Tell us about you?
I am a first generation entrepreneur (25) who started Kashmir Box around four and a half years back when I was 20 with Kashif Khan who later moved out of the venture. I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 17.
Who is your startup (Kashmir Box) aimed at?
Kashmir box on a broader perspective aims to leverage the un-organised craft and produce sector’s supply chain so that it matches the organised demand side. Alongside, we intend to do an immense social impact impacting millions of artisans, farmers and local entrepreneurs.
How does your startup stand out against its competitors?
Kashmir Box essentially is an eco-system and not just an e-commerce platform. The idea is to build such a system where we use technology not just to connect the demand side to supply side in real time but also value add immensely by creating a new line of products that are in line with the current trends, partner with designer houses so that artisans can get portfolio businesses and the quality benchmark is improved, help them with data and trends that allows us to understand consumer requirement better and also customize to products to customer’s need.
One very basic example I can give you is of the Kashmiri tops. The biggest flaw in the product is that there is no sizing, all the stock is of M size while as the customers(mostly in India) have a requirement of XL or L sizes.
Where did the idea for the startup come from?
- The poor state of artisans with wages not enough for sustenance.
- Although we have the best of skill but not even a single global brand has emerged from Kashmir.
- There was no authentic marketplace for products where customer does not fear of buying a fake product.
- Vast potential of Kashmiri products.
- As our products are not changing with time and trend it poses a big threat to the whole industry.
What is your business background, and what got you interested in startups?
No one in family is from a business background, I would not say I wanted to be an entrepreneur from the beginning as I came across the same word after 1 year of launch of KB. However, that passion to build solutions through technology to problems was always there and often visiting my uncle’s travel agency where I got to understand the technology platform business in my school days played an important role.
How did you initially raise funding for your company?
The initial capital was raised from Ishfaq Mir who joined the board and has a vast experience in retail and technology sector.
The funds raised for startup was from our own source of investments
How long has the your startup been in the making, and who is the team behind the business?
The startup has been there for 4 and a half years now, core team has 15+ people right now. The briefs are as under:
- Maqsood: Creative Department
- Sarah Muzaffar: Content Department
- Danish Rasool: Business Development
- Samiya Andrabi: Corporate Relations
- Muntazir: Order Processing
- Hilal: Merchandising and Quality Control
What is the best lesson you have gained from starting your business?
Businesses these days are money centric and all the focus is to improve margins that too at a cost of lowering it for others in the chain. In my sense, businesses should have a heart and focus on solutions that address the issues at grass root level and ensure that the lower end of the chain also has a sustainable livelihood.
Apart from that, one should always be focused on solving the problem at its core, although it will take time but to build a sustainable business one needs to always put himself/herself in the shoes of the customers.
What has been your biggest challenge so far as a startup owner?
There have been multiple challenges that we have faced as entrepreneurs, the first obviously is the non availablity of the capital from investors, the only option is debt. Then the quality human resource which is skilled is another challenge, working with artisans who do not understand technology driven business is a big challenge but addressing these challenges on a daily basis is something we love.
In the coming years, what would you like to achieve with your business?
We want to scale up our operations, build a couple of global brands and expand to other geographies.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about starting a business, what would it be?
Focus on solving the problem, rest will follow.