In 2021 the establishment of a women’s industrial estate in Udhampur district helped to further strengthen the women entrepreneurs’ ecosystem in J&K. The new initiatives of Digi-Pay, Krishi, and Pashu Sakhi, besides several other programs of women empowerment such as Hausla, Tejaswini, UMEED, Rise Together also looked at accelerating efforts in empowering women.
Significantly, the Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises envisions a progressive MSME sector by promoting growth and development of the sector, including khadi, village and coir industries, in cooperation with concerned Ministries/Departments, State Governments and other stakeholders, through providing support and encouraging creation of new enterprises.
Here are some women entrepreneurs from the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
> Sehrish Chowdhary, Founder, Zoyish Store
Zoyish Store is into production of designer ethnic wear and western wear. They are designer gown specialists in wedding outfits, which is supervised by Sehrish Chowdhary. The store forayed into embroidery inspired by Indian traditions like – dabka, tilla, chikankari, zardozi, aari, gota patti, phulkari, mirror work etc. In 2019, the orders were few; but thanks to social media, her business grew and with the help of her mom (the brain behind this brand), she moved ahead. It took two years to build a wide circle of clients and they soon shifted base to their own building, which gave a boost to business.
Zoyish is also into making of pherans, which inspired her work that displayed a typical Kashmiri culture with a modern touch – which fascinated everyone. They use fabrics like silk, crepe, wool, pashmina etc with different types of embroidery; and Pakistani branded suits, Indo-western wear and bridal lehengas are also part of their offerings. Luxury items were launched too – like hand-embroidered sarees, reception gowns, dresses for all occasions which have a touch of royalty along with tradition.
> Najmulnisa Showkat Ali, Beauty Entrepreneur
Najmulnisa Showkat Ali opted for business as an entrepreneur, and she is a self-made woman entrepreneur from Srinagar. During her school days she was an artist – good in painting and sketching. It was her dream to come to the ‘Mecca’ of Hindi Films, but that did not work out.
She faced a lot of difficulties and even went through a patch with no work. But, as destiny would have it, at random she started applying Mehndi to her family members and friends for free.
After receiving much appreciation for her beautiful designs, she soon started applying Mehndi to brides in Kashmir, and the response was great. Later she expanded her business in Bhaderwah city and in many more places in Kashmir. Most prominently, she hit the top position as the first professional Mehndi and Makeup Artist in Chennab Valley Bhaderwah Kishtwar District Doda. Today, she works in entire state of Jammu and Kashmir.
> Mahreen Kapra, Founder, Extensions Beauty Studio
Mahreen Kapra is a name to reckon with in the beauty environment in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir. Founder of a leading Beauty Studio – “Extensions” in Barzulla, attempting to introduce the latest technology, she soon gave a new name to “beauty”.
In fact, she ventured into the beauty business with her sister Janat, and they belonged to a reputed business family in Srinagar. After successfully completing her graduation in Computer Engineering and Masters in Business Administration, she opted for entrepreneurship, and set up her own business venture. Her Studio caters to both men and women with the latest in design and technology – to help customers look their best. This is the first ever nail, hair, lash, permanent makeup and spa studio in Kashmir Valley.
It was her cherished childhood dream to emerge as an entrepreneur rather than to go in for a government or a private job in Jammu and Kashmir. And, her vision was accomplished in 2021, with the launch of the “Extensions” in Srinagar. Soon the way opened up for launching two more outlets at RajBagh and DownTown in 2022.
> Asra Qureshi, Founder, Kehzabr
The starting point was when Asra Qureshi came up with the idea of ‘Kehzabr’; but she admitted it was her younger sister who suggested the name of the boutique – ‘Kehzabr’ which is a Kashmiri word that means ‘very beautiful’. She thought of starting her own business early in life; for she helped her sister who had done a course in designing, and knew stitching well too. Thus she learnt a lot about designing.
Initially she did not have any intention of starting a clothing business. But when her sister got married and designed her own trousseau, the idea of starting up a boutique clicked. She started her boutique in April, which is the wedding season in Kashmir. She had Kashmiri craftsmen in her team and soon the business expanded and demands of customers grew, and she hired tailors and craftsmen from Allahabad. During the 2019 lockdown, she even sheltered her employees at home, to make sure that her customers, especially brides should get her trousseau delivered, as promised.
Now she has more than 40K followers on her Instagram page, and orders come from all over India and there are international orders as well.
> Iram Saba Malik, Founder, Pick N Pack
One successful entrepreneur in Srinagar is Iram Saba Malik. Being a Commerce graduate, she had dreams of starting a business. It was in 2018 that she started her entrepreneurial journey with Pick-n-Pack Online Shopping, a multi choice products page on Instagram, promising the best quality and reasonable prices. This is an online platform through which the demands of customers from all over India are fulfilled with their unique collections.
Even after being a mother to two children, she manages to balance both her work-life and family too. Fortunately, she managed to garner a positive response for her services and as a business entrepreneur, she looks ahead for better business.
> Mobeen Sayeed, Founder, “An Artist Meraki by Mobeen”
Mobeen Sayeed is the founder of an art page – “@an_artist_meraki by mobeen”. Her life tracks back to a difficult time in childhood; and once when she painted a tree in a certain way during her art class, she was mocked at and then she stopped painting! But the story carried on as she gained confidence and finished her graduation and masters, and got married too in 2016. It was in 2017, she had the chance to explore her artistic side, but with pregnancy and the responsibilities of a child stalled her for some time. But people encouraged her to start a page and sell the art; she listened to them and started her journey in art.
She is a medium artist, and dabbles in doodles, acrylic, calligraphy, canvas, abstract, gauche, texture canvases and is also a big fan of Resin artworks. Luckily, she got full support from her mom and husband – to explore the art arena. She started the art page to keep art alive and has indeed, proved to be an inspiration to many people.
Not wanting to give up on expectations, she feels – “Art is inevitable “. But the road is tough, and she hopes to forge ahead with success.