Through innovative and dynamic processes, women in Kashmir are excelling in almost every sphere. Women across the valley are showing interest in becoming economically independent and are coming up with their own unique ideas of becoming entrepreneurs.
It is right that for big occasions like marriages and even for simple closets in a room, these days a click through mobile phone is enough. In this digital age, social media to a great extent is acting as a catalyst in the emergence of businesses. Social media is being used by most of the women in the valley for the promotion and startup of their businesses.
Asra Qureshi is the face behind Kehzabr, a boutique store and an online platform for shopping.
Asra has done M.Com and a diploma in computers. She started her career by working in an IT company and then joined another company where she worked as web developer and designer.
Five years ago she came up with the idea of Kehzabr. Her start was a result of her help to her sister. Kehzabr boutique is located in Mahrajpora, Srinagar and is also run online on Instagram by the same name.
"I thought of starting my own business because I didn't always want to be an employee and I don't like when I have to work under someone’s instructions. At that time I did not know about stitching. My sister who has done a course in designing, knew stitching very well and for two years, I was working with RBI as a web developer and luckily it was work from home. These two years helped me a lot because during these years I helped my sister and she would always share what she read and learned,” she said.
At that time she did not have any intention of starting a clothing business but she remembered what her sister always told her to keep an eye on how she did things. Then her sister got married and designed her own clothes for her trousseau. After this the idea of starting up a boutique clicked her mind.
“I went ahead with the idea because I knew that I will have to work with women. I remember it was the 7th of April, 5 years ago, when I started the boutique. I started it in April because I knew that April is the wedding season and I would be able to grab more customers in this season," said Asra.
Asra's younger sister suggested her the boutique's name kehzabr which means beautiful.
"Kehzabr is a kashmiri word which we always use to praise something very beautiful," said Asra.
Asra got her first order of trousseau just after 3 to 4 days of starting the boutique. Earlier she had a Kashmiri craftsman who helped her in stitching the clothes, then as business expanded and demands of customers grew, she hired tailors and craftsmen from Allahabad.
She did few online courses in designing and later, did a course for one year where she understood about designing and handling staff and business. Since she had done her M.Com, knowledge of business was already there.
Instagram helped her a lot. She had an Instagram page for her boutique since day one. Her customers have never suffered because of her.
"I remember in the 2019 lockdown when everyone was leaving, I sheltered my staff at my home to make sure no customers, especially brides suffer because of me. We made the trousseau and delivered it to the customers and then I told my staff to leave," said Asra.
Asra's mother is her inspiration and according to Asra her husband supports her like her mother.
"I spend almost the whole day with this and my husband also helps me a lot. In this online age business if you do not reply to your customers soon after they message, they become disinterested," said Asra.
Asra has around 40K followers on her Instagram page. She gets orders from all over India and has got some international orders as well.
"It has been 5 years since I started the boutique but I never got time for myself. I and my staff are always very busy and before some months of my marriage I always had to grab time for designing my clothes. For the main functions, I designed clothes in such a way that I could do twinning with my husband. I ordered clothes for these main functions and designed them myself," said Asra.
Asra is very proud of her staff and the efforts they put forth.
"I became famous and people came to know about me only because of Instagram. I have good number of both online and offline customers. The thing I like the most is that when your online customers become your offline customers they get more people with them," said Asra.
According to Asra, her target audience has always been middle class. She believes in minimum profit and will continue her business.
Changing seasons by Saira
Just like Asra, is another women entrepreneur, Saira Tramboo. Saira is a 26 year old mother who is running "changing_Seasons_by_Saira", an online shopping platform (on Instagram).
Saira was born in Lal Bazar, Srinagar but now she lives with her husband in Rajbagh, Srinagar. Saira has done her BBA from SSM College of Engineering and Technology and MBA from IUST, Awantipora. She has also been a part of an internship program in Dubai. After coming back from Dubai and getting married, she started her business
"I started with finding a job but it's very difficult to find a job then I got married in a business class family where my husband supported me a lot. My husband suggested that I start an online business, we wanted to see the response of people. So, I started selling Juttis. This did work for me and with time I introduced jewelry. I always wanted my customers to get the most unique things from me. Then, I got the idea of pheran and as I live in Kashmir I thought of promoting pheran and in this way I introduced pheran,” said Saira
Saira has named her Instagram page as sairatramboo/ changing Seasons by Saira because she always thought of coming up with new ideas every season.
"I want to start my own brand, so named my page as sairatramboo and changing seasons by saira. I want to create such a brand that people would know me by that name,” said Saira.
She has two employees and her husband helps her a lot in handling the business. Her pherans are exported to other states of India and to different parts of the world like Canada, USA and Dubai as well. Saira is very happy with her growing business.
"I had never thought my business would work so well just by bringing an idea of pheran. I introduced pheran with sozni work on crushed velvet and got a very good response from my customers. After this I introduced other things and now I am also planning to introduce my new designs,” said Saira.
Saira had an inclination towards fashion from the beginning. She always customized her clothes. For Saira, introducing her customers to her designed pherans was a blessing.
"I introduced pheran to my customers just two months ago. I came up with new ideas for pheran every day and get a very warm response from my customers,” said Saira.
Saira had opened her page 2 years ago with some 150 followers but now she has a following of 22.3k people. Her in-laws help and support her a lot.
"Since I'm from a non-business class family, I got my inspiration and guidance from my in-laws and husband,” she said.
Saira started her business with low range but then with expansion of her business, she got both high premium and low premium products' demand and today deals with both the things. She wants her clothes to be affordable to all. She is thinking of coming up with new ideas for summer but all her ideas will be related to Kashmir.
"I want to promote Kashmir. Today I sell 40 to 50 pherans a day. I deliver my parcels to different parts of India and get demands of coming up with ideas of clothes related to Kashmir in summers,” said Saira.
Saira brings her clothing material for pheran from Kashmir, Mumbai and Delhi.
“As a woman entrepreneur, I would say I had never thought of becoming independent. My husband support me a lot and I would say every woman entrepreneur should come up with unique ideas. I work hard and as everyone needs support, my support is my husband. I want to help people and create job opportunities,” said Saira.
Another online store, Tul Palav is an initiative by Iqra Ahmad who believes that this online store reflects her perception of clothes and fashion.
Iqra, a resident of sanat nagar, has done her post graduation in linguistics from Kashmir University and has also been a part of Wigan & Leigh College ,New Delhi where she has done fashion designing.
She has an online Instagram and Facebook page both named as "Tul Palav" from where customers get to see everything in the list.She has a family of 44.2k on her Instagram.
"I always believed in exploring myself and everything around me. I always had interest in fashion designing but never imagined opting it as a career. I started Tul Palav because I thought this is something that I really wanted to do after giving a lot of thoughts on other career options. I started with an online store because I didn’t have enough resources to invest in a physical store but now I feel an online store is better than a physical store for the people of Kashmir", said Iqra.
Tul Palav deals in wide range of clothing products starting with pherans, kurtas, pleated skirts, tops and wedding dresses. Iqra creates her products keeping kashmiriyat in mind and tries to make them unique, fashionable and wearable at the same time.She buys the raw material from Kashmir and places outside J&K as well. Iqra's definition for achievement is her online store "Tul Palav". She considers it to be her window to the outside world through which she articulates her purpose to the outside world.
“Kashmir is very rich in beauty, culture and art. My designs are dedicated to all those women who find pride in who they are and believe in what they can become. I’m proud of being Kashmiri and Tul Palav is my belief of becoming who I really am," said Iqra.
"Tul palav would continue growing as a symbol of pride for being a woman, a Kashmiri woman. Seeing the response of customers, Tul Palav might grow into a physical store soon,” she said.