How fragrant and colourful is her valley
Vol 1 | Issue 3
With literally no financial support, she entered the cut-flower business almost a decade ago and is today recognized as the “founder” of the industry in Kashmir. 35-year-old Nusrat Jahan Ara is the most successful women entrepreneur in the valley with her chain of flower stores ‘Petals n Ferns’ making annual turnover of Rs two crores.
Hailing from a social setup where women are expected to confine themselves to household chores, Nusrat has taken a long stride, working against all odds and going on to set out an example for other women. A graduate in computer applications, she comes from Pulwama district, which is recognized as the hotbed of militancy. But she dared to start a business that was unheard of in Kashmir.
“Cut-flower was the best option,” she says, though she had to take some bold decisions before pursuing it. She quit her government job as a community organizer in Jammu Development Authority and took the plunge into business full time.
She started with an exhibition in a rented hall at a local hotel. “In 2000, I organized a flower exhibition. It was just an experiment and I managed to get a few orders. Since the trend of purchasing fresh flowers didn’t prevail in the valley, response wasn’t overwhelming,” remembers Nusrat.
Even as the florist wanted to expand her business, financial constraints restricted her growth. She braved it all and managed to import flowers on credit basis. “I didn’t have enough money to expand my business, but I got material from flower dealers in Delhi on credit. So I first sold the products and then paid back the dealer,” she says.
In the meantime, Nusrat started to cultivate flowers in the backyard of her house as an experiment. Jammu and Kashmir Bank helped her. “The bank offered me an annual flower arrangement contract for its functions. That was my first real business opportunity and I put in all my efforts for its success,” says the florist, adding, “I earned good profits out of it.”
Nusrat receives the TATA TiE Stree Shakti award for her pioneering efforts in starting the cut-flower business in the Kashmir valley
Nusrat had to struggle hard to meet the supply demands, given lack of production of fresh flowers within the valley. As such, she imported flowers from other parts of the country to meet her requirement.
As tensions soared due to conflict in the Kashmir valley, she toiled hard to establish her business. By 2004, Nusrat opened her own flower showroom ‘Petals n Ferns’ and then decided to have her own farm. “I started a flower plantation in Beerwah area. The farm gave a good produce and helped reduce imports and also increased the profit.”
Setting up a farm meant producing local flower varieties and possible export opportunity. “The idea of local flower cultivation farm was a good opportunity to showcase local flower varieties to outside markets. We export a good quantity of flowers produced in the farm.”
Ten years on, since Nusrat began her journey into the flower business, she owns three flower farms, a retail outlet and employs around 15 people.
A recipient of TATA TiE Stree Shakti award, Nusrat was among the eight women entrepreneurs in the country to be conferred with the award by Tata Group and TiE Mumbai chapter in December 2009.
“It was great to receive the award. It’s encouraging for entrepreneurship,” she says and adds, “I joined the field that was new, but my family supported me through everything. Without their support I may not have succeeded in getting to where I am now.”
“Now I intend to modernize my farms, so that I can get Kashmir on the global flower production map.”