If we look at the history, ‘Kashmiriyat’ may mean different things at different times but from a regional perspective, the word ‘Kashmiriyat’ denotes communal harmony and multiculturalism/syncretism.
Kashmir Box: Taking Kashmiriyat and Kashmiri Ethos to the World
Kashmir Valley with a history of religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism has a significant religious, ethnic and cultural diversity. And, ‘Kashmiriyat’ emphasises on this unique shared culture. It demonstrates the joint culture, festivals, language, cuisine and clothing in the valley making Kashmir a rich heritage. And with the presence of start-ups like Kashmir Box, the rich traditional heritage of Kashmir is even more prominent in the local and global market.
Muheet Mehraj (CEO) Co-founded ‘Kashmir Box’ in 2011 along with his friend Kashif Khan who later moved out to start his own venture. It was the first start-up in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to provide an e-commerce platform to sell ethnic Kashmiri products online even though the products were in demand worldwide for a long time. Muheet started the venture with an aim to improve the lives of local artisans, create a global market for them and to contribute to society by improving the lives of thousands of local craftsmen/artisans.
Kashmir Box improved the standard of living of its talented artisans/native citizens. The startup helped them to expand their business and earn a stable income for their families. Local craftsmen/artisans learnt to adapt the technology to survive and thrive. With the digital/online facility, they got an opportunity to upgrade their skills by understanding customer demands and learning new/trending designs. The number of orders received increased thus, providing an opportunity to earn more money. The e-commerce eliminated the middleman and reduced the dependency of artisans on local retailers which at times meant delay in payments. The startup increased the significance of art and craft and showed the true value to the craftsmen of their skill.
With intermittent internet issues, the pace in Kashmir for online business was slow. Kashmir Box faced it all – devastating flood situation in 2014, extended curfews in 2016 and the multiple internet shutdowns since 2017. But, still managed to retain its customer base. In 2018, the start-up received investments from a group of angel investors of undisclosed amount.
Inspired by the Kashmir box, new start-ups like ‘Kashmir Market’ came into existence to support Kashmiri artisans and secure the duplicate products in the market. Another e-commerce platform, ‘Kashmir Villa’ started the business to aid customers interested in buying the Kashmiri designed products but avoid coming to Kashmir Valley due to its law and order issues. These start-ups through their websites helped the local artisans to do their business from the comfort of their living rooms.
To make a social impact, Kashmir Box through its ‘Kashmir Box Foundation’ collects a small percentage of its total profit to support the artisans in their education, marriage and other expenses. The startup is determined to spread the rich Kashmiri art, craft and other local products like saffron, cashmere, pashmina garments to reach places. Along with the online platform, it expanded its business into brick and mortar stores to create a bigger market in India and worldwide. Thus, taking ‘Kashmiriyat’ and Kashmiri ethos to the world.
Kashmir Box is determined to spread the rich Kashmiri art, craft and other local products like saffron, cashmere, pashmina garments to reach places and create a bigger market in India and worldwide. Thus, taking ‘Kashmiriyat’ and Kashmiri ethos to the world.
What’s in it for me?
New Start-ups can learn from the success story of the Kashmir Box. Don’t give up on your dream until you succeed!
Kashmiri handicrafts and handlooms are famous in domestic and international markets and are a major contributors in the J&K’s and India’s economy. If you are passionate about just ‘Kashmir Box’ it’s the right time to take the plunge or expand the venture into the handicrafts and handlooms business through the ecommerce platform. As per the latest update, the J&K government is keen to aid the artisans by providing them the marketing support and publicity. The department of handicrafts and handloom is in the process to shortlist social media agencies to take up the task of world famous Handicrafts of Kashmir.