JAMMU – Start ups have become one of the worst casualties of the Internet blockade in Kashmir. According to financial analyst Syed Ashfaq, who quit his banking job to start a financial and trading service, the ban on Internet has dealt a severe blow to the small ventures employing hundreds of people.
“I started modestly a decade back and then I ventured into online trading, tour operations and data analysis,” Ashfaq told IANS. “At one time I had around 400 employees.”
He said he then focused on a few selected areas like providing facilities for online trading, special tour packaging and data processing for the government and private companies.
“Today my business has slumped due to the Internet blockade,” he said. “I paid my employees for three months after August, now I have retrenched most of them.”
He said all his plans for expansion of his business have come to naught. “Earlier, I used to operate from several rooms now the office space has shrunk to just one room as I cannot afford to pay the office rent,” he said.
He said businessmen in Kashmir have become used to Internet disruptions but the blockade after the abrogation of Article 370 has sounded the death knell for private businesses in the valley.
“Whether I should change my business or look for a job often dominates my thoughts,” he said.
Ashfaq is not alone. Thirty five-year-old Imran Rasool, an engineering graduate, purchased a cricket bowling machine to train aspiring cricketers in Kashmir.
The bowling simulator cost him Rs 35 lakh that he installed on his land in Sanat Nagar, Srinagar. He employed a second person to manage the machine.
“I used to charge Rs 2,500 per month from each cricketer practicing at my field,” said Rasool. “Before the Internet blockade my business was booming and I was hopeful of recovering the investment soon.”
However, after the ban on Internet the business has come to an end because the software of the simulator could not be upgraded.
“The company upgrades the software of the machine through Internet which I have not been able to do because of the Internet disruption since August 5.”
Rasool’s novel idea has fallen prey to the Internet blockade like many other small entrepreneurs in Kashmir.
He has now taken up a sales job and is planning to sell the simulator.
The Internet ban in Kashmir has also impacted the courier services as online tracking of the courier has come to a halt.
The courier service providers also face the problem of contacting their customers as most of them have provided their pre-paid mobile numbers for contacting them. The pre-paid mobile service has been blocked by the government in Kashmir.
The Internet ban has also crippled the smartphone business in Kashmir as according to the mobile dealers the sales have come down by 90 per cent.