June 2016 News

A Leap Towards Economic Empowerment

8 June 2016
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Rifat Mohidin

Srinagar: Torn by two decades of political turmoil, young girls in Valley are now stepping outside their homes to live their dreams. The state which has little job opportunities for young professionals is now seeing a trend of young women making their name through their innovative firms. Beenish Bhat, a resident of Baramulla and a mother of two children, is one among them. She set up her own brand 'Panache' in 2012 in the business hub at Maulana Azad Road opposite the Valley's largest women's college. After pursuing her MBA from the University of Kashmir, Beenish wanted to be an employer rather than doing a monotonous job in any company. 'After pursuing my degree, I qualified national eligibility test (NET) but I still felt there is something else I wanted to do, I loved sketching and designing,' says 30-year-old Beenish. 'Panache' has now become a known name among the trendy girls of Kashmir where customised dresses ranging from Rs 2,000 to Rs 25,000 are available. Beenish says that the Valley women are ready to spend a hefty amount to look unique and elegant. 'I feel satisfied when customers are happy with my product. It's never for money only. It just gives you a satisfaction that you are doing something on your own, it gives you a sense of independence,' Beenish adds. 'Earlier, I used to deal with Pakistani stuff but now they are everywhere, I want to have my own contribution to designs,' she adds. The walk towards success is never easy, 'Panache' faced a setback in the 2014 floods. Her store remained inundated for more than 20 days and all stock was damaged. 'I faced losses as the store was not even insured but my husband has always stood by me. He gave me strength towards a new beginning after floods. It was a difficult phase but we were able to stand again,' says Beenish. Two kilometres away from Maulana Azad Road, Mufti Sadia, 23, is busy taking the measurements of a customer. She listens to every minute detail with utmost care so as to create a perfect dress for her customer. Sadia has created her own brand 'Hangers the Closet.' The journey towards coming up with her own designer boutique was never easy for this city girl. But she took all challenges to realise her passion. 'I started with a small store in Lambert Lane to check the response of customers. But in the same year, floods wreaked a havoc in Kashmir submerging my store. It was a moment of depression for me as I had created my customer base in a small space,' says Sadia, who later started her new store inside a well-known shopping mall, Sara City Center. With a masters degree in international business from Indira Gandhi National Open University and bachelors in Mathematics from the University of Kashmir, Sadia was keen on designing from beginning. 'The response has been very good so far, I also believe in improving every day. I like traveling to other states to see the trends and I introduce them here. I also love to promote Kashmiri culture through the traditional clothes giving them a modern look,' says Sadia. 'It is hard work to remain updated, know new trends then choose what will suit in Kashmir. The girls want to look unique, they want a different and modest look. It is challenging but satisfying at the same time,' adds Sadia, who has also employed three more people with her. Sadia looks forward to open a small factory in Kashmir but faces financial difficulties. 'I have really started from a scratch. Though there is a family support, in Kashmir you don't have avenues which provide you financial support from government or any other agency,' she says. Hundreds of girls in Kashmir are taking a lead from inspirations like Beenish and Sadia by taking a step towards their economic empowerment. 'I believe you can take up any challenge if you are financially independent. With free mind and passion you grow as an individual,' says Sadia, who loves giving tips to young girls who aim to come up with their own ideas. 'There are challenges but they are in every profession, all you need is optimism,' Sadia adds with a smile.