All eyes are set on Kashmir’s apple season this year, owing to last year’s unfortunate losses that the industry faced on account of various reasons. Apple rates plummeted by 30% last year, leading to significant losses for local apple growers. With new challenges and old fears, young entrepreneurs are devising new ways to mitigate these challenges locally. Their entrepreneurial efforts are aiming for results that go beyond profit and are rooted in the spirit of helping local farmers and the local economy.
An old apple juice cottage industry, which was thriving in the 1980s, had met a silent death in 2017 due to the region’s economic instability. Owned by Abdul Sattar, an old apple juice cottage industry had garnered statewide recognition and respect in the 1980s. Such was its fame that even Bollywood celebrities couldn’t resist its taste and the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi had praised it, as per the owners. However, since 2017, the cottage industry was facing challenges that led to its slow death. Covid-19 ensured that the family-owned business never recuperated.
However, White Vale, a startup helmed by Ammar and Hurraira, two young entrepreneurs from Kashmir, turned the fate of Sattar’s apple juice cottage industry and weaved a comeback story for the family-owned business.
The duo recognized an opportunity where most saw despair. Their vision breathed life back into Sattar’s erstwhile enterprise.
“Even though Kashmir is a major apple-producing state of India, there isn’t a single pan-Indian apple juice brand originating in the region.”, says Ammar. This realization sparked White Vale’s mission: to transform this delicious blend of different Kashmiri apples into a pan-India brand. What sets their apple juice apart, besides its origin, is its claims of purity. A preservative-free drink, White Vale’s product promises and delivers the “authentic taste of Kashmir.”
Within a short span of one year, the business has not only revived a dysfunctional factory but also established a robust distribution network across the length and breadth of India, including regions as diverse as Tamil Nadu, Assam, and Nagaland. Their success story has been such that the juice has reached seven states, and demands are pouring in from many more.
Last year’s downturn in apple rates deeply wounded Kashmir’s agrarian economy. The 30% drop in prices left farmers distraught, with countless tonnes of apples left to rot. But as Hurraira, co-founder of White Vale, points out, “Value addition to these apples can be a game-changer. By processing these apples and converting them into products like juice, not only are the losses mitigated, but it also provides a platform for a much-needed boost to Kashmir’s economy.”
The duo isn’t alone in its mission. Other entrepreneurs in the region are also stepping up. For instance, Wanposh, another entrepreneurial venture, is delving into value addition with products like apple cider vinegar.
The entrepreneurial spirit; finding potential in adversity and leveraging the region’s natural strengths, could be the key to navigating Kashmir through its economic challenges.
The tale of White Vale is not merely a business success story. It symbolizes the spirit of a new Kashmir, one that is resilient, innovative, and ambitious. It is a testament to the fact that even in the face of economic instability and challenges, entrepreneurial ventures can thrive and pave the way for others.
In essence, Kashmir’s apple economy, once beleaguered by falling prices and external challenges, is finding new ways to flourish. Through the combined efforts of local entrepreneurs, there’s hope that the region will not only reclaim its status as India’s apple haven but also chart a path of sustainable economic growth for its people.
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