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March 18, 2009
Open Space

A flowering way to success

Nusrat Ara

In a conflict ridden region where seasoned entrepreneurs tread reluctantly and cautiously, a homemaker from a remote village has sown big dreams; and she is already reaping.

In 2006 Rubeena Tabassum from Kashmir’s Chadoora village began doing what most housewives love to – planting flowers. But Tabassum did it big time, on half an acre of land. In subsequent years she kept on expanding and would no longer be called a rural homemaker.

In 2007 Tabassum received J&K Bank’s “Women Entrepreneur Award” for the enterprise that very few people in Kashmir had ventured into.

“I wanted to make a difference and do something worthwhile in life. I was not content with doing the household chores only,” says Tabassum.

With an ease befitting her lean frame she gracefully tends plants in a greenhouse brimming with blooming buds. Slim, confident and poised she looks after them like her children, touching the leaves, feeling the buds, and plucking the weeds out.

Tabassum says she was married off at an early age after failing to realize her childhood dream of becoming a doctor.

Though she took up her new responsibilities after marriage with fervor, she was eager not to remain confined to the four walls of her house. Luckily her husband and in-laws shared her thinking- move ahead and leave a mark.

Tabassum completed her graduation through a correspondence course. Then came the time to ponder - what next.

“A girl can only think of becoming a doctor or a teacher here or just look for a government job. Her domain is limited,” she says.

Weighing her options and domestic compulsions, she however decided to tread a different path, for a government job held no charm to her.

She wanted to carve a place of her own.

So when opportunity knocked at her door she was ready to grab. A chance radio programme on commercial floriculture by an entrepreneur institute gave her an insight into floriculture. An idea was germinated.

She joined the institute for training. Her idea took root and she started a venture of cut flowers. A unit for cultivating Carnation ‘the Royal Flower of the world’, under controlled conditions of temperature and humidity.

Finance, being a constraint, she turned to family first. “Initially I took some help from my family. I took the land of my in-laws on lease but I needed more money to set up the unit. I then turned to J&K Bank for support”. With a loan from the bank there was no looking back for her. Countering difficulties with dedicated determination she went ahead.

On the path to become a successful entrepreneur she took it as a challenge to balance her time between business and home. “I make it a point to spend a lot of time with my kids. When it comes to my kids there is no concession. I have to give them the time they need. Likewise a portion of my time is dedicated to business,” she asserts.

Apart from her family the encouragements were few. People were wary of accepting a woman in business especially in rural areas where from she came. For her such problems were to be courageously faced.

“People here, especially in rural areas don’t accept a businesswoman. There are no solutions for such problems. The only way to solve them is to face them. You have to move ahead by pushing them to brims.”

Taking strength from her better half, who has been “a pillar of support all through” she managed it all.

Today five green houses of 20 feet by 80 feet of carnation, lilies from Holland under shade nets stand in an area of half an acre of land. A two and a half acre open field of Gladiolus is in place and her business is flourishing. The market for cut flowers being huge especially outside the state where flowers are used on every occasion be it marriages, parties, meetings, functions or funerals.

She started with the green houses of the royal flower Carnation in various colours. Seeing the demand in the market she decided to diversify. She has set up the shade nets for Lilies and at the same time ventured into cultivation of aromatic and medicinal plants. For this she started a nursery of lavender, which grows in hilly areas only. The plants were replanted in an area of 12.5 acres, which she has on lease from many small farmers. Her project is actually of 62.5 acres. “They (farmer) didn’t get much out of the land as they could plant maize only in the hilly terrain which was also dependent on rains. I give them more than they could earn out of the land. The aromatic plants like lavender require very little rainfall and are suited for hilly areas”, she explains. She has also planted roses in an area of 2.5 acres, which she intends to expand further. “ There is a lot of space between the rose or lavender plants which can be used for plantation of various medicinal plants like rosemary to maximize the output of the land.

Her annual turnover has crossed Rs 30 lakhs last year, which she sees growing with each passing year. “ I want to focus on the domestic market as well. Ironically most of the offices buy their cut flowers from Delhi”. She talks about plans to set up a processing unit for aromatic and medicinal plants.

“Actually it is after three years of planting that I will be able to extract rose oil, rose water, lavender oil and other derivatives. But I have started work on the processing unit so by the time the crop is ready the processing unit is in place as well”

Citing lack of awareness about entrepreneurship a reason for growing unemployment she readily points out that hers has been a job generating enterprise.” I feel proud of myself and regret the days I wished to become a doctor. I had never dreamt that I can something that will bring me laurels. The best thing about it is that it is a job generating enterprise. I can provide employment to people.”

Ability to provide employment to people gives her inner satisfaction. She always wanted to make some contribution to the society especially for the upliftment of the peasants whose condition she was acquainted with.

“There are many people who are so poor. I want to help them in earning their living. The traditional crops grown here are not so income generating. People don’t get much benefit from them. I want to diversify their pattern of cultivating crops.”

An inspiration, especially for women, she says a woman can do miracles provided she is talented and courageous enough. Her ideology is that one should not only think of ones own employment but instead dream big of employing others also. Today she has five full-fledged employees besides a number of causal employees whom she hires from time to time.

From being unemployed to employing others she has crossed many milestones and set many trends for others to follow.

feedback@kashmirnewz.com

This article is written under the Sanjoy Ghose Media Fellowship: 2008-09 for women journalists in J&K.

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These articles by Nusrat Ara are part of the study, Women in Conflict, under the Sanjoy Ghose Media Fellowship: 2008-09 for women journalists in J&K.

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