President, Jammu and Kashmir Hotels and Restaurant Association, Muhammad Showkat Chowdary said that the young aspiring entrepreneurs should focus on sectors which could help Kashmir to cut down on imports to be successful.
Having the distinction of being Kashmir's first entrepreneur, who started his chain of food outlets, heads various trade and tourism associations and has now ventured into the education sector, chairman of Hattrick Group, Showkat Chowdhary understands the pulse of the Valley's business sentiments very well.
In an interview with Greater Kashmir's Special Correspondent Chowdhary said "import substitution is the key to being a successful businessman in Kashmir region given the fact that majority of the supplies in Kashmir come from outside. Even mutton, poultry, milk is being imported. This provides a great opportunity to entrepreneurs, and youngsters who want to venture into business to plug this import gap of dependence."
"Unfortunately, though many people will not like it, I will be blunt to say that most of the entrepreneurs are opening food outlets, my question to them is how many are successful. After every 10 shops, there is a foot outlet or restaurant, which due to lack of planning are shut within a year of their inception which is sad as it discourages others, the only way to beat unemployment in Kashmir is by self-employment. We have to understand this hard fact that there are fewer chances that big business houses will come to Kashmir, it is local businessmen which the government needs to strengthen so that they could further invest and create jobs."
When asked about the business scenario post-COVID in Kashmir, Chowdhary said barring the tourism sector other sectors of our economy are yet to recuperate from the losses they incurred since 2016.
"Even tourism sector is yet to fully recover as tourist influx of few months can't undo what happened to our hospitality sector since 2016, post-2019 was worse."
"Government has not come forward in a way business community of Kashmir was expecting, though we met Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was warm and gave us patient hearing. But on the ground things are yet to change for our business community," Chowdhary said adding that " government should focus on existing investors also.
There are so many schemes being announced for intending investors but what about us who have already invested and are facing problems due to COVID. There has not been a comprehensive package for us benefits of schemes for new investors should be extended to existing investors as they are running the economy."
When asked about the flight of capital Kashmir records through several students going outside J&K for higher studies, Chowdhary said that it is ironic that the government has not come up with any investor-friendly policy to tap its sector.
"Estimated 5000 students go outside J&K for higher studies, who spent crores of rupees if we are given a chance to establish higher education institutes here, we could tap this amount and create huge employment. But unfortunately, the government came up with a policy which is so tough that no Kashmiri investor could fulfil those conditions to establish a higher education institute. Apart from this, the government has also issued several directions which even make running schools difficult for local investors.
Any advice for young entrepreneurs? Government jobs are scarce, they must focus on self-employment which is key to the development and prosperity of any region.
This government has to play an important role of being a facilitator and handhold young entrepreneurs so that they could contribute to the growth of Kashmir's economy.
Our youth are talented and have huge potential, despite the tough business conditions in Kashmir they are succeeding and proving their mettle not only in the valley but across the globe.
Have belief in yourself. Nothing in life comes easy; one has to strive hard to achieve success. In Kashmir, we have limited opportunities, but that doesn't mean our youngsters will stop dreaming.
I always believe that business has a huge opportunity for youngsters, particularly horticulture and livestock sectors. Kashmir if we see most of our daily needs are met by outside supplies, it is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to bridge the gap by import substitution.
Starting poultry, dairy or sheep farms are viable options which have a huge potential.