It is a hard-fact that Internet services in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) work intermittently due to the obvious unfavourable conditions caused as a result of anti-social activities. After all, national security comes first. So, does this mean it will stop the technology growth of local start-ups in the state? Definitely not.
Turning dreams into reality – A ‘Start-up’ thought
People have not stopped dreaming to provide solutions to society either by the use of technology or without it. They are bringing in their ideas and turning them into a reality, a venture. Start-up India initiative certainly supports the dream of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ so do the young energetic minds by looking for an alternative to poor internet services. Something which is difficult but not impossible.
With the availability of broadband services, the projects can still be carried out. However, in the era where mobile usage brings most of the business, the growth of a start-up can slightly be delayed. People in the state may feel they are missing out on opportunities due to the 2G mobile internet services whereas 5G technology is used worldwide. 2G internet services or internet services shut down absolutely seems unbearable. However, the usage of broadband services was still a relief in areas like Jammu. For entrepreneurs, it impacts the clientele. Thus, entrepreneurs may have to look for alternate options for reaching out to customers.
J&K Start-up Policy, Start-ups and Internet
The J&K start-up policy 2018 covers the two Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh. Despite the benefits as per the policy, getting funding from investors can be a big issue due to its volatile environment. Investors for new start-ups is a challenge as compared to established small businesses due to their track record. Thus, new innovators and inexperienced entrepreneurs are at loss. In fact, inside investments in J&K and Ladakh have been low.
Abrogation of Article 370 led to the formation of the state into two Union Territories i.e. Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. And as a preventive measure, the government imposed curfew in the region and shut down the internet services with access to broadband services only in Jammu. In Kashmir, both services were completely shut down till January 2020.
Despite all odds, some start-ups are still running and providing employment to locals (start-ups manufacturing Pashmina and retailing Kashmiri products, organising tours and providing online food delivery). Some of the known examples are Parsa’s, Jos&Fine, Kashmir Box, Go Kash Adventures, Fastbeetle, ElanMart, efruitmandi, TravelersDost, etc.
The small scale and cottage industry sector of Ladakh has untapped potential to generate employment for youth and significant monetary gains.
Start-ups in Ladakh: What’s in it for me?
To boost the ‘Start-up India’ campaign in Ladakh, a seminar by the Department of Industries and Invest India (Government of India agency) was held in Leh in December 2020 with the participation of more than a hundred aspiring entrepreneurs. The seminar discussed the high potential of industrial development with improved power supply and internet connectivity in the region.
The small scale and cottage industry sector of Ladakh has untapped potential to generate employment for youth and significant monetary gains. There are a variety of resources like apricots, pashmina wool and highly skilled craftsmen available but lack of entrepreneurship among the local population is impacting their ability to experiment.
Infrastructure and technology issues, and Ladakh’s physical conditions like high altitude, cold climate, vast geographical area and inaccessibility are other serious problems that are impacting the businesses to boom in the region. Despite these issues, there are few start-ups booming like Looms of Ladakh, Nomadic Woollen Mills and Pashmina Goat Project dealing in cashmere and pashmina businesses.
Though being thinly populated (5 persons per square kilometres), the region has abundant land and natural resources available. Thus, it holds great potential to nurture start-ups and innovation ideas. It is the vision and mission of the state government to create and develop a conducive start-up ecosystem by 2025 through competitive engagements, partnerships, disbursement of incentives and promotion of innovative ideas.