By Kriti Sharma
New Delhi [India], Feb 4 (ANI): The brilliance of handcrafted Kashmiri products, which are a manifestation of the sheer dedication, talent and years and years of experience of craftsmen, is now accessible to people around the world, thanks to a rapidly growing online business in the Valley.
Bringing the craft straight from the manufacturers sitting in what is known as ‘Paradise on Earth’, to your doorstep, the rapidly developing technology that has made its way to almost every nook and corner of the word, has given these artisans a platform to showcase the rich culture of Kashmir.
Muheet Mehraj's Kashmir Box, which sells Kashmiri handicraft online, is one such initiative directed towards preserving the rich and cultural heritage of Kashmir.
The start-up brings together more than 10,000 local artisans, craftsmen, producers and creative entrepreneurs of Kashmir and provides them the marketplace to showcase their culturally rich and exquisite artwork to the world.
The Kashmiri e-tailer has everything that one expects from an online shopping portal. From beautifully designed pashmina shawls, phirans, summer kurtis, and kaftans, to some of the signature Kashmiri delicacies, spices, herbs and dried food, to home décor items including paper mache products and walnut wood furniture, the website has all the authentic products that you can only find in Kashmir.
And the best part is- these, with beauty and cultural abundance of Kashmir, are just click away
While it offers much to the customers, the initiative is much more than that. A small percentage of total profit made by the young Kashmirs who run the portal, goes into the Kashmir Box Foundation, which contributes in raising the standard of living of Kashmiri artisans and their families by helping them in their education, marriage and other necessary expenses.
“This is an industry that is on the verge of extinction. Rather than looking at this as an opportunity, I think this is more of a responsibility on us,” Muheet Mehraj, a Kashmiri who co-founded Kashmir Box, told ANI.
‘Modest Attires’ is another initiative that promotes Kashmiri good and has taken the craft of Valley online, including modern tools like Instagram. But unlike Kashmir Box, the products by Modest Attires are in sync with what the today’s generation would want. For example, the website features a variety of doodle print T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, coasters, and badges.
Apart from this trendy collection, Modest Attires also sells some stylish Phirans, but with a twist. Traditionally, Phirans in Kashmir were worn by people after work, at home in the evening. Sighting the casual nature of Phirans, it was not socially acceptable to wear this piece of clothing in a formal setting like schools, work place, college etc.
The creative geniuses behind Modest Attires took this as a challenge and designed more formal looking Phirans inspired by the design of overcoats.
“We made some new changes in the classic design of phirans, so that people can wear it to the office. This concept did not exist before. People used to come back home and wear it. Now, we imported fabric from china and design phirans keeping in mind the new generation. We get a lot of orders too. People here, have started wearing our phirans to schools, colleges and offices,” said Umar Bin Ahmad, founder of ‘Modest attires’.
Majority of their products are Islamic in nature. For instance, their stock includes a fridge magnet that has a woman in burka printed on it, the doodle print reads, ‘Cover up princess or the crown will fall.’ Another example of this can be one of their key chains that read, ‘Potential Muslim.’
When asked if the idea behind these products is to propagate Islam, Ahmad said, “It is not just promoting Islam, it is about promoting peace. Our main target, from the very starting, was to spread the love. We live in Kashmir, which is a Muslim majority area. These quotations that we put on our Instagram page, is to attract Muslims and increase our sale.”
While it might be easy for the customers to sit at home and order these products via the internet, things are not that smooth in the Valley, where availability of internet remains one of the most prominent issues.
“One of the biggest problems here is the availability of internet. People are apprehensive about taking their business online because we don’t if we will get a continuous connection. Sometimes, the government shuts down the internet in the valley and on those days, it becomes difficult to do business. Like the other day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to Srinagar and the internet service was disrupted.”
Ahmad’s first investment in this start-up was his pocket money of Rs 3000, and the website is now one of the most active online shopping portals of Kashmir. Apart from Kashmiri products, Ahmad also imports products from Southeast Asia, which are not easily available in India, like perfumes and food products.
These start-ups have utilised technological advancement, which was initially seen as a curse to traditional handicraft in creating a digital space where craftsmen can sell their products and receive the appreciation they deserve. These online shopping portals are helping Kashmiri artisans to cross boundaries and set up their own place in the wider market. (ANI)
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