During the lockdown, women made the best use of time to demonstrate their capabilities

The Covid-19 pandemic opened a door to new avenues for women and in 2021, Kashmir witnessed a spurt in the growth of women entrepreneurs.

We bring you a few success stories to illustrate this trend.

Contemporary twist keeps tradition alive

Dr Rumana, a gynecologist, would spend days alone in quarantine after her shifts would be over. She would sit alone for hours and one day, after coming back from hospital, the idea of Booyn Breeze came to her mind.

Booyn Breeze was the outcome of an emotion. "One day, a patient of mine gifted me a customized clutch. I fell in love with it for its beauty and intricate work," she recalls.

She shared its picture on her WhatsApp status and groups she was part of and got a couple of orders too. "I connected with those people and got the clutches made, these artisans are not connected with social media and their work often gets overlooked," she explains.

Her cousin Burhan, who is also an entrepreneur, then suggested an Instagram page and it was named Booyn Breeze.

Dr Rumana has contemporised the traditional designs and presented them in a different way. The idea, she says, is only to bring the local artisans forward. Booyn Breeze only runs on the concept of hand work. "We don't use machines, though that’s cheaper but then local artisans suffer," she points out.

The list of customized products includes pencil pouches, clutches, tiffin bags, mini slings etc.

"We have different categories. Like for kids, we have customized pencil pouches, kurta pajamas for both boys and girls. On Eid, we created mini slings for kids and called them Eidi slings… for this our youngest customer was one month old,” she says.

Then there are gifts for birthdays and anniversaries where customized messages are embroidered combined with some symbols.

Dr Romana says that they are venturing into new areas like customized doctor aprons, theater aprons and working with scrub suits, kitchen and baking aprons.

They have also started making wedding items and plan to venture into room decors.

"One thing we make sure of is that we never compromise on quality. We use the best products be it simple thread or tilla -- everything is genuine," she points out. Since the work is authentic, an order takes two to three weeks to get ready.

In the future, Dr Rumana is planning to have an outlet where she can sell these customized products. She is also planning to get an export license.

Cooking her way to recognition

Saba Altaf, 37, had a lot of time to dedicate to her cooking when the lockdown was announced. Every day, she would come up with a sumptuous dish and her husband would love it.

For every dish she would prepare, Saba would click a picture just as a memory.

Going through her photo gallery one day, her husband suggested that she start an Instagram page and upload all those pictures.

"So it was then that my Instagram page, delights_ by_Saba, came into existence and the rest is history," she recalls.

Settled in Saudi Arabia, Saba had many non-Kashmiri friends who would insist that she send them the recipes.

She had no idea that her passion for cooking would make her delicacies most sought after in Kashmir.

Everybody in Saba's family is very fond of chocolate dates and she would get huge requests to bring them along when she was back home.

When she came back in November 2020, she didn't get a huge stock of dates along, but given the demands of her close ones, Saba decided to prepare them herself.

She also uploaded her first preparation on her Instagram page with a caption, 'coming soon'. A lot of 'when requests' poured in from her circle.

"I decided to give it a try since I was on vacation and had ample time on my side. I went to the market and got the raw material."

The day her first batch of chocolate dates was ready, Saba got some boxes and sent a few to her relatives and a few to Instagram influencers and food enthusiasts.

"The response was so overwhelming that the moment they had tasted the dates, they uploaded it as their Instagram story and from that moment I began to receive the orders," says Saba.

From orders of one or two kilograms of dates in a day, Saba has gone to seven kilograms per day.

"I no longer make boxes but big baskets, that's the kind of response I received!" Saba exclaims.

Saba has also introduced home-made customized chocolates, truffles, doughnuts, tarts and customized baskets. She gets orders for anniversaries, birthdays and weddings.

From procuring raw material to preparing the delicacies, Saba has been doing it all by herself. However, given the frequency and quantity of orders, she feels that she now requires to employ someone.

On an average, she gets four to five orders in a week. The price range starts from Rs 160 and can go up to Rs 10,000.

Saba, a mother of two, says that she has never compromised with her priorities in life. "I manage my kids, fulfil all social commitments, take care of other members of my family, do the groceries and everything as a responsible woman.

A post-graduate in Sociology, she is planning to open a physical store soon in Srinagar so that people can have a one stop shop for all their orders.

"I have a constant push behind my back, my husband, who repeatedly asks me to see a place and go ahead. I'm thankful for his support and cooperation."

Entrepreneurship shows the way

Masarat Farooq from Eidgah, Srinagar recently became the youngest woman entrepreneur from the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Farooq is running her home tuition service and the network is spread over the length and breadth of Kashmir.

"It gives me an immense pleasure to share my journey from an unknown, ordinary learner to a known and recognised figure and as a founder of smart classes home tutions. I believe an educator must be a person who is adequately skilled as well as trained in theory and practice of Education," she explains.

Her journey of smart classes home tuition actually started during the strict Covid-19 lockdown.

"I felt that we can overcome all losses but academic loss cannot be compensated, precious time of schooling cannot be returned back to children. That is when the thought of smart classes home tuition came to my mind and I instantly started this endeavor," she explains.

Farooq started with just three students in Srinagar and hired few other people from different areas of the city.

"I along with my dedicated team worked day in and day out to compensate for the academic loss and fortunately we were encouraged and appreciated."

Farooq received an overwhelming response from the parents, society and her students. All this acted as a motivational factor for her and made her belief in herself more firm.

"After this, I spread my operations and I am extending my smart classes home tuition network in different parts of other districts as well," she says.

At present, about 300 students are enrolled with smart classes. "Three of our students secured more than 99% in board exams and it means a lot," she says proudly.

"I am looking forward to giving new heights to our smart classes by providing innovative, quality and career oriented education. We have hired highly qualified, trained and energetic tutors who are training students academically and also shaping their lives, ensuring emotional and psychological health and welfare," she points out.