LoC trade ban aftermath |Business of young entrepreneurs selling Pakistani-embroidered suits in jeopardy

Shafaq Tanveer, a Srinagar-based young woman, started her business of Pakistani embroidered suits under the name Meraki a year ago. Besides a brick and mortar store, Shafaq, taking advantage of social media, would also sell online and her business was doing well.

 Majority of the stuff she would sell would be sourced via cross-Line of Control trade taking place between two divided parts of Kashmir. 

However, as the Central Government has suspended the cross-LoC trade indefinitely, she says, her dreams are shattered. The stuff Shafaq and many other young entrepreneurs, mostly women, were selling has a huge demand in Kashmir. After the LoC trade ban, it is not easy for them to procure these embroidered suits.

Shafaq says even if they can order the stuff via Dubai, these suits become very expensive and unaffordable for the majority of middle-class women. Besides, it takes a lot of time to reach Kashmir via that circuitous sea route.

 These entrepreneurs say their inability to buy the stuff ahead of Eid season has put their businesses in jeopardy. 

“I started my store both online and offline a year back, we were expecting a good turn over ahead of Eid next month, but most among us are already running out of stock due to LoC trade ban. Those who have some products in the store are about to exhaust putting us in the lurch” says Shafaq Tanveer, the 33-year-old owner of Meraki.

 “If entrepreneurs like us will try to get products via an alternate route, that will eventually hike prices and everyone will be affected,” she says adding that there are many other female entrepreneurs like her who are clueless about what steps are they going to take next to survive in the business.

Not only those who directly deal with these products but those who work to provide logistics like courier services to these entrepreneurs have also got hit.

Fast Beetle, a logistics service run by young entrepreneur duo, says that 50 percent of their partners are associated with LoC trade-related products and the ban has hit them badly.

“Before the LoC trade ban we used to ship around 3,000 products per month across many districts in Kashmir and after the ban was put in place, there is a 50 percent dip in our business,” say 28-year-old, Sheikh Samiullah, founder of Fast Beetle.

“We started our venture only six months back with branches in Srinagar, Ganderbal and Anantnag. We were going to open a new branch in Sopore with extra staff but due to trade ban we had to shelve that plan for time being,” he said.

These young entrepreneurs who get their products via LoC through wholesale traders say the stock available with these traders are now selling it at high rates.

 “The product that I used to buy at Rs 3000 is costing me 3900 and on top of that, I can’t purchase now as there are no stocks left. I used to buy more than 100 products in one purchase, now getting 10 products is a big deal,” said Dawood Shah, who runs ‘Merani’, an offline and online store at Wazir Bagh, Srinagar.

These young entrepreneurs appealed the government for revoke the ban so that they can survive in the business.

Ministry of Home Affairs on April 16 ordered the suspension of cross-LoC trade between India and Pakistan via Jammu and Kashmir following reports of alleged misuse of the trade routes by Pakistan-based elements for the illegal inflow of weapons, narcotics and currency.