[Startup Bharat] From foodtech to ecommerce, these five startups from Kashmir are fostering innovation
From manufacturing pashmina and retailing Kashmiri products to providing online food delivery service and promoting artisans, these startups are creating employment opportunities as well as boosting the economy in the Valley.
Kashmir is a land of unimaginable beauty. One of the top tourist destinations of India, it is also well known for its handicrafts and handlooms like pashmina shawls, carpets, rugs, scarves, as well as exotic spices and colorful tulips.
But Jammu and Kashmir is plagued by some fundamental problems like political instability, adverse climatic conditions, low technological adoption, unemployment, and sometimes, zero internet connectivity. Hence, tech-based innovation seems like a far-off dream.
Despite this, the Valley is home to several startups and entrepreneurs who have come up with innovative ideas to create opportunities for the masses.
With an aim to facilitate and nurture the growth of startups in the state, the Jammu and Kashmir government launched its first startup policy in September 2018.
YourStory lists a few startups that are keeping innovation alive in the Valley.
Founded in 2020 by Jibran Gulzar,is a foodtech startup that began with the most basic one — how to build a food delivery platform on a 2G network?
“We talked to hundreds of developers to make a food delivery app work on 2G. We were trying to pull something out of the impossible. Very few startups in the Valley last more than a year,” said Jibran in an earlier interaction with YourStory.
Gatoes is primarily an app-based food delivery platform, which has tied up with over 2,000 local restaurants in seven districts of the state.
It delivers about 1,000 orders per day and the average order value stands at Rs 450, which is "higher than you see in Delhi", says Jibran.
Gatoes claims that its prices for customers and the commission it charges restaurants are lower than other foodtech apps.
The team claims it has reduced the food delivery window from 65 minutes to 45 minutes and is trying to bring it down further to 30 minutes.
“However, roads in Srinagar are difficult to operate in. Sometimes there's snow, and sometimes the police make it difficult for riders,” Jibran said.
Going forward, Gatoes is targeting to deliver 5,000 orders per day in Srinagar and is aiming to grow 5X to surpass the Rs 50 crore GMV mark by March 2022.
The angel-funded venture, which started pilots in underserved Tier II and Tier III towns of Punjab and Haryana, aims to expand pan India after it gets more funding.
Founded in October 2020 by Ankush Verma and Ashish Verma,delivers local grocery daily and takes indigenous products from Jammu and ships it across the country.
“What most people buy when they visit Jammu and Kashmir are Kashmiri products. Be it a pashmina shawl, tea, or even dry fruits. But there is so much more that Jammu has to offer. People are not aware about it because there is less exposure,” said Ashish in a conversation with YourStory recently.
The startup has already tied up with at least 20 local vendors who sell indigenous products from the state. These include Udhampur Kaladi, a type of cheese; Akhnoor Palangtod, the region’s famous milk cake; and dried strawberries and kiwi.
Jammu Basket works with them on a margin basis instead of commission-basis like most online marketplaces.
The startup has at least 70 percent orders coming from Jammu itself while the rest comes from major metro cities across the country.
“We offer same day delivery to local customers and two to three days for delivery orders to cities including Mumbai, Delhi, and Bengaluru,” said Ashish.
The platform sees an average of 4,000 users every month, and 500-600 orders with an average basket size of Rs 2,000-2,500.
The bootstrapped venture claims to have a customer retention rate of 60 percent.
Due to low internet connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir, the founders decided to create a website instead of an app. But as the demand grows, the firm plans to launch an app.
Going forward, Jammu Basket plans to increase its SKUs for state-based products, which will drive demand from Jammu and Kashmir’s diaspora across India. The firm also wants to enter the fashion and apparel category.
The startup earned between Rs 1-2 lakh in sales in the first month, but in April 2021, when the COVID second wave was on the rise, Jammu Basket’s turnover was between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 15 lakh. Ashish claims the firm is making an average profit of 15-20 percent.
Srinagar-based logistics service startupwas launched in May 2019 by Sheikh Samiullah and Abid Rashid to deliver food, groceries, etc., through low-speed 2G internet.
“Our focus is on last-mile delivery. We are involving more local operators and also tying up with ecommerce players. We’ve started mapping the smallest roads to make the delivery routes more effective. Our in-depth geographical knowledge is a plus,” said Co-founder Abid.
The startup ferries everything inside Kashmir -- from food, grocery, medicines, gifts, flowers, and official documents as well as items purchased online or from physical shops, and any other critical shipments and packages.
"Today, we cover 300 villages in more than 10 districts of the state. We deliver up to the Uri border as well. We are also starting an office in Ladakh besides our three offices in Srinagar, Baramulla, and Pulwama,” Abid revealed.
The startup works with over 700 micro and small enterprises and has crossed a GMV of Rs 10 crore, mainly driven by online orders serviced by women entrepreneurs who run home businesses in handicrafts, shawls, crochet items, photo frames, etc.
“Almost 70 percent of the businesses we work with are run by women,” Abid stated.
FastBeetle claims to have completed over 100,000 deliveries to more than 70,000 customers.
Its delivery rates vary between Rs 80 and Rs 150 per order. “If the package doesn’t fit on a bike, we charge Rs 699 for delivery. All deliveries within the state are done on the same day and interstate deliveries can take 3-4 days,” Sami revealed.
The startup also has a customer-facing app. Users have to enter pick-up and drop locations, and select the type of vehicle (truck, minivan, bike) based on which they are charged. The app also provides an end-to-end order tracking system.
Post-pandemic, FastBeetle partnered with Flipkart and Amazon to expedite ecommerce deliveries outside Srinagar.
“We have also tied up with banks to deliver cheque books and ATM cards to people outside Srinagar,” shared the founders.
The angel-funded startup claims to be growing at 50 percent YoY. By FY24, it is targeting 700,000 orders at a GMV of Rs 30 crore, and a topline of Rs 4 crore.
All Things Kashmir
Founded in February 2021 by Mir Mubasher Hameedi and Zahoor Hassan Mir, Srinagar-based direct-to-consumer (D2C) startupaims to become a one-stop shop for original high-grade pashmina shawls, hand-knotted carpets, scarves, spices, and other state handicrafts.
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.
“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,” said Zahoor in a recent interaction with YourStory.
Presently selling only through its website, the startup receives orders from pan-India, and most of its sales come from the northern and western parts of the country.
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 said.
The bootstrapped venture 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 added.
In the second quarter of 2022, the startup is planning to enter the UK market as well University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. It also aims to enter the Nordic region by the fourth quarter.
ATK also 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,” Zahoor added.
Founded in 2011 by Muheet Mehraj,is an ecommerce venture for handicrafts, handlooms, and local produce.
The Srinagar-based startup provides a marketplace for local artisans, craftsmen, producers, and creative entrepreneurs to showcase their products to the world.
Kashmir Box intends to create micro entrepreneurs out of these artisans, give them what they deserve, increase employment by increasing their wages and in turn improve their standard of living.
Till now, the startup claims to have managed to bring more than 10,000 local artisans and farmers on its platform. Its artisans and partners get to sell their products by their own individual brand names, thus empowering them and giving them a sense of accomplishment and pride.
“Our efforts have resulted in an approximately 40 percent increase in the wages of our artisans and farmers,” said Muheet in 2018 when the startup raised an undisclosed amount in an angel funding round from a clutch of investors.
Edited by Megha Reddy