Kashmir Indepth

Internet blackout in J&K hits entrepreneurs hard

The two-month-long suspension of internet services in Kashmir — in the aftermath of the Centre’s withdrawal of J&K’s special status on August 5 — has hit hard the new generation of entrepreneurs who extensively use social media to trade.
Scores of young men and women across the Kashmir valley had given wings to their dreams and started doing business via social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram and depended on the internet to earn their livelihood. However, their business has been shut since the night of August 4, when internet services were suspended for security reasons.

The services – across all platforms – have remained suspended since and these new-generation entrepreneurs have been virtually left jobless.
Omaira, a resident of Srinagar, who runs the online outlet ‘Craft World Kashmir’ with her friend Binish, said they are losing business due to the internet blockade.

“Our business used to run through Facebook and Instagram. We display our work there only and do not have a physical store. We have over 49,000 followers on Instagram and received orders online from our customers and then delivered the products,” Omaira said.

“Our business was going well before the internet blockade. With the suspension of internet, our customers are not able to contact us and neither are we. This has resulted in total loss.”
She said several orders placed by their customers were ready, but they were unable to dispatch those because of the network gag.

Omaira said they had trained 14 girls, from underprivileged families, who then worked with the ‘Craft World Kashmir’ for their only source of livelihood, but due to the ban on internet and mobile phone services, those girls also suffered.
She said the government should restore the internet services soon as access to it was the basic right of every individual.
“It is our right and source of livelihood. We can only wait for the restoration of the internet as it is the only medium which connects us with our customers,” she said.
Another such entrepreneur, Sana, who uses the social media to reach customers to sell suits and embroidery material, said not only were the customers unable to reach her, she could not place order herself due to the internet ban.
“We cannot access our accounts on different social media sites in the wake of the internet shutdown. Our customers cannot reach us or place orders. There has been no business since the ban on the internet.
“Also, I cannot check on new products or place orders. There is nothing we can do. The dreams of ‘Digital India’ were false as we live in a world where there is no digital connectivity,” she said.

Courtesy PTI

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