Women and startups thrive after Indian Kashmir eases internet shutdowns | News | Eco-Business
The Kashmir Valley drew more than 16 million tourists to its snow-capped mountains and lush views this year, the highest number since British colonial rule ended in 1947, after Covid-19 travel restrictions were eased and the security situation improved.
But unemployment remains a challenge due to the lack of private industry, with its unemployment rate hits 24 percenttriple the national average, data from the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy think tank showed.
Emerging investors and entrepreneurs say the mountainous region presents challenges, but also potential for development and growth, especially now that Internet connections have improved.
“Startups are emerging from Hyderabad and Bangalore, but identifying problems in the Himalayan belt and solving them requires a great deal of courage,” said Syed Faaiz Qadri, 25, co-founder of Zarin food logistics company.
The company works with farmers to supply Kashmiri rainbow trout to restaurants and e-commerce platforms across India. They have faced difficulties ranging from encounters with militants to a lack of cold storage supplies needed to keep their food fresh.
Restoring the internet meant Zarin’s founders were able to use a Covid-19 lockdown last year to find and sign up new customers, and they were ready with their first orders when travel restrictions were lifted.
Both companies and funders say new businesses can benefit residents by creating jobs, finding new markets for their products and enabling growth in the conflict-affected region.
Some Internet-based companies found ways to navigate the patchy network in the mountains.
FastBeetle, which serves more than 1,200 businesses, including many run by women who sell products online, found that poor data connections meant couriers couldn’t look up addresses and often returned to the office with undelivered packages.
The founders went from 4G to 2G to operate the app, which now works even without internet.
“We are making money with an Internet-based company in a region where the Internet is patchy,” Samiullah said.
“People now believe that they too can attract investment if we could.”
While most start-up funding still goes to companies in big cities, government incentives and private capital can help correct “skewed investment dynamics,” said Anuj Sharma, founder of ALSiSAR Impact, a Startup incubator in Mumbai.
“The community is very responsive to these start-ups,” said Vishal Ray of the Jammu and Kashmir Institute of Entrepreneurship Development, a body set up by the regional government to support start-ups and entrepreneurs.
“They buy and promote these brands, there is a great affinity,” he said.
Improved internet connectivity has also offered a boost to content creators, including women.
Syed Areej Safvi, 27, has been hailed as the first female performer of ladishah, a traditional Kashmiri musical form of storytelling.
“Being a female content creator is still considered taboo in a conservative society like Kashmir,” said Safvi, whose income comes largely from her video content.
He recorded his first ladishah amid an internet outage in 2019, describing the situation in Kashmir, and quickly gained a following as internet restrictions were relaxed.
Today he has more than 69,000 followers. On Instagramand some 72,000 subscribers to it. Youtube channel.
India’s 637 million (and rising) smartphone users are driving a growing market for online content, according to a report by the venture capital fund Kalaari Capital.
There are an estimated 80 million creators in the country, including 50,000 professional creators on regional video platforms. However, only a small minority earn a good income from their work, he said.
Despite the limited opportunities and uncertain environment, better internet access has been a great equalizer for women, Safvi said.
“Internet access has helped me grow my audience and experiment with different income opportunities online,” he said.
“Help all Kashmiri women break patriarchal barriers, overcome taboos and become self-sufficient.”
This story was published with permission from Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charity arm of Thomson Reuters, covering humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. To visit https://www.context.news/.