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Down in the Valley: MSMEs in Kashmir live with perpetual uncertainty

Omaira Khan, a first-generation Kashmir-based entrepreneur, is no stranger to the hardships of running an MSME in a conflict zone. Like the hundreds of small business owners in Kashmir, she has for years been constantly troubled by the uncertainty around her and the effect it has had on her business. Will the business survive if the situation worsens is a question that haunts her perpetually.

Frequent high-speed internet shutdowns, cuts in telephone communication, curfews and the safety of her employees are things that affect her online arts and crafts shop, Crafts World Kashmir. “The risk factor for us business owners is very high. You never know when the situation might completely change and Kashmir shuts down. Internet shutdowns without any prior information is what affects us the most, and this usually shuts down our business completely. We have not taken any financial help.

Anuj Sharma, the founder and CEO of ALSiSAR Impact, who has invested in Kashmiri-based courier startup FastBeetle, says, “Due to it being a conflict zone, it is very difficult for these businesses to get an investment. The instability of politics and law and order is what dissuades investors and makes them worry about getting returns on their investments.