Ecological Entrepreneurship Festival Held At Sagg Eco Village

Ganderbal- The first-of-its-kind festival on Ecological Entrepreneurship – Kashmir Festival for Ecological Entrepreneurship was held at Sagg Eco Village in Ganderbal, Kashmir on Sunday.

Sagg Eco Village, the first and only eco village in Kashmir and Mool Sustainability Research & Training Center in collaboration with Next Mile Co., a Mumbai-based sustainable business consulting firm co-hosted the event.

According to a statement, the Kashmir Festival brought together a set of diverse panel members –Abdul Rashid Chadinoo (Managing Partner, Aarafh Foods & Spices), Insha Mir (Founder, EcoKash), Tawfeeq Yousuf (Founder, Bee Tech Kashmir), Dr. Maleeha Gul (Dept. of Management Studies, University of Kashmir), Zitin Munshi (Founder, Next Mile Co.) with participating moderator Fayaz Ahmad Dar (Founder, Sagg Eco Village).

The event proceedings began with introductions, followed by an ecological tour of the Sagg Eco Village Campus after which lunch was served followed by a panel discussion.

The panel discussion started off with moderator Fayaz Ahmad Dar inviting the panelists for opening remarks to share some highlights on their entrepreneurship journey after which each of the panelists also shared their top learnings and advice for the audience.

Abdul Rashid Chadinoo (Managing Partner, Aarafh Foods & Spices) began with talking about the importance of imagining the impossible for entrepreneurial growth. He added that it is essential to conduct in-depth resource mapping and having a research orientation to build a holistic enterprise. He also added about identifying opportunities for creating markets both within the J&K region and outside of the region.

Following that, Insha Mir (Founder, EcoKash) spoke about two pain-points that made her start her own enterprise – first, handicrafts have been invaded by machine craft and second, there was a lot of negative environmental impact which needed to be addressed in some way. Therefore the focus of EcoKash is to channelize the artisans and do work in sustainable fashion that is environmentally friendly.

Zitin Munshi (Founder, Next Mile Co.) spoke about her journey of working towards embedding sustainability among small businesses from the beginning and making it possible through her venture, Next Mile Co. Munshi shared about her experience with the youth in Botswana, Africa that inspired her to work towards helping businesses embed sustainability at the core of their entrepreneurial model. She said, “There is a need for busting myths about sustainable businesses – such that it is expensive. It is important to look at long-term growth, which is the essence of building any business or rather, anything sustainable in its true sense.”

Tawfeeq Yousuf (Founder, Bee Tech Kashmir) spoke about his entrepreneurial journey in the space of sustainable bee-keeping. He talked about the importance of bringing in new ideas in business and giving consumers the right knowledge about usage of sustainable products such as raw honey. He also emphasized on the need for

supporting local providers of raw honey as knowing the bee-keeper helps the consumer to directly raise any concerns / give direct feedback and also adds to local livelihood generation.

After receiving inputs from practicing entrepreneurs, from an academic standpoint, Dr. Maleeha Gul (Coordinator - Department of Management Studies, University of Kashmir) concluded by stating that there is a need to address the gap between academia and industry so that students gain practical exposure for entrepreneurship. She emphasized that interactive events such as the Kashmir Festival is an important initiative in this effort. She also mentioned about social impact electives at the University that are being added such as Green Marketing, Green HRM, Social Club of the Management Studies Dept. and such like.

Prof. Shafi, Head, Department of Commerce, University of Kashmir also spoke on the occasion about interdisciplinary nature of education now, with the New Education Policy coming in. He spoke about the need for the youth to take up entrepreneurship as now is the right time with many potential opportunities waiting to be explored along with a rich resource base available. This would help those who take to entrepreneurship to employ others in need as well and urged all students to take in all the learnings from Kashmir Festival for Ecological Entrepreneurship.

Moderator of the panel discussion, Fayaz Ahmad Dar concluded the panel discussion by stating the need for collaboration between academia, industry and society at large to help give an impetus to ecological entrepreneurship. He added, “an entrepreneurial mindset is the key to new ideas and innovations that work towards the four essential elements of ecology, culture, technology and people. This sums up the idea of ecological entrepreneurship. He also stated the importance of having goals by saying, “Only if you have goals will you achieve them” and then, invited the students and budding entrepreneurs in the audience to engage in setting clear goals and developing the entrepreneurial mindset.

Dar concluded by stating that, “This was the first edition of the Kashmir festival, and we are grateful and overwhelmed by the excellent response. The event will go a long way by sowing the seeds of ecological entrepreneurship in Kashmir and beyond. The work to organize the next edition of the festival has already begun.”

There was a detailed round of questions and answers following the same. Key questions were focused on the role of innovation in business, building a USP and differentiation for a brand as well as marketing strategies along with the importance of sustainability guidelines for suppliers among businesses.

The event saw participation with 80 people with a diverse set of students from University of Kashmir, SSM College of Engineering and Technology, MPML Higher Secondary Institute, Sri Pratap College and East West Institute of Technology along with the representatives from non-profit CHINAR International and members of Self-Help Groups as part of the National Rural Livelihood Mission.

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