While Kashmir continues to be in news for geo-political reasons, what is often overlooked is the rich, unique and diverse traditions across this scenic land. It was with an aim of reviving the local handicraft industry and to help the local artisans that Kashif Ahmed Khan (27) and Muheed Mehraj (23) teamed up with angel investor Ishfaq Mir (38) to start the online portal KashmirBox.com in April 2012.
Remove the middleman
Explaining the state of artisans in Kashmir, Kashif Ahmed Khan says, “Kashmir has been going through a 20-year conflict which has led to a lack of exposure for the artisans. They have been lagging behind also because of a lack of technology at their disposal. At the same time, the middlemen have not been passing on the benefits to the artisans who worked for months on the products.” Before launching the site, Khan and Mehraj visited artisans across the region. They were saddened by their socio-economic conditions and the exploitation by the middlemen. They decided to start KashmirBox.com to bring together Kashmiri artisans, craftsmen and entrepreneurs on a common platform to showcase their skills and create a sustainable livelihood for themselves. They pitched their idea to Mir who agreed to invest in the venture.
The range of products on the website include accessories such as bags, Pashmina shawls and woolen stoles, apparel such as the loose gown Pheran, beauty products and books on Kashmiri agriculture, flora and fauna, history and Sufism. This apart, one can choose from dried fruits, jams, pickles, pulses, spices and Wazwan Royal cuisine, (seven-course meals) to home decor products including copperware wall hangings, bowls and vases, rugs and cushion covers. There are also exquisite walnut wood products and papier mache products for gifting. “We try to highlight different vendors and revive the local handicraft industry. It is also an effort to ensure that Kashmiri products are available to people everywhere. Some of the exclusive products we have on the site are spices, saffron and the Wazwan,” adds Khan. Products are sourced from villages across Kashmir, and 10% of profits are donated to the KashmirBox Foundation, which works towards empowering the artisans.
Log on to www.kashmirbox.com
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