June 2017 News

Meet Zufa Iqbal - Young Kashmiri Innovator Empowering The Namda Artisans

7 June 2017
Rising Kashmir
Peer Viqar Ul Aslam

Srinagar: Meet Zufa Iqbal - Young Kashmiri Innovator empowering the Namda Artisans Namda rolling machine can be powered solely by a person operating on hands-free mode, this millennial innovation is making headlines across the world, invented by a young Kashmiri girl Zufa Iqbal from Lal Bazar, Srinagar. Zufa Iqbal (18), student of Presentation convent started working on the project when she was just 16 years old, silencing the critics after her prototype was patented and she was felicitated with the prestigious Dr APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE award in 2016. 'Initially the artisans were skeptical and they said nothing is going to help the dying Namda craft, they had simply given up,' explains Zufa She tried to convince the artisans that her machine will increase the productivity but they were doubtful until one day the machine started to roll with the capability to produce at least 30 Namda carpets a day, in comparison to the manually crafted one carpet a day. Namda rolling machine is self-sustaining smart work boots using the suspension and different mechanics to massage and roll the wool to and forth making it possible to electrically boost the production from one Namda carpet a day to about 30 in just 12 hours, cost-effective and retaining the highest quality Namda carpets. Zufa believes that we are not less than Newton or Einstein, it is just the determination and right exposure to knowledge that will lead to great innovations. Considering the cost of the end product, she suggests making the machine out of plastic to make it cost-effective for the Namda artisans. The estimated cost per installation is about 1 lakh but if she is successful in implantation the plastic built the cost will be slashed to half. 'My prime objective was to do something for the artisans and the Namda craft which has been dying the slow death, Namda has cultural significance and I dearly eflt for it. I wanted to restore it to its glory, after I saw the sullen faces of the artisans.' What started as a mechanical engineering design project at Kashmir University's Gyaan cell has turned into a National project for restoration of the Namda craft. Namda rolling machine is still in the pilot stage. Zufa has sustained the machine manufacturing cost on her own without any financial help from the government. 'When I first started to receive recognition and awards for my project, I was ery happy but I wasn't sure how to respond then. Now I feel it is not just about me but those numerous innovators who cannot succeed in their project unless the government plays an active role, I think it is time government steps in and helps the innovators of the state.' added Zufa. Proof of Concept to Production: At Gyaan cell, Zufa and her classmates were to pitch their ideas and she was suggested to make something that will help the local populace. 'I wanted to do something out of box but there I was influenced that it is not about the innovator but the innovation that does public good' she explains. By making the Namda rolling machine, the artisans could increase the productivity ten folds easily thus empowering the artisans and avoiding the death of this craft by restoring it past glory, Namda carpets were widely used in Kashmir because of its cultural and traditional significance. Low wages and absence of supporting schemes has forced the artisans to quit the generations old craft. Zufa's project became a Kickstarter project to enable craftsmen to speed up the Namda carpet production and avoiding the lengthy worrisome process involved in the craft. Modernizing the traditional crafts does not go well always but in case of Namda it is very essential to meet the market demand and design requirements. The machine takes almost seven to eight minutes to make a simple Namda. The washing and designing process is also finished within 15-20 minutes. Zufa plans to refine her innovation and commercialize it as a cost- and time-efficient machine. Zufa had been in touch with the crafts men actively taking feedback and suggestions from them to make the machine more user friendly and understand the requirements properly, this active communiqué with artisans has made the innovations highly reliable. The Recognition at National and International Levels: Reaching its goal, Namda machine was patented after Zufa was award the IGNITE award in 2016. A class 12th standard student of Presentation Convent School Srinagar, Zufa Iqbal was one among 30 people shortlisted out of the 55,000 applicants from 458 districts of the country. The award was presented to her by President Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi. 'I received a call last year, that I have been selected for the award it was a proud moment, but for me more than the awards are my family, the people of Kashmir and my teachers who always believed in me and gave me so much love for the little I have been able to achieve.' said Zufa Zufa was among the 60 selected candidates for the Japan tour, and she has been part of many projects and conferences across the country. Zufa Proud Father, Sheikh Iqbal said, 'She was always hard working and kept keen interest in understanding how things work, I'm very proud of her and I think not just my daughter but all Kashmiri boys or girls are very talented. They just need the support of the government and I believe sky is the limit for them.'