It is not a rags-to-riches fairytale but a rare business success story in the Kashmir context.
While majority of young Kashmiri women with innovative ideas complain about the access to finances to execute them, Sabira Mattoo, 35, belongs to a well-to-do family. So money for starting a business was never an issue.
However, Sabira’s business journey has a late sudden beginning. It was Facebook group for women, which became her inspiration for starting the business of home-made pickle.
“A women’s group running on the Facebook where there are almost 20,000 group members became my motivator. One day, I upload a photograph of my own preparedanchar (pickle) in the group and I got overwhelming response for it. This is where the journey of Panun Anchar started,” says Sabira.
However, Sabira is quick to add that she learned the art of pickle making from her mother-in-law.
“Credit for opening Panun Anchar goes to my mother-in-law from whom I drove my inspiration for pickle making. She taught me different traditional recipes of Kashmir pickle, on which I built further,” says Sabira, who has done MCA from the University of Kashmir.
“In late autumn everyone in Kashmir from villages to towns slice vegetables and pickle them to use in winter,” says Sabira, who lives in Srinagar’s Tengpora area.
In a short span of time Panun Anchar has gained popularity among people as a quality pickle and is recognised as a homemade brand. There is huge demand for different varieties of pickle which Sabira is making. But the Aloo Bukhara variety is the most popular one.
Presently there are six women working under Sabira, such is the demand of Panun Anchar in the market.
“I have roped in six women, they help me in slicing the vegetables because with every passing day our customer base is increasing and we are making variety of pickles like mix vegetable with Aaloo Bukhara, chicken with Aaloo Bukhara, Mutton with Aaloo Bukhara and full Aaloo Bukhara and all is prepared in my kitchen with proper hygiene and without the mixture of any harmful additives.
The demand for this homemade pickle has not only increased within Kashmir but people from outside cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Chandigarh are also asking for its shipments.Panun Anchar has kept also home delivery available within the Srinagar city.
“We sell it online and also receive orders from people who are living outside the state. We have also kept a choice like if somebody from outside state ordered Panun Ancharand if they didn’t like it then we pay them back. We didn’t compromise on the quality of product. We always want to deliver the quality product to the customer and with proper hygiene because at the end of the day, the success of our product lies in the satisfaction of our customer. We also deliver it on leading departmental stores in the city and in coming future it will be available in every district of Kashmir,” said Sabira Mattoo
The success did not come by the ‘stroke of luck’. “I worked very hard on Panun Anchar. Everyday besides my household chores, which include handling my two kids, I mix almost 1 quintal of vegetables for making the pickles. Although I earn from what I do but still the journey has not been a cake walk for me,” says Sabira.
However, Sabira says the success she achieved would not have been possible without the support of her husband and mother-in-law, who were with her through thick and thin.
“Without their support, I don’t think I would have been here, talking about my work. They provided me full support in opening this small venture,” she says.
“When I was growing up, women were considered a liability. I never liked that and want to change it,” she says.
On her future plans, Sabira says, she wants to extend supply of Panun Anchar throughout Kashmir and some prominent cities of the country.
“As of now we have concentrating on the quality of our pickle product and now we are thinking of extend our supplies across Kashmir and other parts of India,” she says.
She signs off saying that a woman has to create her own identity by dedication and hard work only, “otherwise there is no scope for businesswomen in our society”.