Ahra Syed | Managing Director | Edusat India Pvt Ltd.
In her early 20s, Ahra Syed, a pass-out from Mallinson Girls School, Srinagar, while pursuing law studies, is trying to make a mark in the education system of Kashmir Valley by setting up a business, which opens doors for the students of Kashmir to look outside the Valley to pursue their studies. In her interaction with www.TheCherryTree.in, she speaks about the education system of Kashmir and her efforts, her hopes, among other things which connect her to her roots.
Excerpts from an interaction with Rajesh Prothi
How connected are you to your place of birth? More so, in such times when many from your age group would be looking beyond the Valley for their career?
Had I not been connected to the place of my birth and grounded to my roots. I would have concentrated on myself and would have moved out of Kashmir a long time back. It is connected with my roots that I not only saw a gap in the educational system in the Valley vis-à-vis to what is happening internationally, but I understood that quality education is very important and it can bring a positive change in every sphere of life.
At such a young age, how did you come across the idea of creating a business venture?
Keeping in view the Kashmir situation, it was challenging for me to come out at the age of 19 and do something new in such a conservative society. Interestingly it started when I desired to have a bike, which was ridiculously criticized by all. This was when I was still in school, everyone came to know about it I was nick-named as ‘biker girl’. At times my close friends and even my teachers teased me, but this did not in any way stopped me from taking my steps forward. So I had in me what it takes to venture into business.
Education was not you’re first calling though. What was your first entrepreneurial statement?
Though challenging, I started my entrepreneurial streak online. I went online with my brand “STYLE STREET BY AHRA”. This turned out to be quite an adventure in an all-positive sense. The response was good. I had buyers coming from across the country. This brand cherishes a customer base of ten thousand. My learning from this venture was that if your give quality and service, there will always be an opportunity.
Unfortunately, the Valley of Kashmir has been witnessing shutdowns quite often. The students, who are the future of any society, are the worst hit. What do you think should be done so that the education process does not get hampered?
Due to the prevailing situation in Kashmir education is the worst hit. This has been happening for the past three decades. To top it off, nothing new is available in Kashmir for the student in terms so education. Those who want to pursue higher education either in the country or abroad fall prey to people who cheat them and elude with their hard-earned savings. Probably, all this added up inside me and I ventured out to provide services to people in a safe and secure mode, so to enable them to complete their studies and pursue their goals and serve the society. To come to the point, support for such students is very much required.
There are many measures that can be taken to safeguard the interests of the students by offering them honest and qualitative counseling. This is one part, besides this, the basic infrastructure in terms of modernization needs to be addressed.
What efforts do you make to preserve the culture of Kashmir?
The world has become a global village where you need to adopt certain changes vis-a-vis development otherwise you will be left behind. While adopting and adjusting in the modern world, there is always a chance that we distance ourselves from our basic way of living, our culture. On my part, I try my best to carry on the legacy of our cultural heritage in terms of language, respect for other, hospitality, and many small things, which are part of our daily life.
How supportive is your family in your pursuit of this venture?
I come from a literate and scholarly family. My ancestors have been connected with education and learning. The main person in my life was my grandfather, he headed the finance department of the Jammu and Kashmir Government, and he authored sixteen books. He had a vision, which did not accommodate any gender basis and supported social service. With such a family background, it is needless to add here that my family gave me the freedom to opt for a career that could also connect with our society.
What are your other interests, apart from your professional career?
I like eating and preparing different cuisine, but due to the paucity of time, I do not disturb my focus on servicing society to the best of my ability and knowledge.
What is your take on the true Kashmiri culture? How is it different from the early 1980s, when various communities co-existed in the Valley of Kashmir?
Valley is a place of Sufi saints and peace and prosperity, going back into history, during the pre and post-independence, when riots were a routine affair, there was not a single report of rioting from Kashmir and Mahatma Gandhi had said “ I see a ray of hope in Kashmir”.
So frankly speaking Kashmir has been a role model for the rest of the country at all times. But some unfortunate incidents in the past have put a question mark. But nothing is permanent, everything will be fine, times a good healer.