Kashmir’s ‘Business Beetles’

FastBeetle, valley’s own start-up logistics, last mile brand aims to tap local market
Kashmir’s ‘Business Beetles’
Abid Rashid(L), Sheikh Samiullah(R), founders FastBeetle.

On a wintry afternoon in 2018, Abid Rashid, who had just returned from Dubai met his childhood friend Sheikh Samiullah. The duo sat over a cup of tea and looked into their challenging lives. They decided to do something more challenging and lucrative. FastBeetle was born.

The duo says that as Kashmir was witnessing a remarkable boom in online businesses with a lot of young entrepreneurs selling clothes and other merchandise using social networking sites, this MBA duo, originally hailing from Srinagar city's Downtown provided a solution to their daily logistic issues.

"I remember; we went to Batamaloo to check on some local shopkeepers in a dingy market. His reply surprised us after he said how much was our capacity to deliver," founder, FastBeetle, Abid Rashid, recalled.

"We later did a lot of business with him and many like him in the market."

Abid Rashid and Sheikh Samiullah, the beetles of Kashmir fly the flight of local businesses in the valley super-fast and safe to the destinations through their tech driven logistics-cum-messenger start-up.

With the realisation and analysis of a real life problem in hand, these two youth entrepreneurs set forth the journey of FastBeetle, which after a gap of nearly three years has now emerged as a pioneering solution for the local businesses especially women entrepreneurs by addressing their shipping needs.

"I worked with an e-commerce organisation for more than a year and realised how very needful and demanding the logistics platform is and how it is going to revamp the community driven by technology and businesses ruled by ecommerce," co-founder, Samiullah says.

"That is when I decided to quit my job and utilise my operations and management skills to empower my people," he recalls.

Meanwhile, Abid Rashid, a tech geek and the brains behind the technical idea, affirms that he decided to stand with his childhood friend, Sami, to come up with a technical solution to the problem. "When I discovered how my mother's paper mache handicraft creativity is dying within the four walls of our house., I thought of working on some unique idea for our own people," he recalls, adding seeing the same scenario related to hundreds of such women from the valley—who cannot fetch jobs out of their homes and want to carry their online businesses that vary from innovative ideas to online retailing, but lacked a platform to reach out to their customers.

The duo partners narrate that their story of success so far has seen many ups and downs. They say the journey began from delivering two orders a day on their two wheeler to getting more than 200 orders delivered by a team of our delivery executives each day now.

"We started recording the orders in an excel sheet to maintain order management system via 3 mobile applications on android as well as iOS and multiple web dashboards."

The two childhood friends say that from operating from a single city to reaching out to multiple cities; this two-year journey was ever challenging.

The Fastbeetles team launched their first mobile application in 2019, the unrest of the article 370 resulting in internet shut down took toll over their consortium.

"This was the most difficult time for us as after our app launch, Kashmir witnessed unprecedented times and internet clampdown then restoration of 2G network."

Staying back to roots

Having expertise in their respective fields and getting numerous opportunities outside their city during this unrest, Abid and Sami could have easily given up on the idea to switch to better options. However, they decided to stick around the dream project of empowering their people and revived it as the 2G internet got restored in the valley at the onset of the year 2021.

The role of courier service companies is indispensable for the smooth functioning of the e-businesses. Bootstrapped Fastbeetle.com is a great way to stay fast and reliable for these businesses and their customers as well. "With our team of dedicated staff, we ensure on-time delivery without any lags and delays," says Abid.

Team members of FastBeetle at their Nawa Bazar o ce in Downtown, Srinagar.

"Despite challenges of internet issues, I came up with something that would work on 2G. I optimised the mobile apps so that people could easily access our technical platforms," Abid says.  "The next challenge after we revived from socio-political unrest came from nature in the form of global pandemic and we decided to gear up rather than to sit back," Samiullah recollects.

While the whole world was facing the huge calamity in the form of corona pandemic, team FastBeetle decided to uplift and reach out to their people.

They operated from Srinagar city, to provide delivery services to the customers through the on-field courageous efforts from their delivery executives that involved health risk and the action-oriented technical process via mobile applications that involved challenges because of internet issues.

In the onset of the pandemic, they began with the thought to support the cause of good health and well-being by delivering the essentials at the doorsteps that varied from COVID essentials like PPE kits and medicines to food and groceries. Sami mentions "followed by the lockdown relaxations, when local businesses wanted to operate from their homes to overcome crisis; we supported them to revive their business by bridging them to the consumers for the local economic growth, getting the pick-ups and deliveries as fast as possible."

"In addition to this, we made an innovative and automated mobile app launch during the pandemic itself, for our delivery executives to keep them safer (through less contact) and save their time for the fastest delivery," says Abid.

While the pandemic catastrophe was a major setback for the whole community especially the local businesses in Kashmir that are already seeing the losses through years of unrest, beetles found hope and tried ways and means to make it better for their people. "There was a local elder shopkeeper who had huge stock at his disposal during the pandemic but couldn't sell because of the lockdown restrictions; he needed money to overcome the crisis. We became his bridge by delivering the goods from his place to his customers and I remember him praying for us in abundance," says Abid.

The logistics need in this case wouldn't have been fulfilled by big and huge logistics services that operate for bigger ecommerce companies like amazon and flipkart, thus making FastBeetle only of its kind in the valley to provide end to end logistics services.

While being a crew of around 30 team members, FastBeetle has nearly 500 local businesses on board that vary from Instagram shops to physical ones, reached up to around 400 village centres and partnered with four franchisees in the valley from different districts. Not only do the beetles serve the local community but also have earned global recognition through awards and appreciations while attracting the investments from multiple organisations, which makes them the first logistic company in the valley to be at this point.

"We believe that the empowerment and growth of our people will help us grow too and we are on active lookout for the opportunities where we can serve our people and expand our idea for even better causes," says the young entrepreneurs.

In the coming months, the duo plans to replicate the model in other districts and towns with the aim to generate more employment opportunities for the youth.

"Kashmir has fewer job opportunities compared to other states," says Rashid. "To fight against this, youth are in search to craft new methods of earning to overcome this problem. Our organization can add little to minimize the issue."

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