Behind every successful woman is the support of her family, and this is the story of Rubeena Tabassum who rose to the horizons of success only with the back of her family! Meet RubeenaTabassum, who hails from the small village of Yarikalaan, Chadoora indistrict Budgam. A confident lady who takes pride in being the strong inspiring face of Kashmiri Business Woman, Rubeena has had her shares of ups and downs but where she stands today, it all seems to have been worth it. This is her story.
Married off at a very young age,she completed her high school from her in-laws home. Being a dedicated student she had no problem finishing her graduation from the District College. She soon had three beautiful children in a few years, as is the norm of a traditional rural home. Rubeena, who aspired to be an independent woman, to accomplish something in her life, felt her dreams disappearing in thin air while taking up her beloved roles of being a wife, a mother, a daughter and a daughter in law. Time flew by and all her children started school. It was then, when long hours of idleness got to her and she started questioning her purpose in life.
Over a discussion with her husband,she thought she could start a school when a radio program caught her ears and she knew bang on what she wanted to do. ‘Manzilein aur bhi hain’ was as if being broadcast just for me, says Rubeena. I got to know of an initiative by JKEDI (J&K Entrepreneurship Development Institute)and after some interview rounds, got selected for the training program after which I started my own venture - a business of cut flowers.
Initially I started with a greenhouse on my husband’s land and grew some carnations and lilies. I then,sold them in the flower mandi at Delhi, and was surprised by the positive response. It sold out in a jiffy and I was appreciated for the quality and freshness of these noble flowers. That was it for me, the final push that I needed to go on.
I now wished to expand a little,have some more green houses and acquire some land for further cultivation. But I was short on finances and sort help from the local banks here. There was my first blow! I was not sanctioned any loan on the pretext of having an unrealistic, foolish idea that would go down and I would have no way to repay their loan. I was disheartened and discouraged, but my husband was not. He did not think for a second that I was on a fool’s quest and believed in me not only in words but in deeds as well. He got a consumer loan out on his name for me and became my first investor. I bought some 4 canals of land and invested in more greenhouses. The year was Alhamdulillah a productive year for me. My seeds of hard work bore rich fruits and at the end of it, I was offered financial assistance by the same bank which had turned me down and other financing institutions too came forward. In a span of just two years, word spread and I got huge orders, my business not only expanded but was appreciated as well. I received J&K Bank Woman Entrepreneur Award in 2007 and since then there has been no looking back.
Today I have 400 canals of land on lease, scores of green houses and aromatic flowers like lavender and rose spread over them, and a small retail shop at the airport. I am a florist by heart and my venture, United Floritech is now a brand. Over the years I have expanded to essential oils and aromatic waters and our Lavender water and Rosewater under the brand name Pure Aroma sells across the world. I have my own extraction unit and we undertake all the processes ourselves generating jobs in our small village.
I always wanted to help people. You cannot be truly successful if you are succeeding alone. In my village,Chadoora, many people are working with me on a rental basis. I am currently working on a new project of Contract Farming with them. In this project, people will grow flowers and aromatic plants on their own lands under my technical guidance and support but they will be working independently.
How has this wonderful journey been?
It has been an uphill road for me! I come from a village, a small village where people stick to their roots in everything and any change is always objectionable, especially for women. Nobody can accept you as a businesswoman, not in a village at least. When I decided to start United Floritech I was subject to ridicules and taunts and many a times I was ready to give into this social stigma. However, my family always encouraged me and paid no heed to the people around. I got to hear a lot of things about not being a good mother, being a selfish woman who was not thinking of her home and much more that pulled me down. But every time, my husband was there for me. He has always been my support, the push that I needed to go on, he was always there for me,answering people on my behalf, motivating me not to give up and being my emotional strength all along. Without his support I don’t think I would have been here, talking to you about my achievements.
Do you find it difficult balancing work and home?
Of course, it is very hard but not impossible. I started only after my children went to school and were not entirely dependent on me. I am always there for them, for my husband and my family. I am a woman first then a businesswoman. We women are stronger, we can achieve anything we set our heart on, and still keep all grounds covered. My work will never stop me from being a wife, a mother or a daughter. My family is my strength and I will never compromise on their happiness.
When it came to work, being a newbie I faced a lot of problems in the fields too. Thankfully I had a wonderful mentor in Vimal Koul, whom I met through EDI, who taught me about floriculture and walked me through it, literally, taking me by my finger.
I have a blessed life. My children are doing well; they take pride in my accomplishments. My work is going smoothly and is gradually growing. I might not be the among the Richie Rich of our valley but when I look at my life and see my journey so far, I am content and feel lucky to have been blessed so much by God. I am a grateful soul.
As a woman entrepreneur what would you like to say to other women?
Firstly, I would like to say that we are as strong as we think we are. Never underestimate yourself. There is nothing you cannot achieve and succeed in.You just need to take that first step and have the determination that nothing can prevent you from achieving your goal. Be bold and set out to do what you always wanted to do. There is nothing like a lost opportunity, Start Now. I am currently pursuing my MBA, after all these years because I feel the need to know the latest business gimmicks to keep up and not loose in the race. It is never too late to do anything, you just need the right motivation and you will be surprised to know how much you are capable of.
Also, we live in changed times.Earlier the society we lived in saw woman fit only for their homes and when it came to working - being a teacher, a doctor or having an office job was all that was deemed respectable for her. But now, there is no job that is looked down upon for a woman. She is an honored businesswoman, a civil servant, a pilot and what not!
Any final message for the people?
There is so much unemployment in Kashmir. Our youngsters need to stop running after government jobs and start something of their own. There are so many untapped resources, so many avenues which can be utilized, that not only can they start their own businesses but they can become job generators for others . My funda is empowering others while empowering yourself and that is what still drives me. There are many opportunities, don’t be afraid to take that first step.Start small to achieve big, have faith and trust God to help you achieve your dreams.