Simple, vivacious and determined, Nusrat Jahan Ara is a face which has inspired scores of Kashmiri women to break free from the routine household chores and secure pensioned government jobs and thrive in the field of business – something which is not quite common in the valley of Kashmir.
Nusrat hails from the Dadoora Village of Kashmir’s Pulwama district. She is a Computer graduate by qualification and yet she took a government job, as preferred by most people (men and women) of her time. However, she soon realized that this regular routine job was not for her and that her passion lies somewhere else.
For those who don’t know, quitting a government job in Kashmir is not a piece of cake. It comes with a whole troupe of relatives strongly condemning your decision for coming out of the secure-post-retirement-pension zone to the risks involved in a business. People in this part of the world normally discourage you and constantly put you down for pursuing a passion that is completely out of the box. But Nusrat was well equipped with this mental set up and did not let it deter her from achieving what she wanted to achieve. She looked around and saw women of the valley monotonously running a boutique business, which she did not want to be a part of. On doing a quick survey, she realized that the valley so popular for its floral beauty did not have a single store selling fresh cut flowers. This was it. She made up her mind and started a small enterprise. This wasn’t easy. With hardly any means to raise capital, the government not willing to support, and chauvinist men looking down upon her, she put her entire savings, heart and soul into her venture and started growing flowers in the backyard of her ancestral home, which she would then sell. From working with her vendors on a credit basis to taking bank loans, Nusrat left no stone unturned and grew at a steady pace.
As they say, when you really want to achieve something, the whole universe conspires for it to reach you. Within a short span of time, her business saw a boom and she became the first female entrepreneur in the floriculture sector of the Valley.
But sky is not the limit for an inquisitive mind – one which strives to make the most of its surroundings and conjure magical stuff to benefit the people who use it. After her success in cut flower business, Nusrat realized that the Valley in which she grew up was home to natural herbs and plants which are known to brew the recipes for beauty products. And yet, nobody in Kashmir had ever taken an initiative to capitalize on these natural resources. Needless to say, she started working on this idea and soon came up with her brand “Kashmir Essences” – a name which completely does justice to the work that it does. The brand revolves around the unique concept of using natural Kashmiri produce like saffron, Almond, Cherry, Walnut, Apple, olive, apricot and other active botanical ingredients including aromatic Oils to conjure organic eatables and beauty products and also promoting their sustainable utilization through the substantial participation of local people from the Kashmir Valley, especially women.
Until 2013, the company was in the business of supplying fruits, herbs and essential oils to other manufacturers who would then process these ingredients. But now, the tables have turned. Nusrat has her own in-house team of dedicated scientists who with their deep knowledge and passion develop their own range of products locally and bring the magic of Jammu & Kashmir to people all over the world.
“Our Hand-made personal care and home care products will cover a wide range from body butters and soaps to Jams and herbal tea. All formulations are based on locally available ingredients, either cultivated by local farmers or grown in forest areas. These Fruits, Flowers, herbs and essential oils are then transformed using centuries-old principles of Ayurveda and ethno-botany, all the while keeping the percentage of botanical ingredients to at least 90% of the total weight of each product. No harmful chemicals, petroleum products or bleaching agents are used in any of our formulations. The name “Kashmir Essence” come from the fact that our all ingredients have the essence of Kashmir in it. For centuries, the name Kashmir has been synonymous with beauty & magic and so are our products. We at Kashmir Essence aspire to use age old Ayurveda formulations in line with the deep knowledge and passion of our R&D team and entrepreneurs to develop a wide range of health and beauty products locally”, says a humble, yet determined Nusrat Jahan Ara.
We salute the fierce passion and resolve with which Nusrat worked towards her passions and achieved her dreams, besides being an inspiration for all the young ladies out there who hesitate in making their dreams come true.
As Nusrat rightly points out, “women have the talent to utilize the resources around them and achieve greater heights in the field of business or whatever field they will opt for.” And we agree with her.
View Nusrat's entire collection of organics here