Challenges like Internet blockade, hostility in valley do not deter their efforts
Srinagar: She has an Instagram account and that is not used to post selfies. The squared thumbnails are her shelves and the photo blog is her online store.
Mehak Meer, 25, a young woman from Barzulla is pursuing her Masters in Sociology. She always had a dream to start her own business and today she is living her dream. She runs an online clothing brand.
In June 2016, she started using Instagram and Facebook to display her works. Her idea was unique as she wanted “every girl to get the best products for her marriage at reasonable price” and thus began her journey of a brand called ‘Koshur Wardan by Mellisa’.
People got attracted to her ‘designer clothing’ because they were entirely different from what was available in the market. She established her name in less than a year since the creation of Koshur Wardan and today it is a flourishing online store with 13.5 k Followers on Instagram.
“I am mostly focussed on bridal wear and accessories. The collection is sold almost within a month from its release. Orders come in bulk,” says Mehak.
Mehak said she could have developed a website to promote her products but she chose Instagram which according to her had unique visual appeal and wide audience.
“Nowadays website is a normal thing from where people buy something. They will go there only when they want to and have time. Instagram is a better platform and will remain there in the feed instead of vanishing as is the case with Facebook,” believes Mehak.
Costumers send messages to Koshur Wardan through WhatsApp when they have to order something. Mehak receives about 300 orders per month for items she puts online. Mehak has a tie up with a courier company.
Does Mehak buy these dresses and then post on Instagaram?
“I don’t want to buy these dresses. The thing is: Outside vendors send me pictures of different dresses through WhatsApp. I post those pictures on my Instagram and when I receive an order then according to the order, I tell my vendor to send the item. By doing so, I neither have to buy material nor I have to face any loss,” said Mehak.
Mehak has different vendors from places like Delhi, Mumbai, Pakistan and UAE
Kashmiri brides don’t need to travel outside the state as Koshur Wardan provides them everything in just a click.
Asked about what challenges she has to face Mehak replied, “First, payment is the biggest challenge; then, courier issues. And, as we know, many startups come up with the same idea of providing the best is also a challenge.”
Mehak said for attracting customers, trust was very important in the business and as it is an online business. It was really hard to motivate costumers through social media as many Kashmiris are apprehensive of online shopping,
She believes whatever a person does he/she should do it with dedication and “work is known by the person, not the person known by his/her work”.
She said, “In a month, I receive 300 orders that means, somehow, I am gaining the trust of my customers.”
When asked about how her online business was different from others, Mehak replied that she uploads only those products which were very useful for brides and come at a very low price.
Mehak receives orders not only from Kashmir but also from Jammu, Mumbai and Bangalore.
Mehak believes family support was very important and thinks herself lucky as her parents help her and support her to do this business. My mother and brother play an important role in this.
“He (Mehak’s brother) supports me to develop contact with different vendors,” she said.
Mehak only invested 50,000 rupees to start her business and earns a good profit.
Mehak is not the only one who comes up with this idea. There are still many and among them Fashion Hub Kashmir and Crochet Love Kashmir are also prominent. Syed Zaman, 20, a resident of Chanapora, Srinagar started his online shopping portal on Instagram during 2015. Zaman, a computer engineer by profession always wanted to do something on his own and online business for him was by chance.
“I was in Delhi and met some importers after analysing that Kashmiris don’t get such stuff. I thought of opening online store on Instagram as Instagram was new during those days,” says Zaman
Fashion Hub Kashmir provides clothing, fashion accessories, bags, Kashmiri shawls and saffron.
Zaman says that the online store is very convenient, as today’s youth are very conscious about their looks. They want to update themselves with the latest fashion and products and online store is much preferred by them as they can get anything through their smart phones.
“Our business is wholly dependent on the Internet but, Kashmir being a conflict zone often witnesses Internet blockade, which impacts our sales, and due to hartals and curfews sometimes our orders are delayed,” he observes.
Zaman invested Rs 30,000 for the startup and this year his turnover was around Rs. 1.5 lac. Zaman says that after completing degree, youth often are worried about getting secure jobs but “in Kashmir only 10% post graduates get employment”. “One has to be proactive as there are other options too,” he asserts.
Sumaira Muzaffar, 30, resident of Natipora, Srinagar is also doing her business through Instagram. She learnt crocheting from her mother.
For people in Kashmir, this field is traditionally reserved for the women folk, who weave, knit and do experiments with wool but with the modern age this art is also dying but now young generation is adopting this art. “My mother does crewel work and watching her do the works, I started liking it. I met my friends and discussed with them about the crochet work that I learn through YouTube and my mother,” she said.
She did not know that people liked her work and she would be doing crochet business.
Initially, she learned the craft for herself as had no plans doing the business. She created a page on Instagram with Crochet Love Kashmir and started uploading pictures of the products and within week received many orders. After that she thought to continue.
“I first made my crochet work public via social media in September last year by name of Crochet Love Kashmir using Instagram, and thank God, I have earned a huge customer base in a short span of time. In a month I received almost 20 orders ,” Sumaira says.
With a customer base, mostly females, coming from different generations and different tastes, Sumaira makes a range of crochet products, including bootie, pin cushions, wall hangings, mufflers, baby dresses and many more.
Sumaira has a tie up with Hangul Logistics, the company delivers her products to customers, and she has to pay 30 rupees for a product plus delivery charges.
“I only invested 4,000 rupees and nothing else. Neither have I paid huge amount for shop nor do I invest much for buying product. I buy raw material according to my order,” she reveals.
However, her main focus is on crochet jewellery, earrings, jewellery sets, etc.
The new trend in Kashmir where brides wear flower jewellery on their mehndi-raat, has made her crochet work very popular and has earned her a good number of customers.
The biggest challenge she has so far faced in her work is the frequent Internet ban. “My work is completely dependent on the Internet. I promote and market my products through social media. So whenever the Internet is blocked, I face a tough time,” she says.
Family support is very important and in Sumaira’s case, she says, “I am lucky.”