Rise of Women Entrepreneurs in Kashmir During Coronavirus Lockdown

When entire country was under lockdown due to COVID-19, Kashmir witnessed a rise in entrepreneurs. Many people turned their hobbies into profitable businesses. A detailed report.

Twenty Four-year-old girl Mehak Pervaz saw an opportunity while going through an Instagram post during the lockdown in Elahi Bagh area of Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir last year.

As the streets of Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar turned deserted following Covid-19 lockdown last year, Pervaz while sitting inside her home saw the photos of candles on Instagram.  From here she realized her childhood dream of reviving candle culture in Kashmir.

In October when the lockdown restrictions were eased she went outside Jammu and Kashmir and imported tools, material and wax and started making candles.

Mehek Pervaz

“Since my childhood I was fond of candles and candle lighting but I never had the privilege to see the candle culture in Kashmir.  I saw people in Kashmir light up candles during the power crisis so I decided to show people dynamic colours of candles, multiple designs and customization,” talking to The Stories of Change Pervaz, an engineering student at SSM College said.

Turning hobbies into business

She claimed that she got an overwhelming response for her business and now she has decided to make a candle business as her career. Her Instagram business ID is “Shamaaque_by_mehak”.

Candles by Mehek

In May 2020 when the entire world was under lockdown due to the outbreak of deadly Covid-19, 36-year-old housewife Rida Sajad of Bemina Srinagar started a business of homemade sugar-free dry fruit sweets.

During the lockdown period Rida had an opportunity to make a lot of new dishes and food varieties for her children. One day in the holy month of Ramadan she started making sugar-free sweets for her family and from here the experiment turned out to be a huge success.

Rida Sajad runs a business of home made sugar-free sweets.

“Since my childhood I was fond of cooking and I used to do a lot of experiments with different foods. I used to cook different varieties for my family. But one day I made sugar-free dry fruit sweets which were liked by my family and neighbours. I eventually decided to sell homemade sweets so that people may eat healthy and stay fit.”

When asked how she makes the sugar free sweets, Rida said she uses only natural ingredients which include dry fruits, different types of seeds besides nuts, ghee and saffron.

“The sweets I make are completely homemade, free from sugar, syrup, honey and jaggery. I do not use any preservatives, taste enhancer or additives. I chop and crush dates, apricots, and figs to extract juice and mix with the dry fruit sweets,” the health dry fruit sweet entrepreneur told The Stories of Change.

Besides sweets she also sells immunity bars and lactation bites for mothers who breastfeed. “The sweets I make are full of antioxidants, minerals and proteins.”

In October 2020 Rida sold her first item and since then she has been finding customers across India but mostly Kashmir.

“I have a home business and I am being supported by my parents, in-laws, husband and my children. Within a span of just four months I am able to earn more than one lakh rupees per month,” claimed Rida, a mother of two sons.

She currently lives with her family in Noida Delhi. Rida has done B.sc in physiotherapy from Oxford College Bangalore. Her Instagram business ID is “shireeneyemberzal”.

Lost jobs but found new opportunities

Shafiya Shafi honed her skills in calligraphy during the lockdown.

After being terminated as a teacher from a private school, 25 year old Shafiya Shafi of Lal Bazaar Srinagar was able to hone her skills in calligraphy and painting. During the lockdown period she claimed to have dedicated more time towards the art.

For Shafi, the lockdown and abrupt termination from the school was “blessing in disguise”. She said that the deadlock period inspired her artwork in an unexpected way.

Her calligraphy work and painting displayed on social media is widely appreciated and loved by people across the world. Within a span of a few months Shafi has become one of the famous calligraphy and painting artists of Kashmir.

“I was associated with the art since childhood but due to studies and teaching jobs I could not hone my skills. During the Covid-19 lockdown I went back towards the art. I express feelings with the help of paintings,” she told The Stories of Change.

Shafi wants to take the art that she is pursuing to the next level. “Apart from painting I am also attempting to create a new font in calligraphy,” she claimed.

Deriving pleasure out of this art, she said that her teaching job in a private school would draw her only 15000 rupees per month but being an artist she is able to earn more than 25000 rupees per month. Her Instagram business ID is “shafiya_artworks”.

Shafiya did her schooling from Green Valley School Srinagar and ultimately she reached Kashmir University where she completed her post-graduation in Psychology.

Young artists budding in Kashmir

Art by Fazila Jan

With free time at home during the lockdown period, a young sketching artist Fazila Jan kept herself busy in sketching. 17 year old Jan found creative fuel in the chaos of the times as during the lockdown period she used more time on sketching.

She claimed that she was facilitated by the Covid-19 lockdown starting from March 2020. With free time at home during the lockdown period, Jan from Eidgah Srinagar kept making sketches and subsequently displayed her skills on social media.

Talking to The Stories of Change, Jan said that she started making sketches when she was just nine years old but during lockdown she was able to enhance her skills. She created her first sketch of slain Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander Burhan Wani and made it public on Instagram. Her Instagram business ID is “fazilla.artist”.

Jan is currently studying in 11th standard, at Kothibagh Higher Secondary School Srinagar but she finds her deep interest in sketching.

“My dad supports me and he is so proud that I am growing well as an artist. He even suggested that I pursue a sketching course after I complete my 12th class examination. I look forward to becoming a successful sketching artist,” she told The Stories of Change.

Safura Hameed, a young girl, from Srinagar’s Badamwari area found a lighthearted way to express her feelings about the coronavirus lockdown. During the lockdown she took the calligraphy to another level.

Safura does 3D calligraphy

Twenty three year old M-tech engineering student Hameed is the first artist in J&K who has turned the calligraphy art to 3D mode.

Last year in March she experimented with clay and other readily available material to elevate her calligraphy, which turned out to be a big success.

Talking to The Stories of Change she said: “The basic or traditional calligraphy is done on paper, but I am making this 3D handmade art on wood, canvas and stones. I am writing names, 3D floral, small 3D toys, Quranic verses etc.”

Mir Afreen

When the Covid-19 lockdown was about to hit Kashmir, Hameed lost her uncle. In order to avoid stress she followed calligraphy.

“I found myself happier during the lockdown period while most people found themselves bored and upset. The lockdown actually honed my calligraphy skills. The 3D skills which I invented were not innate in me but happened with trials and errors. After getting a great response, I am planning to take 3D calligraphy art to entrepreneurship,” said Hameed who is also pursuing M-tech in electronics and communication from Chandigarh.

Sufura sells her 3D art online and her Instagram business ID is “__naayaab_”.

Unlike Safura another calligraphy artist Mir Afreen used the Covid-19 lockdown to learn the calligraphy from YouTube.

In May 2020 when everything was shut Afreen from Elahi Bagh Srinagar got ample time to learn calligraphy on the internet.

Mir Afreen learnt calligraphy through YouTube.

“I am a self taught calligrapher and did not receive any training. I was fond of calligraphy skills right from my childhood but my passion subdued due to study. During the lockdown period last year I learned the art and ultimately presented my skills in May 2020,” 24 year old artist said.

“During lockdown I got an opportunity to spend more time on my artwork, after which I received offers from people to make artwork. I have been receiving a number of orders since last year,” said Afreen who is currently pursuing MBBS from Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Srinagar.

She adds that her customers place the calligraphy orders through social media. Her Instagram business ID is “calligraphyoma”.

Irfan Amin Malik is a journalist based in Kashmir and he tweets @irfanaminmalik

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About the author

Irfan Amin Malik

Irfan Amin Malik is a journalist based in Jammu and Kashmir. He tweets @irfanaminmalik