Government’s restriction on Internet speed in J&K is causing huge losses to traders who are missing out on bulk of online orders. Internet has been erratic in the Valley since August 5, 2019
When Omaira and Beenish Jan started Craft World Kashmir in 2015 to sell floral jewellery for brides, dresses for children and other items, their business took off well. They would upload their basic designs on Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms. Online orders poured in and the two girls looked forward to a financially secure future. Today, the two are struggling to keep their venture afloat.
Things changed with an unsettling jerk one fateful August night in 2019 as the central government suspended Internet and all other communication modes as it abrogated the state’s special status. Ever since, the life has not been same in the Valley. The government has allowed only 2G Internet that belongs to two decades back. The rest of the world is ready to embrace super fast 5G spectrum.
“We were doing very well till August 5, 2019. Then the Internet was suspended for months which shut our business. Now with 2G Internet speed, we are not able to properly display our products and customers are finding it difficult to place their orders. It becomes very difficult to run an online business here with 2G Internet speed,” Omaira says.
At present, they provide employment to 20 girls who weave and stitch clothes. Many young entrepreneurs who were doing quite well are now struggling with agonizingly slow 2G Internet for around 11 months now
A group of four energetic youth had started Kashmir Origin, an outlet selling Kashmiri handicraft and dry fruits online, in early 2019 and did well for a few months.
“We sell Kashmiri handicraft items besides dry fruits including saffron, walnut, almonds which is locally produced here,” says 29-year-old Arif Irshad, who is co-founder and CEO of Kashmir Origin. Maurifat, Adil and Sameer are its other co-founders.
They also help farmers and local artisans promote their products on various international forums. Arif rues that low Internet speed is causing them heavy losses.
“Prior to August 5, 2019, we had dispatched 300 orders of dry fruits through various courier companies to various countries. However, when all communication channels were shut, these things got stuck here. For over a month, we were unaware about them. These were not delivered to customers and caused us losses worth lakhs of rupees. This was a big shock for us,” Arif, who is also a documentary filmmaker, says.
“We are not able to open our website and properly check customers’ orders thanks to slow Internet,” he adds.
After working in an e-commerce company in Lebanon for years, Tawfeeq Yusuf returned to Kashmir in August 2019. Six months back, he started an online organic grocery store called Bee-Tech Kashmir delivering eatables like imported dates of Saudi Arabia, Kashmir honey, ghee, saffron and dry fruits to customers.“We have social media pages where we receive orders then deliver to the customers,” he said. He too regrets that low Internet speed was the main hurdle in running the business. “Our business is totally dependent on the Internet. With 2G Internet speed, it is very difficult to run the business in Kashmir. Sometimes we miss the orders because of slow Internet speed,” Tawfeeq says.
Mir Iqbal, 31, a journalist ventured into business to earn his livelihood when journalism became too risky in the state. He started Mir Agro Farms which sells products like honey, ghee, dry fruits, almonds, walnut and saffron of Kashmir.
“I am even getting orders from faraway places like Mumbai, Bengaluru, New Delhi and West Bengal. During district development council polls, the Internet was suspended in our district Shopian and I got to know of many orders from across the country after days. Eventually, I was not able to dispatch those orders. Had there been 4G, my business would have been doubled,” says Iqbal. Sami Ullah and Abid Rashid had started Fast Beetle in 2018, a specialised delivery service.
Sami Ullah informs that they deliver products like clothes, jewellery, crockery, handicraft items and eatables. They also work in collaboration with some courier companies for delivering goods outside the Valley.
He however said low Internet speed was a major barrier in their business. “Low Internet speed has affected businesses in the Valley. The number of deliveries has come down. Perhaps businesses will flourish again once 4G Internet is restored,”