Thinking Out of Box

‘It’s all about ideas’

INDEPENDENT KASHMIRIS

MAJID MAQBOOL

A year back when Kashif Ahmad Khan (27), a young entrepreneur from Anantnag, thought of setting up a valley based e-commerce portal Kashmirbox.com on the lines of eBay and Amazon, his friends and relatives would laugh at the idea. Against the wishes of his family and friends, he left his job in 2011 and teamed up with an energetic 22-year-old entrepreneur Muheet Mehraj and another successful entrepreneur Ishfaq Mir. In April this year Kashmirbox.com, which is run by a team of 15 people, went live. After more than 1000 successful orders placed since April, today they are shipping around 20-25 orders everyday across the globe.
After pursuing Engineering in Electronics and Communication from Jammu University in 2008, Kashif started his first chip design training company Resolute Consultancy Services. In 2010, he started working for Mercycorps as Project Officer Innovations to promote Entrepreneurship in Kashmir. In 2011 he left his job at Mercycorps and co-founded KashmirBox.com, a unique multi-product, multi-brand Kashmir based e-commerce marketplace. In 2012, he founded another company E-Resolute, which provides different services to 700 J&K Bank Khidmat Centers across the state, with Zahir Hassan (29), Abid Rashid Lone (22), and Ishfaq Mir.
During an extensive research on Artisans of Kashmir, Kashif found out that Kashmiri products lacked authenticity in the global market, and artisan community was suffering.  He says our artisans lacked global recognition, they were getting less price for their produce, and there was lack of use of technology in business."This prompted us to come up with an idea of one stop destination which we named KashmirBox.com", he says. This year KashmirBox.com was shortlisted for the prestigious TiE-Lumis Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards 2012.
On KashmirBox.com, artisans, craftsmen, entrepreneurs and the other creative Kashmiris showcase their products and skills to the global marketplace, says Kashif. “In this otherwise hostile environment, it is our effort to help the community towards creating a sustainable livelihood,” he says. “We are selling everything on Kashmirbox, including books, Kashmir shawls, woolen shawls, bats, rugs, and even delicacies like wazwaan.” 
Kashif believes Brand Kashmir has a rich heritage of arts, crafts, skills, knowledge and organic foods. We aspire to raise the standards of brand Kashmir, he says, which in the recent past has declined due to both internal and external factors. “We abide to the best global practices for e-commerce processes and partner with the best in the industry for support and solutions, he says. “It is our effort to provide a quality experience to the satisfaction of our valued customers.” 
Kashif says theirs is a social business platform venture committed to bring vibrant economic activity to the community and unlock the potential of all stakeholders.  In their mission to include underprivileged members, they formed Kashmir Box Foundation as a part of their corporate social responsibility with the sole purpose to aid those in need.
“We wanted to source the products on our website directly from the artisans,” says Kashif. Ten percent of their profit from Kahmirbox goes to the local artisans. “We have so far tied up with 30 artisans,” he says. “We want to make genuine Kashmiri products available to the world”
Kashif started his first venture with Rs 20,000. Contrary to the popular belief he says it’s very easy to start a business venture in Kashmir. “You don’t need support of government to become a successful entrepreneur. It’s all about ideas,” he says. “I didn’t need any support from the government. We have a phobia here that the government is the sole decision maker of our career,” he says. “We have tremendous talent in valley, but they don’t know how to implement their ideas. We have never created role models for them in terms of entrepreneurs,” he says.
For the next five years Kashif says their company, Kashmir Box Online Pvt. Ltd, besides improving the lives of around 3000 artisans of Kashmir, aims to create a robust supply chain for artisans, suppliers, farmers and manufactures. “We want to create 1,000 brands from Kashmir with presence in major global retail chain,” says Kashif. “We will be creating different baskets with a varied combination of fruits (dry fruits) and home decor to target retail chains across the globe,” he adds.
Kashif believes Entrepreneurship is not about money. “Entrepreneurship is all about identifying problems among the masses and then developing innovative solutions to overcome these problems,” he says. To start a successful business venture you have to be persistent, he advises, and start a venture with an intention to contribute to the society. “Money is always a byproduct and it will come in the end,” he says.  “But there will be hard times and you will fail if you are only looking at profits,” he cautions. 

(A series on young entrepreneurs and innovators of Kashmir. Feedback at maqbool.majid@gmail.com)

Lastupdate on : Sun, 4 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 4 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 5 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST




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