March 2016 News

Kashmiri Start-up Aims To Fight Pashmina Fakes

11 March 2016
The Hindu
Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar: A Srinagar-based start-up aims to sell pashmina shawls, woven from rare wool extracted from chiru in the upper reaches of the state, with a geographical indication (GI) mark to help protect new buyers from being cheated into purchasing fakes. Phamb, which is how unprocessed pashmina wool is referred to locally, is the name of the innovative portal run by 25-year-old entrepreneur Junaid Shahdar. 'The USP of the portal is that all pure pashmina products come with GI tags which authenticate the genuineness of the merchant,' Ejaz Ayoub, co-founder of The Silk Route Consulting Group, which mentored Mr.Shahdar, told The Hindu. 'However, innovative products do not come with GI tags.' 'One is amazed to see Baba Ramdev selling Kashmiri saffron. Similarly, many factories are producing Kashmiri products in Punjab. It throws a challenge at us,' he said.The consulting group, set up last year to mentor youngsters in the Valley, has helped Mr. Shahdar to come up with the portal. 'We will have around 200 products online,' said Mr. Shahdar. 'We hope to engage 5,000 local artisans in next three years,' he said. Jammu and Kashmir is battling a high level of unemployment with about 7 lakh educated youth left looking for jobs.The state ranks at number 29 on the 'ease of doing business' indicator according to a World Bank survey, reflecting the lack of government support for new start-ups. 'It's not capital but the mental block like very low risk-taking capacity among entrepreneurs that stops youngsters,' said Mr. Shahdar. 'The start-ups require an incubation centre where youngsters can toy with their ideas with minimum risk factor,' he opined. The Silk Route Consulting Group, which has mentored about 250 prospective business minds in the age group of 18-25, is supporting two more ventures in the dairy products and medicine sectors. 'Our attempt is to share tricks of doing business in a conflict zone,' said Mr. Ayoub, a banker by profession. 'For example, e-shops can function even during curfews and shutdowns.' The militancy in Kashmir is affecting the business dreams of youngsters, according to him. 'Any investment coming to Kashmir valley is scrutinised minutely and its purpose questioned at every step. There is need to have a mechanism to allow free-flow of investment in Kashmir without any fear and hurdles,' said Mr. Ayoub.

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