Kashmir : Death of Startup Dreams
In early part of 1990, when the armed Islamic insurgency began in Kashmir, lot of Kashmiri muslim business man moved out of Kashmir to other parts of India and abroad but yet kept some connect or base with Kashmir, most of them were associated with Handicrafts business.
Photo Credit : funseasonal.com,
Few months back I was in Kashmir at one of its most frequented cafe ‘the other side café’ , situated in the heart of Srinagar , founded by a young Kashmiri guy Mir Muneeb, addressing around 15 entrepreneurs , seeing their energy and enthusiasm I was ecstatic and thought perhaps ‘this entrepreneurial spirit might extricate Kashmir from the quagmire of conflict. The entrepreneurial wave might replace the narrative of death and destruction .The sudden change of landscape due to ongoing violence, which started with the killing of armed Islamic Insurgent – Burhan wani, might not allow it to bounce back. Kashmir has witnessed cycle of violence but it moved on, new businesses were set up, new hotels came up, new ideas flourished but the current violence might bring end to that. I so wish, that my prophecy is proved wrong as I would love to see entrepreneur energies unleashed in Kashmir.
Lot of entrepreneur’s are leaving Kashmir en masse, their exodus is neither in mainstream news nor visible in social media. Unfortunately, they cannot share their agony openly, as they will be called ‘traitors’. In last few weeks, I have met several of them and was aghast at their upheaval. Thus, have changed the names of founder, fearing for their life as they will be lynched by social media warriors , Kashmiri journalist ( who are more separatist in their zeal than separatist leaders) and even potentially can be harmed by armed Islamic Insurgents, for speaking their plight to me.
Mahtab Ashraf, have been running a start up since last 7 years in Kashmir, has moved to Delhi, housing himself in 10X14 flat at a nondescript locality in South Delhi. He has seen cycle of violence be it 2008, 2010 braving all odds and hoping that normalcy will see the light of the day. This time, though, he is totally blank as to what future holds for his business for next few days, few months and looking at prospect decided to shift is operations to Delhi.
Abu Suleiman, ran a BTL advisory firm and was gung-ho about his operations and few months back told me about his expansion plans and was confident that future looks promising in Kashmir, for him as well as for his business. Just few days back received a call from him, saying he is in Delhi and looking for JOB.
This tale of despair and helplessness is not just Mahtab Ashraf or Abu suleiman but several entrepreneurs from Kashmir , caught between the Rock and Sea. Publicly stating their woes will bring wrath from the ‘arm chair commentator’s’ , who want to further a particular narrative – Security forces have unleashed mayhem- about Kashmir.
A young ‘techno-farmer’, Khurram, had started branded concept of Root2Fruit, invested in his scientifically developed his orchard over 42 kanals of land with attractive rows of high-quality apple plants, with each carefully provided with four-wire trellis system, anti-hail net and a drip irrigation. This was inaugurated last year by Mufti Mohammed syed, then chief minister of state. The mob of 4000 people destroyed it completely in the ongoing violence. Such incidence has left the entrepreneurial community, which was already small in numbers, on a wrong foot and totally dejected.
This tale of destruction to businesses is ubiquitous across Kashmir, but not much is reported. The business community is terrified. The neglect towards business has to do with the socio economic make up of the state, which is fuelled mainly by Centre sponsored funds, mainly channeled through salaries of the state government employees, which is close to around $3 billion.
In early part of 1990, when the armed Islamic insurgency began in Kashmir , lot of Kashmiri muslim business man moved out of Kashmir to other parts of India and abroad but yet kept some connect or base with Kashmir, most of them were associated with Handicrafts business. The new breed of business man had diversified into various new domains from horticulture to information technology to Food processing, trying to capitalize the domestic market/produce of Kashmir. Even though there were never ‘perfect conditions’ for operating business, yet they had hope. But this current violence both in terms of scale and characteristic’s having left their hopes shattered, and proverbially might be ‘the last straw which will break the Camel’s back’.
My wish, that I am wrong. Completely wrong.
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