It must take guts of steel to set up a business that pits one against the biggest FMCG brands. But, 29-year-old Zarka Tanzeel from central Kashmir's Budgam district seems to have embarked on it without a doubt.
Today she sells one of the most popular detergents in the region, under the brand “KMR Sheen”.
Tanzeel always dreamed bravely. She didn’t want to be a job seeker, she always wanted to be a job provider. Therefore, after she completed her graduation in commerce, she decided to run her own business. She told her husband of her plans, and he and his family supported her wholeheartedly.
But what could she start?
As many do, she went online and did her research on starting a small scale unit. She found that detergent making was “the cheapest and easiest thing to do… also it was something women could relate to”.
She then researched its raw materials and read up on the formula for it, and marched on. Next she needed capital and she approached the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI), Budgam, who did give her funding but it wasn’t enough.
To make up for the shortfall, she sold her jewellery.
With the help of her husband, she set up a factory, brought trained men from Gujarat and learnt from them. The project was set to launch in August 2019, when the abrogation of 370 was announced and Kashmir was put under a lockdown.
Understandably, she was disappointed. “But, I had invested a lot of money and time in it, so I didn’t give up. I started once normalcy returned,” she said.
Just as she was catching her breath, the pandemic struck and another lockdown was announced. But she kept going. “Thanks to my husband and in-laws, who have been so supportive,” she said.
Zarka’s detergent packets are sold for Rs 84/kg, and this Made-in-Kashmir brand is selling like hot cakes. She said that it wasn’t easy to win over the confidence of the customers in the UT. “People here trust products made outside the UT more than they do the ones made locally. It was a challenge to convince them to buy ours,” she told Moneycontrol.
She has employed a marketing team and, in all, she employs 12 people. She has finally become a job provider.
She had got Rs 16 lakh from the EDI through Seed Capital Fund Scheme (SCFS), and she has repaid Rs 6 lakh so far.
At the launch of HAUSLA on June 29, 2021, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha lauded Tanzeel for being a role model to the other women in the region.
Tanzell said that her achievement was no cakewalk, that she had to put in “blood and sweat” to get her business off the ground. A mother of two, she hopes her journey will give courage to more women in Kashmir to follow their dream.(This is part of a three-part series. Read about a 28-year-old who helped her family get a home in part one and about a woman who chose her dream over a secure career in IT in part three.)