue expanding the business I started,â€ said Marium.
Marium says Covid-19 was the best time to invest in daily routine business; I started selling suits and Jutis on my personal Instagram account and provided the customers with home delivery taking all necessary precautions.
â€œMy business was running low in the start but now after 14 months of it, my business is doing absolutely good,â€ she said.
Syed Masooma, a resident of Budgam says she has been an artist since she was a kid. She is currently pursuing Bsc from a local college.
â€œI used to make different paintings and used to gift them to my friends on special occasions, I had never sold my painting before,â€ said Masooma.
Masooma has showcased her art at various exhibitions and started selling her art in February this year.
â€œI post my work on my personal social media handles and used to get many inquiries through DMs about if I am selling my paintings or not and finally, I thought of selling my art,â€ she said.
She sells her work for figures between Rs 500, Rs 1000 and Rs 1500 depending upon the size of the painting.
â€œI charge a bit extra for calligraphy work and for colorful paintings,â€ she said.
She feels like art brings peace to her and helps her to keep herself out of stress.
â€œI am able to sell about 4-5 artworks a week,â€ said Masooma.
Masooma said Covid-19 lockdown or not, she will continue this business. She said if not for Covid-19 she would have never gotten the idea of selling her art and converting her favourite pastime into business.