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Startups in J&K turning job seekers into employers


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 Over the past two years, startups in Jammu and Kashmir have proven to be the game-changer for youth in the Union Territory with the government providing incubation and seed funding to brilliant ideas and solutions opening a new world of opportunities.  The ideas of young innovators are being heard, explored and implemented and job seekers are fast turning into employers. An eco-system is being built for nurturing innovation and startups in the Union Territory.   The government is encouraging youth to become self-reliant. The creation of Industry Innovation clusters has encouraged a new generation of entrepreneurs to lead from the front and create jobs for others.  India’s startups are making their place in the global market. India is now ranked third in the world in terms of innovation and start-ups after the US and China.  Jammu and Kashmir is emerging as a hub for startups in India. The industry and academic institutions are encouraging a culture of innovation and are providing institutionalized handholding to the budding innovators and researchers.  The initiatives like the Center for Innovation and Economic Development (CIED) have provided young minds with an opportunity to work on their ideas and sell these to the world.The government has been exploring the startup potential in all the sectors, including agriculture, dairy, transport, handicrafts, food and other allied fields.  Change has not come overnight, the government has been working hard to build “Naya Jammu and Kashmir” and the results are becoming visible with each passing day.  Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development (JKEDI) has been instrumental in creating a startup ecosystem by fostering an entrepreneurial culture and supporting innovation to improve knowledge, wealth, and employment.The JKEDI is grooming youngsters to build new business empires on a scale that was not even imaginable earlier. The new generation of entrepreneurs is challenging the old aristocracy and the government support is helping the youngsters to get easy access to bank loans.  The government bearing all the risk has made life easier for Jammu and Kashmir’s gen-next.The youngsters are putting in all their efforts to succeed in their endeavours and are not disappointing the system that’s reposing faith in them.  In ‘Naya Jammu and Kashmir’ graduates from top institutes no longer have to settle for a job at a blue-chip company or move abroad to further their education. Today, even young people with no support are chasing their dreams if they are technically qualified and have a great idea.  Entrepreneurs with a strong work ethics and dedication are working together to create something new and useful for consumers and are also making money for themselves and their investors. Technology has enabled individuals to create a niche, establish their own companies, build their businesses, and taste success within a short span of time.  The Jammu and Kashmir Startup policy provides office space, monthly allowances, assistance in product research, energy assistance, taxpayer reimbursement for international patent filings, infrastructure support, access to international markets, financing, and other academic interventions.  Additionally, companies with value additions in focus sectors such as food processing and allied activities, textiles, agriculture, apparel and fashion technology, handicrafts and handlooms, renewable energy, electronic system design and manufacture, and information technology-enabled services are getting special attention.  In a very short span of time, many startups like FastBeetle have become household names in Jammu and Kashmir. The ‘FastBeetle’ has 70,000 users across Kashmir. They receive groceries, food, medicines, gifts, documents, etc. through the company. Its owners Sheikh Samiullah and Abid Rashid both Srinagar natives had founded the venture to deliver parcels on motorbikes. Today both of them are among the most successful entrepreneurs in Kashmir.  The ‘FastBeetle’ has also been handling last-mile delivery for Amazon outside Kashmir’s capital. Walmart owned Flipkart is also using ‘FastBeetle’s’ delivery services. During the second wave of COVID-19, ‘FastBeetle’ was one of the few operational couriers. It transported oxygen, medicine, and other supplies to frontline workers and non-governmental organizations.  Another startup which has become popular in Srinagar is ‘Downtown Cafe.’ It was started by two brothers, Suhail and Nadeem, hailing from the Pampore area of Srinagar, 13 km from the city. By working hard, they made the city proud. This restaurant located in the Gojwara area in Srinagar’s old city is attracting locals as well as tourists. It serves approximately 90 people at a time.  As Suhail and Nadeem searched for startups in Srinagar, they found there was no place where young people could hang out with their families. So they built something for youths to enjoy the culture and tradition of India when many Srinagar startups opted to open western-style cafes.Another startup ‘Move Beyond’ signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Institute of Technology (NIT) Srinagar’s Innovation and Incubation Entrepreneurship Development Centre (IIEDC).    The International Youth Outreach and Employability Program was to target the youth of Jammu and Kashmir as part of this MOU.The MoU stated that the youth will receive career counselling, life counselling, employability and rehabilitation, awareness programs, mentoring, skill development, and mentorship.   After the MoU was signed Prof Rakesh Sehgal, director of the NIT Srinagar and the chief patron of the IYOEP stated that one of the fundamental responsibilities of higher education is to help local organizations like Move Beyond advance regional development.According to the founder of the ‘Move Beyond’ Sheikh Inayat Ullah aim of the organization is to map youth, identify potential aspirants, and create local, national, and international opportunities.  In addition to identifying bottlenecks, the ‘Move Beyond’ has developed solutions to them. It has supported many potential aspirants at the state, national, and international levels.Move Beyond was praised and promised full financial and administrative help by the administration during LG Manoj Sinha’s visit to NIT.  It has organized several free events and webinars, including a Fulbright Fellowships awareness event at the University of Kashmir, the first-ever worldwide online Career Summit (2020), and webinars on the Startup Ecosystem in Jammu and Kashmir and fashion design. It has also hosted Asia’s Leading Counseling Conference (2021). In addition, the startup debuted its own online educational series ‘Career Chat.’  ‘All Things Kashmir’, a startup in Srinagar, is proving original high-grade pashmina shawls, hand-knotted carpets, scarves, spices, and other state handicrafts in a single place. The startup was launched in February 2021. The Srinagar-based Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) firm, founded by Mubashir and Zahoor Hassan Mir in February 2021, has become the one-stop store for authentic high-grade scarves, pashmina shawls, spices, hand-knotted carpets, and other state handicrafts. Zahoor, an MBA graduate of the University of Kashmir, owes his love of Kashmiri crafts to his family.   Another startup ‘Gatoes’ headed by Jibran Gulzar delivers food and groceries to homes across Kashmir. The ‘Gatoes’ turned over a million dollars in its first seven months of operation. In addition, the ‘Gatoes’ has onboarded over 1450 merchant partners, making it by far the largest startup out of Jammu and Kashmir.  ‘KashmirOneStop.co’ is regarded as one of the most famous one-stop online and retail customers. It is still one of the greatest efforts by the Kashmir Pandit founders Rohit Bhat and Meenakshi Rakesh Bhat. They offer the best chances for reuniting Kashmir with Japan and even bringing Kashmir close to the greatest part of India and even the world.  This company stands out in various ways because it is known as one shop for all the fantastic and unique kinds of Kashmiri and Srinagar products, including a special category for all Kashmiri Pandits.  Under unique holidays and tours, ‘Go Kash Adventures’ is based in Srinagar. The startup arranges tours that combine historical and geographic sites in Jammu and Kashmir.  An eponymous brand, ‘Parsa’ created by Javid Parsa, has taken off in Wazwan, targeting college-going students. In addition to the Kathi roll, mutton korma, kebabs, and biryani, Parsa’s menu includes various kebabs and biryanis ranging from Rs 50 to Rs 190. The ‘Parsa’ chain has over 400 outlets throughout Srinagar, Anantnag, Lakadh, Sopore, Awantipora, and other cities.  Mumkin Scheme A customized livelihood generation scheme ‘Mumkin’ for the J&K youth has helped many youths like Muzafar Wani of Ramsoo, Ramban, to procure small commercial vehicles on a subsidized basis to establish a sustainable livelihood in the transport sector.  Wani always dreamt about owning a vehicle as he wanted to secure a respectable livelihood that could fulfil the needs of his family and open the door to him for a better tomorrow. He worked as a driver for different vehicle owners for nearly 12-years. He could only survive hand to mouth and couldn’t save enough money to buy his own vehicle. He couldn’t bear the expenses of his family of four including his two daughters with the meagre salary he used to earn.  In October last year, he came to know about the ‘Mumkin’ livelihood scheme for unemployed youth. He contacted Mission Youth officials, who ensured that he gets benefitted and as of now he is the proud owner of Tata Yodha.  The ‘Mumkin’ is a livelihood programme designed primarily for unemployed young people in the age bracket of 18 to 35. Under the ‘Mumkin’ scheme, small commercial vehicles are provided to the youth with the banking partner extending the loan facility to the extent of 100 per cent for the on-road price of the vehicle to be purchased.  The Mission Youth, J&K provides an amount of Rs 80,000 or 10 per cent for the on-road price of the vehicle (whichever is lesser) as an upfront subsidy and the vehicle manufacturers (scheme partner of government) provide an upfront special discount, not less than the amount of subsidy.

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