Gazalla Noor Amin
Ziraat Times: Firstly, thank you so much for taking the time for speaking to us. To begin with, please tell us what made you embrace entrepreneurship or business as a livelihood choice?
Dr Gazalla: I was born in a family of bureaucrats and married in a family who were into business. Being doctor by profession, when I saw the business closely I thought it can be an option for me as well. Since agriculture was always close to my heart, I chose to opt for it.
Prior to this, I had heard about aromatic farms, and that was on top of my mind.
I visited RRL (now IIIM) and met Tej Kumar, who was in charge of that farm that time. To kick start my venture, Dr. Abdul Sami Shawl played an important role with regard to technical expertise that was required. That’s how all this started.
Ziraat Times: What are the three things that you think contributed to your success?
The first thing, I would say – persistence. That is the first thing that is one of the factors for success. Not giving up too soon.
For success, you need to have an appropriate business plan and then following it.
Third, don’t be afraid to talk to people or ask for information. Once we know our area very well, we plan things accordingly.
Ziraat Times: What are the challenges that women or girls face in setting up their ventures in Jammu & Kashmir?
Dr Gazalla: Though business challenges are for men and women both in our conflict zone, for females, to separate work from their families or in other words to balance between the two is a challenge. Since every new business needs late hours work, logistics remains an issue.
Finance is also a challenge when it comes to women entrepreneurs. Mostly, financial institutions don’t take them seriously. However, it has been seen that women pay their loans in due course of time and hence there is less number of women defaulters compared to men entrepreneurs.
Ziraat Times: What needs to be done at the societal and governmental levels to overcome these challenges?
Dr Gazalla: Awareness of various schemes should be made so that it becomes easy for women to approach for financial assistance. We don’t have any business chamber for women entrepreneurs in Kashmir.
I have already started an initiative with the name, Women’s Association of Kashmir Entrepreneurs (WAKE) and under this, we will be mentoring other potential women entrepreneurs.
Ziraat Times: Thank you very much, Dr Gazalla. Wish you all the best for your future endeavors.
Dr Gazalla: Thank you.
CEO, Mother Care
Ziraat Times: Dr Zahida, it is a pleasure talking to you. Your story in embracing entrepreneurship and making a mark inspires many people. Tell us, what made you embrace medical entrepreneurship as a livelihood choice?
Dr Zahida: I joined the government sector for just 3 years. I soon realized this was not the place for people who have a dream and want to see their dream fulfilled. The sector posed too many limitations for growth and the infrastructure provided no encouragement or appreciation for creativity or efficiency or decision making. Also as a beginner, I got too disheartened by seeing the corruption and nepotism at every level.
Ziraat Times: Dr Zahida, tell us what are the three things that you think contributed to your success?
Dr Zahida: I would like to list those as P. P. K. Let us explain.
Passion… for preventive and holistic health care especially in women.
Perseverance …to continue the struggle despite so much uncertainty and hostile policies.
Knowledge….continuous struggle to gain knowledge for providing satisfactory service.
Ziraat Times: In a place like Kashmir, women often experience multiple challenges when it comes to starting a work of their own. In your opinion, what are the challenges that women or girls face in setting up their ventures in Jammu & Kashmir?
Dr Zahida: First and foremost, I would say lack of family support. Second is dual job…at work and at home, which leaves her exhausted and fatigued both mentally and physically. This is a major deterrent in her performance & decision making.
Third is gender bias….treated in a different manner by employees, business partners, dealers, various offices and even own family, friends & relations.
Fourth, I would say lack of knowledge about laws and regulations of various concerned departments.
Fifth, financial constraints, indeed – getting soft loans is difficult. Trust deficit in her capabilities to make the project viable. Bank loans difficult…struggles with mortgage issues.
And then there are many others like….
Lack of exposure to working in the private sector.
A woman feels pressurized in making things work …Works under a lot of stress in proving herself and her capabilities.
Then we live in a conservative society …limited fields in which women can venture.
Corruption is a menace … most women are naive to face the corrupt people around. Money is demanded by almost all departments for trivial but genuine jobs.
Domination of the business world by males is a reality…this can be felt in their reactionary behavior. They become more aggressive, more authoritative and more unforgiving and this transforms into their nature and personality.
There are many schemes and benefits that women can avail from banks and welfare departments but there is no awareness about the same among female entrepreneurs.
Moreover, female entrepreneurs in the valley lack marketing skills. They usually shy away from projecting their work and keep downplaying their accomplishments. It comes out of the guilt that society makes her feel as if she has done something for which she was not cut out or which she was not supposed to do.
Entrepreneurship means like raising the project as your baby…absolute commitment. This commitment is not possible for a Kashmiri woman because of the demands put on her by the well-knit society.S he has to devote many of her working hours in maintaining the relationships with family, friends, and neighbors.
Conflict related events like hartals, curfews, protests, stone pelting, killings cause additional stress. The day after day shutdowns causes a lot of loss in business. And if the venture is supported by a bank loan, it can cause serious repercussions in the business outcome as well in stress induced physical health issues. Sometimes it may be difficult to cope.
Ziraat Times: That is quite a detailed analysis and description of the challenges. What, in your opinion, needs to be done at the societal and governmental levels to overcome these challenges?
At government level, I would say, encouragement is possible only if laws are made lenient. Taxes for machines and equipments to the state should be decreased.
Loans should be given on less interests and mortgage issues need to be looked into.
Labor, SMC, Electricity, Revenue departments must be more cordial and helpful instead of being hostile.
Awareness programmes for women entrepreneurs about the schemes for their benefit have to be held more widely.
If a woman entrepreneur is employing people, she has to be given encouragement. Announcing packages as per the number of employees working in her company should be considered as well.
At Societal level, I would say, family has to support. For married women, husbands have to share the responsibility of children.
She has to be given financial support if she needs.
She has to be given the choice of making decisions for her venture.
She has to be respected for what she is doing.
She has to be allowed to travel in connection with her business or studies regarding her business.
Men have to accept females as the owner and boss of their workplaces.
Society has to be fair in dealings with her.
Lastly, I think self-employment is the best thing that can happen to a woman. She can choose her working hours, give enough time to other priorities as well . Needs a good balance and judgement .