As the higher reaches of Kashmir have received fresh snowfall, the hustle-bustle in Shahid Rasool’s ‘Gulmarg Ski Club’ has accelerated.
In his late 20’s, Shahid Rasool has navigated through ups and downs of life, left a well-paid job in the hospitality sector to make his career in the snowy slopes of Gulmarg.
Shahid has not only provided himself with a good livelihood but has roped in around two dozen unemployed youth of his north Kashmir village and provided them with a decent job opportunity.
"It was not easy to leave a decent job at one of the top hotel chains in the world and to begin from scratch."
Shahid resides in a hilly village of north Kashmir’s Kalantara, some 15 km from world-famous Ski resort Gulmarg, he was always passionate about adventures like skiing and mountain climbing.
“I thought if I take on my passion professionally, I can turn it into an entrepreneurship opportunity and can provide livelihood not only to myself but to my employment starved village. After learning about Skiing professionally and about adventure tourism I came up with Gulmarg Ski Club back in 2016,” Shahid said.
Shahid has done his graduation in commerce and then went to Punjab to complete his MBA in finance. He said his job in the hospitality sector came very handy in starting his club which also dealt with handling guests from across India and abroad.
“After completion of my MBA I worked in Pepsi-co for some time. The job was not satisfying then I joined a US-based international hotel chain on a managerial post. I grew there and learned about the hospitality sector."
"It was good personal growth, although it paid well I always wanted to do something which I was passionate about and through which I could give back to my people. My passion for Skiing and adventure helped me to open my ski club which has now helped me to provide jobs to my people also. I always wanted to come back to my home and work, I even trained in the food processing sector but this adventure tourism was always my passion and I eventually went for it,” Shahid said.
He started working in the adventure sector in 2014 when he used to join it for winters only. Then in 2016, he started his Gulmarg Ski club. Now Shahid is running two Ski companies, Gulmarg ski club, and Himalayan Ski school. He said in the initial years he participated in many training courses by the Tourism department and took professional help to train himself professionally.
“After much experience and thinking, in 2019 I joined the business full time and left my job outside Kashmir. I wanted to dedicate my whole time to my Ski club so that I can provide the best service to Ski lovers and snow sports enthusiasts,” he said.
Shahid is a well-known name in Ski clubs now and has a customer base not only in India but abroad too. Shahid said that right from 2016 there were many challenges as Kashmir went through various lockdowns following political unrest and due to covid.
“As I had learned the value of customer service in the hospitality sector, I had a loyal customer base which came to me when the situation was better in Covid. The tourism sector was heavily hit due to lockdowns but my professionalism helped me to carry on. As things got better, all the customer base was back,” Shahid said.
In summers Shahid is now arranging trekking tours. Trekkers from across India and abroad are visiting alpine lakes, mountain peaks of Kashmir with him to quench their passion for adventure.
“There is a huge market for adventure tourism in Kashmir. If we take this sector seriously our youth can do wonders. We have water bodies, alpine lakes, hill stations, ski resorts here which we can utilize to bring business to the valley. Currently, my ski club is helping me to provide jobs to over two dozen people, they include drivers, instructors, pony wallas, porters, guides, and other persons. If we work with professionalism and give the best service, our tourism sector will flourish and we won’t need to look for jobs outside Kashmir.,” he said.
Shahid believes that government support for youngsters can help in making the adventure industry into the biggest job provider in Kashmir. Shahid said that due to Covid as travel abroad was hampered, there was a huge flow of tourists in Kashmir.
“In the past few years, the taste for adventure tourism in Indian tourists has increased exponentially. Earlier we used to cater to foreigners for adventure tourism mostly but now local tourists are also coming. This is high time that our youth start looking beyond government jobs and start being job providers instead of seekers,” Shahid said.
Shahid said that it is high time that young educated entrepreneurs take the adventure industry seriously and start investing in it. He says that it will pave the way for other youngsters to earn and help in growing this industry.