Opportunity Kashmir

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Dr Bilal Ahmad Dar

Entrepreneurship has much to offer to Jammu and Kashmir. Its development will contribute considerably to the economic and cultural potential for the state. In a state with immense entrepreneurial talent but a weak support system, the developmental hurdles faced by entrepreneurship are considerable. The objective should be to support entrepreneurs who act as catalysts and start a cycle for change. This will aid the creation of opportunities for communities and develop a more empowered population. In contrast, charity in practice is often a onetime effort vis-à-vis entrepreneurship which looks to create long term social value.
Innovation is crucial for entrepreneurship to prosper. It is unfortunate that in a state the environment and market conditions provide little room and scope for innovation. The culture in general does not nurture creativity and hence few platforms are available which promote curiosity and experimentation. There is a general fear associated with taking risks and this can be directly attributed to the political, economic and security environment in the state. Government policies and frameworks tend to be rigid and bureaucratic, often obstructing the process of creative destruction. The strength of an enterprise comes from two things; scalability and sustainability. Enterprises can reap financial returns and can benefit future generations. They can create large scale social impact and hence attract the interest of business angels and local and international investors.
Jammu and Kashmir is still stuck in a poverty trap. Since its inception, it has been a heavily planned economy. The creation of a knowledge driven economy providing opportunities for innovation has failed to materialize due to a lack of democratic institutions and the absence of sound, legal frameworks and regulations encouraging development. There is a lack of direct funding, focused training programmes or assistance from the government to support entrepreneurship.
The academic standards in government schools focus on rote learning, rather than providing opportunities for the young to experiment and create. There are few avenues available that nurture creativity – a vital component of innovation. The political, legal, social and business environment in the state has been uncertain. Doing well in a state like Kashmir becomes difficult when the political environment is unstable and the entrepreneurs does not feel a sense of security with respect to long term investment opportunities. The legal environment is fuzzy as analytical and ethical jurisprudence is vague and the social divide continues to increase creating a dearth of social opportunities. Although, there are many avenues and potential markets open for investment, generally the investor does not feel safe as the risk and returns fluctuate greatly in this unstable macro environment. It is unfortunate that the government’s stance on developing the education system, providing platforms for knowledge accumulation and creating a level playing field for entrepreneurs appears rather passive. This along with the macro economic factors stated above creates the biggest hurdle in the progress of entrepreneurship and innovation in Kashmir
Kashmiri youth are passionate and have tremendous capacity to contribute to the progress and development of state, yet they are disillusioned, restless and unhappy with the current status quo. Youth are extremely anxious about the rate of unemployment and lack of opportunities in the state. There is insufficient career counseling regarding the future possibilities. Many of those who can, choose to migrate to other countries for better opportunities.
If the government develops a mandate of helping promote enterprises it can create a strong support system for entrepreneurship and provide an environment conducive for innovation. Finance, grants or loans should be provided to boost entrepreneurship. At the same time , enabling and nurturing new ideas of philanthropy will help reduce entrepreneurial dependency on unsustainable donor driven funding. Government bodies at the regional level can also help link enterprises and create community alliances which can lead to enterprise hubs at a regional as well. A policy should be introduced where both public and private schools in the country add some elementary concepts of entrepreneurship to their curriculum.
The government should also work towards streamlining bureaucracy impeding the development of start-ups and growth ventures. The measures delineated here are not exhaustive but these can a good starting point for kick starting entrepreneurship in Jammu and Kashmir.

—The author holds a PhD from Jaipur National University. He can be reached at: Email-darbilalsultan@gmail.com