Ziraat Times Women’s Day Special
Srinagar: They are two Kashmiri sisters who exemplify resilience, dedication, focus and a strong will to make their ideas work, in the face of big odds.
At a time when Kashmir’s business environment is dogged by hopelessness and a deep reluctance among its people to start new business ventures, an all-women business venture by two girls is setting an example of optimism and excellent business acumen.
On this Women’s Day, as a tribute to these women, we at Ziraat Times feature the spirit behind Raani Spices – a micro enterprise started by Insha Sheikh, bringing to Kashmiri traditional food delights like makkey ki roti (corn breads) and earthen pot curd that few would think was a commercially-viable idea.
“It all began as a small idea of making pickles at our home. Financially, we come from a modest family background, looking for business ideas to increase our income. And then one fine day I was struck with the idea of starting makkey ki roti (traditional corn bread). At home, we two sisters, assisted by our mother, started making these rotis during the last Ramazan. We would lie awake until the sehri time and make rotis and then sleep briefly after eating Sheri meals. By 9 am we would be out delivering the products at retail outlets”, recollects Insha.
As demand for their quality products began, Insha and her sister were joined by one of the former’s friends, who, along with her own sister, offered to be part of their work.
“Initially, I thought not many girls would be inclined to join us, but it was so encouraging as more and more girls joined our team and our supply increased, as did the demand”, Insha said.
Just one year down the line, Insha and her team’s hard work and dedication have paid off. Today, they supply makkey ki roti (corn breads), curd and pickle products to over 45 retail departmental stores and shops across Srinagar.
Even as the poor business climate and the challenging operating environment post August 5, 2019, have dampened sales on bad days, the girls have persisted, and now is a team of 20 workers, including two full-time drivers, who deliver their products to retail outlets.
This success story has left many common Kashmiris and business analysts with pleasant surprise.
“When I first came across their corn bread product I was like wow… who came up with this great idea. We would always crave for these rotis but would rarely get them”, says Iftikhar Ahmed, a devout buyer of Raani products.
Interestingly, Insha Sheikh, the group leader and the brain behind the enterprise, has a bachelor’s degree in physical education and is an avid cricketer.
One of the challenges for Insha and team was the raw material for the most important product of their fledging business. – corn flour.
Corn flour is usually not available in bulk in Kashmir, and is produced in small quantities. We were assisted by our father, who travelled across far-flung villages and helped us create a network of flour suppliers, says Insha.
One of the striking things about this unique initiative is that the girls running the show remain sensitive to health needs of their customers.
For instance, the girls recognize that Kashmiri population has a tendency for higher blood pressure in the current circumstances, and, therefore, they use no salt and oil in their makkey ki roti products.
“We take care of health and hygiene issues of our curd, pickle and masala tikkis (Kashmiri vaer) products. Health of our customers is very important to us” says Insha.
As the girls’ business is fledging, they have now approached the Industries Department to allot them a small piece of land to start a formal unit in an industrial estate.
“We are optimistic that our case will be processed soon so that we are able to meet the growing demand and also provide jobs to more number of people”, says Insha, adding, “we want to show girls and women coming from modest backgrounds in Kashmir that perseverance and hard work can help them secure a dignified living.”