Jammu & Kashmir’s private business sphere, despite a difficult operating environment, has lately seen the emergence of some very innovative and successful business ventures. What is striking is that some of these ventures are conceived and led by women who are inspiring other young people, especially women and girls, towards entrepreneurship and self-employment business ventures.
Coinciding the celebrations of the International Day for Women, Ziraat Times this week features some of Jammu & Kashmir’s most inspiring business women with their stories of resilience and learning.
Founder Principal of Sir Syed Memorial College of Engineering and Technology
One of the most fascinating stories of vision, determination and resilience in Kashmir is that of Ms. Dilafrose Qazi. Founder of Sir Syed Memorial College of Engineering and Technology, Ms Dilafrose, soon after completing her education, experienced a strong desire of helping educated youngsters of Kashmir to make a mark in self-employment.
Ms. Qazi, who has studied law at the University of Kashmir, started the Srinagar School of Management in 1988, a polytechnic institute, which started courses for women and girls in tailoring, cooking, stitching, shorthand, etc.
To start something for women’s economic empowerment in those days wasn’t easy, given that Kashmir was going through very turbulent times. Ms Dilafrose received threats to close she college, but she did not give up.
Even as the institute she started had to be closed for some time, she rose up again, restarted it and never looked back.
Within a few years, Ms Qazi’s institute had turned into a full-fledged college in the private sector, which offered a three-year diploma course in civil engineering. The college kept fledging, and new courses were introduced.
In 2003, SSM College entered into a strategic partnership with a top private IT education provider of those times – SSI – which helped in offering certified computer education in her college. From there, the college added many features to its cap, shifted to a new and larger campus in Srinagar’s suburbs at Parihaspora, and today the SSM College of Engineering and Technology and its affiliates, has about 4,000 engineering and management students on its rolls.
Speaking to Ziraat Times, Ms Dilafrose, while reflecting back on her astounding journey, said, “It has never been easy. There were hurdles at every step. As a woman I had to face more challenges. The regulatory and social environment were not favourable. Despite these challenges there were many good people to kept to lending support to this vision of creating a world-class private sector engineering college in Kashmir.”
One of the important outcomes of SSM College has been the choice it offered to aspiring engineering students of Kashmir. Those students who otherwise would need to go outside the state and spend large sums of money on their education had a good and affordable option of studying at SSM College of Engineering and Technology.
Ms Dilafrose has taken her vision to outside Kashmir as well. SSM College of Engineering and Technology now has a branch at Gudhrana in Palwal district of Haryana as well.
“Entrepreneurship and self-employment brings with it a lot of dignity, especially for women. They can enjoy the flexibility of time and utilise their creativity. The only thing that they need is the societal support. If the society trusts them, lends them support, avoids stereotypical labels and passing judgements, women can do wonders”, Ms Dilafrose told Ziraat Times.