Crocheting duo’s mission revival
'Taking huge sum of money from the bank, hiring some people and sitting in an air conditioned office and directing people, and calling themselves as entrepreneurs.' This is not the idea of entrepreneurship for two young women: Binish and Omaira, the proud owners of Craft World Kashmir. Rather they like to work with their own hands to create their own brand.
In conversation with Endeavour, these two young girls talk about how they are trying to revive a traditional art form of Kashmir and are striving hard for its global recognition.
"Till now we have heard of Pakistani style, but now we want to introduce this as Kashmiri style," opine Omaira and Binsih who didn't run after government jobs or civil services, in turn they made their hobby into a full time profession.
After completing their masters they both worked for a while in private sector but that wasn't what they had in mind. They wanted a more flexible, creative and above all recognition for what they do.
These girls had an inclination towards art and craft and hence they decided to take it and experiment with it, initially they had this inhibition that their work won't be taken up seriously.
"I used to knit for my relatives, family and there I got the idea that it can be one on a larger scale with some twist," says Binish Bashir, 29 from Chanapora.
Binish Bashir and OmairaQayoom made their 6 year long friendship into a partnership in Craft World Kashmir- An online ordering shop of crochet bootees, key chains, rubber bands, wall hangings, suits and bridal packages.
They knit wool or other material with the help of a special needle or technique called Crochet. The art form believed to be brought by English in Kashmir, Crochet was in use earlier as well. People used to knit dressing table cloth, or mufflers and other items but lately this crochet designing was fading away from Kashmir and these two girls decided to bring it back with a twist.
Last year in October 2015, Binish had too many orders pouring in, so she insisted Omaira to join her. That is where this journey began.
"It's all handmade stuff from a single stitch to painting a wall, we do everything ourselves," says Omaira proudly pointing out at the wall hanging in their room.
They have painted this wall in black and orange showing a tree with birds, it has changed the look of the room. These two girls work in the school in the day and after returning back they start crafting separately at their home.
"We take orders and divide our work, she does the first half and I do the rest," says Binish.
While we are talking,Binish takes a soft woolen, cream, bag out of her belongings and starts to knit it without even looking at it, she seems very confident and believes that regular practicing refines one's work.
"We have not been trained anywhere, we learn new styles and designs from internet and we also work as per demand,"says Omaira.
The initial orders were mostly restricted to friends and family but now they have got customers from many places.
"We recently got an order of bookmarks from Bangalore, we posted it to him and the customer seemed very happy," says Binish.
Craft World Kashmir will be a year old this September and it has already made a name for itself. It doesn't run in an office, with a number of workers or a big set up, instead it runs through orders and social networking like Facebook and Instagram.
"We made a Facebook and Instagram page and uploaded our work, and it did get some good comments and response in the first week. This kind of encouragement helped us, and it increased our influx of orders," says Omaira.
Both these girls have invested their own money to buy material and complete orders but when people came to know about them the number of orders is flowing in and they think that they aren't sufficient enough to meet the demands of the people.
"Earlier we used to earn Rs3000 per month and that we used to buy stuff for the next order but now there are so many orders, we feel that we two aren't sufficient to meet the growing demands," says Binish.
In the recent past they designed the first floral jewelry for a bride in Kashmir and the response was huge.
"Brides in Kashmir are made to wear heavy pieces of gold and silver, we tried to make it different and elegant. We made a full floral- bridal set and the bride looked stunning in it and the guests were like, Ah! What is it? It was first of its kind and from that day we got more orders of floral jewelry," says Omaira.
They believe that the new generation is ready to experiment with things, they are willing to give new things a try and they are making it available for them.
"Young people are always ready to experiment and so are we, we try to incorporate new things in the traditional one and present it to them and they love it," Omaira.
As people love their experiments, the orders of accessories and things like that are pouring in bulk.
"Right now we work as per orders, like bootees, pins, bangles. People are keen to know what's new. Delay is on our side, we aren't able to maintain the order influx due to lack of time, workers and capital," Binish.
Binish lays her work on the table and explains these pretty, little, colorful things, while she is arranging the things Omaira takes her phone and with an air of excitement and shows the rest of things designed by them.
They cater to a wide range of customers from children to girls and recently they have started bookmarks as well.
"We don't want to restrict ourselves to accessories only, that is why we are adding new things to the list like bookmarks, wall hanging, pot paintings, rubber painting on Kurtis," adds Binish.
What about the availability of raw material Omaira?
"The raw material which we use is not available in Kashmir so we buy it from either Delhi or Lucknow. Once a market is developed raw material will be available here only but till then we have to buy it from outside the state. It is always expensive to buy there but we don't have any other option as far now."
People are encouraging their efforts, which has uplifted their morale. "Comments and positive feedback from the customers makes us work even more harder, sometimes we wake all night to complete the orders. We don't sell average things, we put all our efforts to make the piece perfect and maintaining that kind of quality throughout is the real challenge,"says Binish.
Looking at the flow of orders this duo is planning to expand their business to meet the growing demand.
"Now we want to train more people and expand our business, first it will be increase in the production and second it will meet the demand," believesBinish.
"We are trying to expand our business by adding more number of people, which will mean more number of orders. We want to train girls and come up with new things like baby cocoons, kurtis , and much more," says Omaira.
Talking about their family support both the girls seemed content and happy with the response.
"My Mother is so proud that whosoever visits our home she takes them to my room and shows them that wall painting I made sometime ago, that is the biggest inspiration for me," says Omaira with a big smile on her face.
"We have a lot of things in mind but due to paucity of time and at times capital we leave those ideas aside, else we would have added more things to our basket," saysBinish.