Jammu and Kashmir is known for its unique pashmina shawls, hand-knotted rugs and other regional handicrafts. According to the Bureau of Indian Standards, the Indian pashmina industry is worth Rs 2,000 crore.
However, according to data shared by the Handicrafts Department, the country has seen a drop of more than 45% in exports of such shawls over the past three years – from Rs 305.90 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 172 .53 crore in 2020-21.
Multi-faceted challenges, including machine-made fabrics and rugs in Iran, China, etc., with cheaper silk and quality synthetic substitutes, have caused this regional handloom to lose much of the export market.
“We overcome these challenges by educating our consumers on the true value of a genuine handcrafted cashmeri pashmina or oriental silk rug. Gradually, our customers are recognizing the value of handicrafts,” said Mir Mubasher Hameedi, co-founder of All Things Kashmir. Your story.
Founded by Mubasher and Zahoor Hassan Mir in February 2021, the SrinagarThe New York-based Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) startup aims to become the one-stop-shop for original, high-quality pashmina shawls, hand-knotted rugs, scarves, spices and other state-of-the-art handicrafts.
“Our love and admiration for the timeless and classic craftsmanship of Kashmir has encouraged us to support artisans, who work hard to bring each product to life, incorporating their personal experiences as best they can,” says Zahoor.
What it solves
The idea forwas born when one of the co-founders wanted to offer a hand-woven Kashmir pashmina, given its aesthetic value. However, to his surprise, the products available online or in local stores were rip offs of the original hand loom at best.
“Some were not pashmina but sold as pashmina. While some were cheap imitations, some were original pashminas but had the same scruffy designs and color patterns. And others were sold at exorbitant prices. The frustration led to deeper understanding and research on the subject,” adds Zahoor.
The startup is tackling four key challenges: product authenticity issues, price/quality ratio, lack of design innovation, and limited craftsman welfare.
ATK claims to manufacture the world’s finest handwoven pashmina and hand embroidery on hand looms with the trademark fluffiness, luxury feel and longevity.
With his “One hand, one design” protocol, ATK ensures that each piece is embroidered by a single master embroiderer. Its hand-knotted rugs are made on a silk warp and weft with silk knots and can be used for coffee tables and in bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens and large spaces, such as offices.
“At All Things Kashmir, you are not only assured of an authentic product, but each product comes with a certificate of authenticity. We are also working on standardizing prices to know quality. We focus on manufacturing the finest pashmina and legendary rugs that Kashmir is historically known for,” says Zahoor.
ATK’s pashmina shawls cost between Rs 9,000 and Rs 4 lakh, while its carpets cost between Rs 1.3 lakh and Rs 15 lakh.
The startup plans to collaborate with renowned designers from Paris, Milan and Copenhagen to cater to the growing sense of high fashion in India. “We plan to transfer these skills to our craftsmen, enhancing their abilities to keep pace with global fashion trends,” he adds.
With a Masters in Development Studies from the University of Leeds, UK, Mubasher has worked in a variety of industries, including automotive, internet technology, consumer technology, e-commerce and organizations in non-profit. He has led campaigns for some of the iconic brands including Lamborghini, Volkswagen, Bentley, ŠKODA and Google, among several others.
A graduate of an MBA from the University of Kashmir, Zahoor’s passion for Kashmiri craftsmanship stems from his family.
“From the 19th century until the 1960s, our family owned hundreds of looms, mostly placed in the factories around our ancestral home in the heart of old Srinagar,” he says.
Currently, All Things Kashmir has a 15-member team, including designers, logistics, marketing and communications, and a technical team.
The path to follow
Started with Rs 70,000, ATK’s economic model allows it to develop without any external dependence and to manage resources in a sustainable manner. However, the co-founders are open to collaborating with like-minded people and businesses who share their passion and vision for sustained growth.
Currently sold only on its website, ATK’s target audience is mostly women between the ages of 30 and 50, those who like finesse, elegance and something truly unique.
According to Mubasher, ATK saw an increase in sales in 2021. “With the first product line launched in September 2021 completely sold out and sales growth exceeding our expectations, we believe we are on the right track,” he says.
While ATK receives orders from all over India, most of its sales come from the north and west of the country.
The startup aims to achieve 3X sales in the current financial year, setting the revenue target at Rs 5 crore. “But, given the progress we have made so far, we hope to surpass it,” adds Mubasher.
Currently, ATK is collaborating with the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, as they plan to enter the UK market in the second quarter of 2022.
In fact, it aims to enter the Nordic region by the fourth quarter as it sees Europe as one of its important markets.
Ironically, though Kashmiri craftsmanship has been around for seven centuries, there is not a single notable national or global brand that is exclusively popular for the state’s pashmina or oriental rugs.
“Our biggest challenge and our biggest opportunity is to become the brand that everyone thinks of when they want to buy an original high-quality hand-woven pashmina shawl or a hand-knotted rug, or whatever. what Kashmiri craftsmanship. It may take some time but we are ready to put in the effort and educate the people,” says Mubasher.
Nonetheless, ATK sees competition from countries like Nepal, Mongolia and China, which pass off local pashmina as Kashmiri pashmina shawls.