38-year-old Nusrat Jahan Ara lives in Dadoora village in Kashmir's Pulwama district. In 2010, the computer graduate quit her government job to start her own small enterprise. She started growing flowers in the backyard of her ancestral home and selling them. Today, she is not just running a successful company selling flowers, but also rejuvenating the floriculture sector in the valley.
Starting up was difficult; Nusrat had no investors or support. She poured all her savings into starting her own small enterprise. "In Kashmir, unlike having a parlour or a boutique, if a woman wants to start a business in an area like floriculture or agriculture, she is looked down upon and no one is ready to help you, not even the government," she told Firstpost.
However, once Nusrat witnessed the great demand of flowers grown in Kashmir, she decided to never look back. From working with her vendors on a credit basis to taking bank loans, Nusrat left no stone unturned and grew at a steady pace. Today, she owns three flower farms and a retail outlet. Her company, Petals and Ferns, currently employs 20 people and has an annual turnover of Rs 2 crore.
Nusrat also runs Kashmir Essence, a brand of personal care and home care products under a company called Himalayan Agro Farms. Kashmir Essence intends to rejuvenate traditional Kashmiri products like saffron, almond, cherry, walnut, apple, olive, apricot, etc, while employing local people from the valley, especially women.
“Our handmade personal care and home care products will cover a wide range from body butters and soaps to jams and herbal tea. All formulations are based on locally available ingredients, either cultivated by local farmers or grown in forest areas. These fruits, flowers, herbs, and essential oils are then transformed using centuries-old principles of Ayurveda and ethno-botany, all the while keeping the percentage of botanical ingredients to at least 90 percent of the total weight of each product," Nusrat told Daily Excelsior.