An innovative effort by a young Kashmiri entrepreneur to manufacture ‘Namdas’, a kind of mattress or carpets made from wool, has created a new wave of employment opportunity for the fading artists of the valley.
Arifa Jain was born into illiterate, middle-class Kashmiri parents in Srinagar. After graduation in commerce from University of Kashmir, she followed her wish to start a business. While she was working on a college project on declining crafts in Kashmir, an idea struck her which is now transforming lives of valley’s craftsmen.
‘Namdas’ production is one among the many traditional business of Kashmir which once occupied 80% of the exports. However, for the last 20 years, the industry came to a standstill and many artisans began losing their sole livelihood.
Her research project involved the introduction of innovative ideas and market strategies to increase the marketability of Kashmiri Namdas thereby reviving the dying industry. First, she introduced the use of 100% merino wool instead of the local wool to make the carpets. Merino is a sheep breed prized for its high-quality wool. Next, she introduced the use of azo compounds free dyes (a chemical used in dyes to make its vivid colors), which are environmentally friendly as well as not harmful to human. The final step is to create appealing new designs for Namdas to get the attention of the modern consumers.
The concept of design intervention introduced by Arifa is revived a dying art and generated new hope and employment in the community of carpet artists in Kashmir. She says she spent most of her time in front of the laptop designing carpets. All these new concepts bore fruit and the Namdas industry in Kashmir took a U-turn.
The profitable business not only giving her benefits but also revived the situation of the artisans who are now receiving up to Rs 400 a day.
Arifa, however, wishes to get more support from the Government as without their help the project cannot succeed further. She lamented that despite the announcement of the Skill India Initiative from the Government her team still has not received any support from the Government. Arifa and her team need proper support mechanism to excel more and only Government aid can fulfill it.
We desperately need people like Arifa to come forward with such novel initiatives to revive the economic status of Kashmir that may help solve other serious issues. The government needs to give all the necessary support to brave hearts like Arifa to make their dreams successful and revive the Kashmiri youths as a whole.
The post first appeared in KenFolios - Only interesting stories.