Creating a world of their own - AMMA
Ali Mohammad & Mushtaq Ahmad is jubilant. Last month their brand AMMA had launched in South Korea. The response has been overwhelming. Having got a fresh order of 100+ products, they have successfully made it in Korea. It was a happy moment, a sweet moment of success for both AMMA as well as for us. Once we broke the news to Ali Mohammad Sahab, his happiness reflected in his eyes and he could not suppress his hearty laugh. That moment was a proud moment for the team Kashmir Box.
How does AMMA feel now?
(Laughing) Yes, yes now it does make sense to me. (Ali Muhammad had been reluctant to brand naming his artwork). I am naïve to technology, to marketing and branding. But now I know what it means to have a name, to have a label of my own. Initially I did not understand what purpose this label would serve. Now I know. I now understand how powerful a brand name can be. Looking at my label AMMA instills a warm proud feeling in my heart. People now know me by AMMA and not by Ali Muhammad anymore.
How has it been working with Kashmir Box?
This is my 4th year of working with Kashmir Box. I have grown with you. I remember how we started and where I am today. MashaAllah, it has been quite a journey and we are still hopeful of good things coming our way.
What benefits do you feel working with us?
First of all, Alhamdulillah we now have a regular flow of income. That ensures a smooth working process and yes, peace of mind. When you are worried about your family, their daily expenses, it reflects in your work as well. Now, I am free of these worries which help me focus more on my work and the inflow helps in more production and innovative designs.
Has the work improved?
Yes, it has. Earlier we used to make the same traditional designs that have been in the market since like forever. Now, I get customer feedback from you, I get to know what my customer actually wants of me in terms of colors, patterns and design. I now receive more customized orders, pointing to the style, design and even colors not of the base material but the embroidery as well! This has helped me so much to understand what is in demand in the market. I cannot reach the customers outside of the state on my own and this is where Kashmir Box has helped me. When you show me the reviews of customers it is like I am being paid for my efforts. The reviews are both good and bad, and I acknowledge both as that eventually helps me improvise on my work.
How does going International Feel?
(Smiling) It feels good. It feels like an impossible dream come true for me. I have never been outside these mountains but through Kashmir Box, I have been to Italy, Korea, Australia, London and America. I get good number of orders from these parts, especially from Italy; I have been getting monthly orders. And now I have got this huge order from Korea. Launching my brand in Korea still feels like a dream, I never thought something like this could ever happen to me. My business is expanding, what better I can expect. I have turned from an artisan into an entrepreneur! At my age, only a few people get to be that. It is like the years of my struggle, the sweat and blood that I put in my work has finally paid off.
More Business means more hard work, isn’t it?
Of course! Getting more business means more work at hand which implies more work to do. Allah has blessed my work and I have to prove my worth for the same. We had 2 people working with us initially, now as the work is expanding I have included 2 more to work with me. We are primarily focusing on improving our product quality, meeting international quality standards. Newer designs, colors, modern trends, customer demands; these are the areas I am working on now. I aim at providing international quality products to my local, domestic as well as international customer base. I wish to make my brand AMMA their favorite brand.
Any message for the people?
I would like to say just one thing to my fellow artisans. Even if our art is gradually heading towards death, it is only up to us to revive it and not let it die. We are the patrons of a rich cultural heritage; we should not give it up. We need to parallel our steps with the modern world market, carving out an unmatched niche of our traditional art. Our arts and craft industry were admired world over. This is a twist of fate. Earlier these foreigners used to come to us, here in Kashmir as tourists, admirers of our art. Now, we have to reach to them, with our work. It is for sure, hard, but not impossible to achieve. Platforms like Kashmir Box are working towards it, working for artisans like you and me; we should join hands to make a difference.
AMMA so far is our first success story. The story of two artisans who at the age of 60 turned into entrepreneurs! Having officially launched their brand in South Korea, it is a milestone for us, the team of Kashmir Box in our long journey of empowering the artisans of Kashmir, to make the Brand Kashmir a reality!