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Kashmiri Bazaar - India's First eCommerce Store For Kashmiri Items

"My vision has always been to give a re-birth to the ‘The Art of Kashmir’ and have an online as well as an offline platform so that we reach every corner of the world," says Vivek Gurka, Founder, Kashmiri Bazaar.

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Cradled in the lap of the Himalayas, Kashmir is undeniably the most beautiful place on earth. It is blessed with lovely waterfalls, snow capped mountain peaks, lush green surrounding, fruit laden orchards and a hard working and passionate workforce of Kashmiri artisans. Kashmir has a lot to offer to the rest of the world. Its economy is centered on agriculture. Carpet, Namdas, Papier Mache, Shawls, Chain Stitch, Crewel Furnishings, Saffron, Walnuts, Almonds, Honey, Silks, Tweeds, Pherans, Basketry, Walnut Wood, Copper, Silverware, Food Items, Tea & Spices, are some of the most sought after offerings of Kashmir to the world. Even then, these things are out of reach of the people due to lack of e-commerce initiatives in the region. 

India ranks third among global startup ecosystems, but Kashmir is still disconnected with this boom. Since 1990 terrorism has an interminable impact on the business in the valley. Due to months of tension and curfew in the state, Kashmir went far from the people of the world. Businesses till date are facing challenges due to political instability. On one side, we mesmerize the beauty of Kashmir, and on the same hand protests and strikes disturb us. Kashmir doesn’t have a sound start-up ecosystem like other states in India. Lack of education and training is the number one barrier to entrepreneurship and the low access to finance and business development services is another big issue. It is disheartening to know that the number of unemployed youth in the valley has crossed one million! Even under such circumstances, Jammu and Kashmir has a fidgety entrepreneurial energy which is making it go through its own startup revolution. 

In an interaction with BW Disrupt, Vivek Gurka, Founder, Kashmiri Bazaar shared details about his venture.

How has been your entrepreneurial journey so far?

With a work experience of more than 12 years, I have been majorly working as a Marketing Consultant. Before starting Kashmiri Bazaar, I have been working very closely with many startups and helping them in strategy formation and implementation. Other than that, I am a technology lover and you would often find me reading about and exploring new technologies.   

What was Kashmiri Bazaar launched? How does it work?

Kashmiri Bazaar was launched on the 23rd of March in 2014, along with my father, Raj Kumar Gurkha. It is an e-Commerce platform where anyone and everyone can shop for high quality Kashmiri products. It is a conglomerate of products like Kashmiri Spices, Kashmiri Honey, Kashmiri Dry Fruits, Kashmiri Tea, Kashmiri Pulses, Kashmiri Pickle, Kashmiri Flour, Kashmiri Wazwan and some products from Jammu as well. In addition to this, we also have a special category for Kashmiri Pandits which has Kashmiri Ritual Items. Since 1990, Kashmiri Pandits living in various parts of the world are facing challenges in getting their ritual items, for birthday, Maha Shivratri, marriages, etc. With Kashmiri Bazaar, we have tried to bring all the ritual items of this community at one place. Not only this, with the help of Vijeshwar Jyotish Karyalaya, we are also offering Kashmiri Janamkundli (Zatuk) and Tekni service for the community and this has become one of our main categories now. All this is being done by our websites, namely www.KashmiriBazaar.in, www.KashmiriSpices.com and www.KashmiriMarket.com. 

How did you come up with the idea to launch Kashmiri Bazaar?

The idea was born when I was visiting my hometown back in 2014. My friends had shared with me a long list of products and requested me to bring them along when I return. I was discussing the same with my parents and my cousin and we realized that there was no online platform from where one could buy all these products. When we researched, we found some platforms which were selling Kashmiri products, but we knew that they were not directly coming from Jammu and Kashmir. This is when we decided to start our business so that people from not only our country, but from various parts of the world cherish the real taste of Kashmir. Being localities we knew the best places from where we can source the products and further deliver them. Moreover, we wanted to make sure that the buyer has a full basket of options with filters like price, brand, rating, etc. and we added this facility to our website. To help the shoppers make a better decision, we are 24*7 available through online live support. The service just doesn’t end when the customer buys the product. We make sure that the after-sale service is as good as the live support.

Also, earlier we were exclusively online, but now we have a retail outlet as well. We will be soon launching our own products like saffron, Kashmiri tea, honey, spices, pulses, etc. 

What challenges are you facing in running your business?

Talking about the challenges, starting a business is itself a roller coaster ride and above all, starting it in Kashmir has its own set of challenges. Sometimes, without basic facilities like Internet, phone lines, etc. communication becomes a little difficult. Curfews and shutdowns are other issues that everyone faces in Kashmir. Like us, many  entrepreneurs are coming up and taking initiatives to solve the challenges that the political, social, economic and geographic conditions have posed to us.

In spite of such unfavourable business conditions in the state, with Kashmiri Bazaar we are trying to bring the authentic, legitimate stuff to the buyers. From the business point of view, arranging authentic Kashmiri products and tie-up with logistics companies was the basic challenge we faced in the initial year. As a matter of fact, when we started there was no player offering such products online and setting up this channel and successfully running the same was more about learning than a challenge. 

I come from a non-business background and getting that entrepreneurial mind to work was another challenge that I have overcome. 

Are you planning to raise any funding round?

We started Kashmiri bazaar with humble ambitions and are a bootstrapped company till date. To get started, I invested from my own saving. Trust me when I say that bootstrapping is much more difficult than it might seem and involves a lot of hard work. Thankfully, we are now at a stage where we have enough traction and a strategy for the coming times. Till date we were not looking for any external investment, but now we are ready and open for investors. We are looking for someone with a good expertise and who shares the same vision as we do! 

What advice you want to share with the emerging entrepreneurs?

Whenever a young entrepreneur talks to me, I always tell him/her that your willpower, confidence and determination will lead your way. If you are having these qualities or are willing to embrace them, half of your journey is complete. I am a strong believer of the quote, ‘Stand Up, Be Bold, and Be Strong. You are the creator of your own destiny. All the strength you want is within yourself’. This is what I blindly followed when I decided to take the entrepreneurial leap. I never looked back and worked day-in and day-on to live my dream! I trusted my instincts and tried to be self-dependent. I learnt to be a self-initiator. If I have a plan in my mind, I just execute. Having everything set-up and now successfully running my own business, I also realised that taking baby steps is okay! The path might look long initially, but once you cross the initial hurdles, there is no looking back. When I decided to start Kashmiri Bazaar, many suggested not to go ahead with it, while many stood by my dream and believed in my vision. The initial hurdles were crossed easily as I had a strong support my family, especially my late grandfather (whom I consider as my Guru), my mom and dad! 


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