Rifat Jan - Manufacturing Willow Bats
I was very young having just finished my high school when I got married. I belong to a conservative family and got married in a conservative family who did not much approve the working of women outside the confines of their home. However, I have been lucky in the sense that even though they were conservative, they were not narrow minded when it came to the individual being I was. Abbaji, my father-in-law was very supportive of me working, be it within the walls of my home and engage in something besides the house chores.
Abbaji had started this bat manufacturing unit at our home. We used to watch him while he worked. He was very enthusiastic about teaching us the technicalities of bat making. He was a great man with a beautiful vision. After he died, I took over the manufacturing unit. My husband was the one who wanted me to get involved in this. Being a sportsman and a coach he had very less time to spare for other things. He encouraged me to step forward and take charge.
Initially managing home with the unit was very difficult for me. I had to do the cooking, cleaning, looking after my children and family and also I had the bat unit to manage. I had to ensure that all activities ran smoothly and the whole process was being followed. It was very difficult, but once I got used to it, it became like second nature to me. I think it was a more easy transition as our karkhaana was just adjacent to our home. Otherwise it would really have been very difficult if not impossible.
I get the raw material for my unit from Pampore Mandi and other areas that are of high quality and strength. Kashmir Willow is very popular when it comes to bats for the same reason. Once the raw material is procured the entire process is carried out under my supervision. Although most activities in bat manufacturing are done by hand, only pressing needs a machine. I have installed a pressing machine that is operated by my workers. I have five workers currently working for me but when we have a large order, we hire more workers to finish the job in time.
Currently, we have a domestic market base with Mumbai and Chennai being our largest clientele. We have regular orders from these two states. We make all types of bats and have a wide variety in Tennis Bats and Season Bats. We have a small customer base as we do our own branding. We get queries for bats but they put the condition that we put their stickers on our bats like Reebok etc, the popular ones. I don’t believe in doing that. I believe in creating a brand of my own. That is why even though we have small orders; we ensure that they are sold by our name, MAS, Masoodi Arts and Sports. In Kashmir branding is done on a very small scale but now I can see many local brands emerging and selling across the country. It is a very promising thing for the economy of Kashmir.
How has the journey of past 20 years been?
It has been great! I have had my shares of ups and downs but Alhamdulillah everything is just in place. I have always been fearless. I have never feared anything and have always been determined to take up any challenge and see myself through it. Either I do something and or I don’t. I am an extreme; there is no middle for me. I have two beautiful children, a caring family, a supporting husband and my work is going fine, what else could I wish for! I am happy and content with my life.
But there is one thing I would like to say. Without the support of my family and my husband, I don’t think the journey could have been as smooth as it was. There is nothing impossible for a woman to achieve, when she has set her heart to it. She will be successful whether or not her family supports her. But the success is much sweeter when she has her family as her back. Then she can soar the highest skies.
Any message for the women?
Women are one half of our society, she enjoys a beautiful status. She is equal to men and also different from them in many beautiful ways. She does not need to compare herself to men to prove her worth. She is beautiful in her own way. I would love to see women working independently, carving a space for themselves while staying in the limits of their modesty. A woman does not need to be a rebel to be successful. She can be a modest woman and a successful businesswoman, a CEO and a loving wife and mother at the same time. You can always be what you want to be. It is not like marriage is the end of your life. I started working after I got married. You can start now. Let not fear overpower your aspirations. Fear is only in the mind. You only need courage to take that first step. Once you do take that first step, the path will in sha Allah unfold before you.