[Startup Bharat] From handwoven pashmina to carpets, this Srinagar-based D2C startup aims to promote Kashmir’s handloom globally
Jammu and Kashmir is known for its unique pashmina shawls, hand-knotted carpets, and other regional handicrafts. According to the Bureau of Indian Standards, the Indian pashmina industry is worth Rs 2,000 crore.
However, as per data shared by the Department of Handicrafts, the country saw over 45 percent decline in exports of these shawls in the last three years — from Rs 305.90 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 172.53 crore in 2020-21.
Multiplefaceted challenges, including machine-made fabrics and rugs made in Iran, China, etc., with cheaper silk and quality synthetic substitutes, have resulted in this regional handloom losing out much of the export market.
“We are overcoming these challenges by educating our consumers about the true value of a genuine handcrafted Kashmiri pashmina or an oriental silk rug. Gradually, our customers are recognising the value in handcrafted products,” Mir Mubasher Hameedi, Co-founder, All Things Kashmir, tells YourStory.
Founded by Mubasher and Zahoor Hassan Mir in February 2021, the Srinagar-based Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) startup aims to become the one-stop shop for original high-grade pashmina shawls, hand-knotted carpets, scarves, spices, and other state handicrafts.
“Our love and admiration for timeless and classic Kashmir handicrafts have encouraged us to support the artisans, who work hard to bring each product to life, incorporating their personal experiences to the best,” Zahoor says.
What it solves
The idea fororiginated when one of the co-founders wanted to gift a hand-woven Kashmir pashmina, considering its aesthetic value. However, to his surprise, the products available online or in local stores were at best rip-offs of the original handloom.
“Some were not pashmina but sold in the name of pashmina. While some were cheap imitations, some were original pashminas but had the same run-down designs and colour patterns. And others were sold at exorbitant prices. The frustration resulted in deeper insight and research on the subject,” Zahoor adds.
The startup tackles four key challenges — issues with the product authenticity, price versus quality, lack of design innovation, and limited artisan welfare.
ATK claims to make the world’s finest handwoven pashmina and hand embroideries on manual looms with the trademark fluffiness, luxurious feel, and longevity.
With its ‘One Hand One Design’ protocol, ATK ensures each piece is embroidered by only one master embroiderer. Its hand-knotted rugs are made on silk warp and weft with silk knots and can be used for coffee tables and in bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, and large spaces, like offices.
“At All Things Kashmir, you’re not only assured of a genuine product, but each product comes with a certificate of authenticity. We are also working on price standardisation viz-a-viz quality. We are focusing on making only the finest fabled pashmina and carpets Kashmir is historically known for,” Zahoor says.
ATK’s pashmina shawls are priced between Rs 9,000 and Rs 4 lakh, while its carpets cost anywhere between Rs 1.3 lakh and Rs 15 lakh.
The startup plans to collaborate with renowned designers from Paris, Milan, and Copenhagen to cater to the growing high fashion sense in India. “We plan to transfer these skills to our artisans, thereby enhancing their capabilities to be on par with global fashion trends,” he adds.
With a Master’s in Development Studies from the University of Leeds, UK, Mubasher has worked across diverse sectors, such as automotive, internet technology, consumer tech, ecommerce, and non-profit. He has led campaigns for some of the iconic brands, including Lamborghini, Volkswagen, Bentley, ŠKODA, and Google, among several others.
An MBA graduate from the University of Kashmir, Zahoor’s passion for Kashmiri crafts stems from his family.
“Through the 19th century right until the 1960s, our family owned hundreds of looms, mostly placed in the mills around our ancestral home in the heart of old town Srinagar,” he says.
At present, All Things Kashmir has a team of 15 members, including designers, logistics, marketing and communications, and a tech team.
The way ahead
Bootstrapped with Rs 70,000, ATK’s business model allows it to grow without any outside dependency and manage resources sustainably. However, the co-founders are open to collaborating with like-minded individuals and businesses who share their passion and vision for sustained growth.
Presently selling only on its website, ATK’s target audience is primarily women between 30-50 years old — those with a liking for finesse, elegance, and something truly unique.
According to Mubasher, ATK saw higher sales in 2021. “With the first product line launched in September 2021 completely sold off and sales growth surpassing our expectations, we believe we are on the right track,” he says.
While ATK receives orders from pan-India, most of its sales come from the northern and western parts of the country.
The startup aims to achieve 3X sales in the current fiscal year, setting the revenue target to Rs 5 crore. “But, given the progress we have made so far, we hope to surpass it,” Mubasher adds.
At present, ATK is in the process of collaborating with the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, as it plans to enter the UK market in the second quarter of 2022.
In fact, it aims to enter the Nordic region by the fourth quarter as it considers Europe one of its important markets.
Ironically, although Kashmiri crafts have existed for seven centuries, there is not a single noteworthy domestic or global brand exclusively popular for pashmina or oriental carpets from the state.
“Our biggest challenge and opportunity is to become the brand anyone anywhere in the world thinks of when they wish to buy an original high-grade handwoven pashmina shawl or a hand-knotted carpet, or any of the Kashmiri crafts. It may take some time, but we are willing to put in the required efforts and educate people,” Mubasher says.
Nonetheless, ATK sees competition from countries like Nepal, Mongolia, and China, which pass off local pashmina as Kashmiri pashmina shawls.