Breaking the glass ceiling: Women entrepreneurs in J&K weave their talent through IT
An overwhelming number of women in the Union Territory are shunning their jobs and starting their own ventures
There are women all over on the scene; starting their boutiques, running their restaurants and exploring the male dominated domains like IT.
Though starting a business comes with a lot of risk, women are doing it to nurture their dreams and today we talk to some women who are successfully leading the IT domain which is considered to be a male dominated field in Kashmir.
These women preferred to start their own ventures than waiting for someone to offer them a job. Not only are they successful in their venture, they also provide employment to others in Kashmir. Indian News Network talked to three entrepreneurs who spoke about their journey.
Journey through web solutions:
Asma Yasrib, CEO of Graphic Weave, a web development company, was more into writing, drawing, and poetry when she was young but today is a successful IT businesswoman of Kashmir today.
A student of a convent school, Asma is one amongst the first bloggers of Kashmir, who would write extensively about Kashmir and related things.
Asma moved to Malaysia along with her family when she was in class 9 and did her Masters in Management Information and Systems.
She came back to Kashmir as she felt she needed to go back to her roots.
“I felt Kashmir calling and returned back after spending a major part of my life in Malaysia. After my return I worked with an IT company BQE for five years.”
Though Asma was into a good job, to do something of her own was always on the back of her mind.
So in 2008, she made her first move.
“I rented an office space and got it renovated. I was just about to start when Amarnath Land Row happened and all my hopes were slashed.”
For the next six months, the space was closed and she was paying the rent for nothing.
When political instabilities hindered her way, she left for Mumbai and worked there for some time. And when things began to get back on the track, she took a flight to Srinagar and began chasing her dream once more.
In 2009, she was propelled with passion to get her venture started and went on board with Graphic Weave.
“Graphic Weave was founded in 2009 as a small web design studio in Srinagar.
The primary goal was to use the best technological frameworks and stunning designs to deliver websites, corporate identity, and other creative solutions to people.”
Today, Graphic Weave creates and supports creative work across the globe and offers a wider range of services, including cloud based, high performance and scalable mobile (iOS and Android), web and desktop apps.
“We have clients from Canada, the US, Malaysia, Japan, Azerbaijan, Dubai, Australia and locally”.
Today Asma is full-fledged into developing web and mobile apps.
“I manage a full-stack design and Development Company focused on building cloud based, high performance and scalable mobile (iOS and Android), web and desktop apps. We have over the years developed various apps for web and mobile. Our tech-stack comprises Golang, Node.js, AngularJS, React.js, React Native, Vue.js and more. Our clientele comprises startups and established businesses across the globe including those in the IT sector who like to hire remote managed developers.”
Asma is preferred one among her clients because she and her team always try to be on the forefront by making use of the latest technology.
“Sometimes our clients are surprised when they find us at par in technology with other parts of the world.”
Though it is difficult to run an IT venture in Kashmir due to intermittent internet-related problems, never losing hope is the key belief of life, she says.
“I suffered a great loss during the last lockdown in Kashmir – after abrogation of Article 370 – I wanted to move to Delhi but being a mother I couldn’t do so. I think this is the limitation as a woman that you cannot take your whole family along and move about.”
However, Asma coped up the loss with the projects she got afterwards. She believes in working to the best of her abilities and gives best to her clients.
“I always believe that if you do mediocre work, you can never achieve your goals. You have to give your best, no matter what.”
Writing a new craft on canvas of content development:
Tabish Khan and Benish Nayeem--in their mid-twenties, started their IT venture AdVorld in late 2019 when they were laid off from a US-based IT company two-year back.
“Benish and I used to work together at two places - both IT companies. Within no time we became friends and shared a unique chemistry. When we both lost jobs, we planned to start something of our own,” Tabish maintains.
While discussing their future over the phone, they showed keenness in starting their IT venture.
“We had the experience, we know what works and what not so we thought let’s give it a try.”
They started working on 2G speed and got in touch with the people through LinkedIn.
After months of hard work they finally got a client from Dubai and since then they have been receiving projects from different parts of the world.
“We wanted to focus on digital marketing as that was our forte and we wanted to revolutionize that in Kashmir since the concept is new here. Besides, AdVorld is a freelance content writing company that provides SEO friendly content writing services to the clients which include blog writing, website content writing, editing web content, caption writing, etc. for digital marketing purposes,” Tabish remarks.
Today, they have a team of specialized writers, freelance designers, and graphic artists working with them and a strong team of seven people.
Benish and Tabish feel amazing to be an employer rather than an employee. “We are working for every fraction of a second to provide the best quality services to our clients and we enjoy doing our work. It is a blessing when you have direct communication with your clients and you don’t need to follow anyone’s instructions.”
In the past two years, the duo has expanded their services to social media marketing, website content writing, article writing, blog writing, product reviews and descriptions, technical writing, press release and script writing.
Coming from a media background, Tabish always wanted to create a niche for herself though she knew there are many challenges.
“When I entered the university, one of my professors told us that we should get ready for unemployment because the media industry in Kashmir has little jobs to offer, however, I never wanted to be unemployed. I chose a stream which was new and I knew there would be a lot of opportunities in it. So I opted for online media as a specialization.”
Tabish didn’t go to a typical news writing job but chose a different way. She opted for content writing with an IT company and within no time she was promoted as senior content writer.
It was in the same company she met Benish who was B.Tech in computer sciences and was into technical writing.
After working for over a year in this organization, they together got a job in a US based IT company but couldn’t work for longer due to the post abrogation scenario in Kashmir.
“Some of the staff working in this company were laid off as they wind up business here and left for Delhi. Soon we lost touch with each other due to communication blockade. Nonetheless when the landline was restored I somehow got in touch with Benish and discussed our future course,”Tabish remarks.
And, today they are successfully running their business, however, they think that society needs to be more acceptable towards female IT experts.
“We try our best to provide quality service to our clients but we have few Kashmiri clients who doubt our capabilities being women. There are trust issues about females. Whenever we visit an industrial area to pitch our services we are being asked about a male presence.”
They think that stereotypes are perpetual but it’s the work that matters at the end.
The duo wants to create a work environment worth working for employees.
According to Benish Nayeem, Advorld is very close to her heart because it kept them motivated and acted as a source of their income in harsh situations.
“We are continuously working towards its growth and would definitely want more people to be part of it.”
Moving the mountains through dedication, hard work:
Kaif Mir and Koshiya Saleem had just graduated from the university when they got their first project.
B.Tech in computer sciences, the sisters pulled up their socks to put their education in use and designed the website for a famous food outlet in Kashmir.
The website was live in eight days and was a result of hard work of eight sleepless nights and tiring days.
“I had just gone there for a writing job when I got this project. That moment I really couldn’t fathom that we had got our first project but it was happening in reality,” says Kaif Mir.
There was a dearth of jobs in Kashmir, they knew but in reality they never looked for a job.
“The opportunities came knocking at our doors, once we were done with this project we received much accolades and began to get other projects and that is how we started our IT Company KreativeJhonys,” Kaif adds.
They named the company after their father’s name, who is fondly called by Jhony and used the initial K – from their names.
Initially it was very difficult for the twin sisters to sustain because of the patriarchy in the Kashmir society.
“Kashmiri society is very chauvinistic, people don’t accept that a woman can also do a good job. It took us quite a long time to get used to this fact and it really gave us a hard time as well. In fact, we still face bias, but now we have learnt how to deal with it.”
But it didn’t deter their will power and they continued doing their job and formed a team of three people which includes twin sisters and their one more partner.
When Article 370 was abrogated ‘KreativeJhonys’ were not able to meet the demands of their clientele back in the UK, Canada and Dubai. So it was in those days Kaif decided to move out and resume the work from Delhi.
Today eight people are working with them and they are running their company from Kashmir, Hyderabad and Delhi.
Right now they are working on many projects, including a UK-based event management company, a pharma company and designing local e-commerce apps.
Besides, Kaif works with a Canada-based company as a tech writer and Koshiya is working as a manager at a company in Gurgaon.
The two began working from their university days only and have set an example of how with dedication one can move even the mountains.