A woman who infused a new life into the dying craft of Kashmir


Arifa‘Revolutionizing the craft of Kashmir’ -- is the tagline of a small firm that begin just with a novel idea of renewing the art and craft of Namdha – a traditional Kashmiri rug. It grew beyond expected limits when it found a space in international market. 

Started as her academic project named ‘Revival of Kashmir’ Arifa Akhter – a Master’s degree holder in Craft Management – gave Namdha a new identity.

Since Namdha is a dying craft in Kashmir and people no longer buy it so she chose it as a topic for her project work. And what was the biggest challenge was to generate interest of people in it afresh. Instilling her training into her project Asiya came out with 300 pieces of Namdha laced with innovation.

“I had to increase the marketability of Namdha so I gave it a new form and for quality instead of using local wool I used 100-percent merino, a type of sheep prized for its wool.” 

And ‘Revival of Kashmir’ got a chance to revive itself.

I was lucky enough that I got a place in Delhi exhibition to set up my own stall she says.

“My first exhibition was a sell out. I sold almost 95 percent of the Namdha’s which I had taken along,” replies Arifa with a chuckle as if appreciating her own accomplishments.

When done with the course she decided to set up a firm with an aim to take this craft to a new level. So in 2011, along with her two colleagues she came out with ‘Incredible Kashmir Crafts’.

“We began with a small amount of two lakh rupees and started making and marketing the local Namdhas.”

Arifa was taken by surprise when she realised that people still have taste for traditional things. This gave her a further boast to take the business to another level.

“We sold our products to Australia, Finland and are now expanding it to other countries." 

Today Namdha is not the only thing her firm is confined to but they have began to work on other things. 

“Eventually we worked on bags, pillow covers, suits etc and everything is done by keeping Kashmiri tradition in mind.”

Coming from a modest family in old city, Srinagar -- Arifa always wanted to venture into business. 

 “I studied commerce with the sole aim to go for business as I never wanted to be an employee.” 

Arifa is just back from training in Kyrgystan and is now intending to incorporate new designs she learnt there in her work.

“I am trying to introduce new patterns and designs in things like pillow covers, bags , suits etc so that people would come and see how traditional designs look with little bit of innovation”.

The whole idea of setting this business Arifa states was to empower the local artisan which would in-turn helps the craft in a larger way. 

From her small initiative today 16 people are driving their livelihood which she says brings her satisfaction.

“When you know people are happy because of you, that is a joy to behold.”