Meet the guy behind the scooty boom in Kashmir

  • Mukeet Akmali
  • Publish Date: Sep 24 2018 3:15AM
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  • Updated Date: Sep 24 2018 3:15AM
Meet the guy behind the scooty boom in KashmirGK Photo

Tell us something about yourself?

I have done my early schooling in Kashmir. After that I went to Symbiosis Pune where I did my bachelors. I did my Masters in Business Administration from IMI Pune. After completing my MBA in marketing I worked for an Italian automotive company for two years as a management trainee with specialization in marketing and business development.

I was handling marketing which gave me insight of automobile sector. After working for two years, I was selected for a course at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, which helped me in enhancing my skills and polishing me for an advanced platform. 

After that I finally decided to take plunge in the family business. Though it is said that it is a cake walk for scion of a business family, it is very challenging job to overcome the expectations. That’s why in order to prove myself I came up with an idea which was somehow new and challenging. I saw girls riding scooties across India, but here it was a taboo, I decided to introduce this concept.

 

How challenging was it for you?

It was very challenging job. When I started, first a few people bought scooties for their girl children. But they came back within days, stating that their girls were being verbally abused or they were facing embarrassment in the society.

I got dejected. I then talked to my business gurus who advised me that with every challenge there is an opportunity. I somehow regrouped, restarted. I started awareness campaign, went to Kashmir University with my marketing guys. Then we went to women colleges, where not only we promoted our products but also trained girls to ride scooties. It was a game changer, TVS Company gave full support. And rest is history.

By 2011, I broke the record and received an award from TVS Motor Company for the highest growth in the segment for women, a growth of more than 400 per cent. The interesting thing is that TVS Motor Company’s segment for women’s scooters was present in Kashmir since 1996 but it was never active.

I see the introduction of scooters in the girls segment one of my biggest achievements today. It was a dream come true!

And changing the mindsets of people, every individual, I still remember the days when people used to tell me that it won’t work. And yet, I have been able to change the way people think and today it’s a different story.

Besides automobile sector, you have also tried your hand in adventure sports? Can you tell us something about it?

I have always believed that adventure sport has a huge potential in Kashmir. I started it in 2005 when I supplied adventure bikes to tourism department. But they kept the payment lingering for years which was a bad experience.

Unfazed by past experience, I introduced concept of ATVs, snowmobiles in Gulmarg. There was a lot of opposition from pony wallas, it took me lot of time to convince them. Ultimately one of the pony wallas agreed to purchase ATV, we did his finance on our own as no bank was ready to give finance to them.

When he started operating ATV, his earning was Rs 8000 per day, which encouraged others. It was history as in first 6 months we sold 15 adventure vehicles. Since then there is no looking back as we have earning award after award for having highest sales of Polaris adventure vehicles in India. I would also like to mention here that JK Bank refused to finance the pony wallas, but it was small cooperative bank which financed them to buy adventure vehicles which has helped in changing the socio-economic status of horse owners in Gulmarg region.

I have firm belief that Pahalgam has four times more potential for adventure sports. But unfortunately it is not being tapped due to inefficiency of the officials at the helm of affairs.

 

Tell us about Jhelum cruise.

The concept of Jhelum cruise is to replicate Venice kind of scenario in Kashmir. We are trying to show the real Kashmir, which was known for its culture and heritage.

My ultimate vision is to bring it up in the manner that the old houses of downtown along the bunds be converted to small guests houses so that tourists get a chance to stay in the interior of the city. From the river, Jhelum cruise will run a tourist route, and play an important role. Ultimately, this has the potential of more than Dal Lake as a tourist attraction and can multiply the visitors coming to Kashmir.

In 2013, I decided to try my hand at Jhelum cruise, an innovative and courageous business. This is a water transportation and tourism company, which consists of six boats which can cater to up to 76 passengers. This project is something like the gondolas you see in Venice, and has gone very well as it has attracted a lot of tourists and locals.

What are your future business plans?

We are going to start a technical college in Srinagar for skill development in the automobile sector. Besides, other project of manufacturing equipments is also in the pipeline.

 

Any advice for prospective entrepreneurs?

Before advising entrepreneurs, I believe the government must create an atmosphere for entrepreneurs. It is the only place in the world where I believe there is no incubation centre for start-ups. On one side stress is being laid on entrepreneurship on the other hand government is depriving them of every opportunity.

Despite this situation, I believe that there should be desire and passion to work hard as we are aware that situation here is not the same like in other parts of the world. So don’t get disheartened, keep on trying hard to achieve your goals. This is my advice.