While India and Pakistan defence secretaries are battling to break ice over Siachen logjam in Pakistan, Kashmir, in an uncanny coincidence, on Tuesday turned into a market battleground when twelve big brands from the neighbouring country made forays into Indian market through the valley.
At Srinagar’s leading shopping mall Sangarmal City Centre, a Valley-based company, ‘Finesse of Tradition’, has tied up with twelve leading brands of Pakistan and opened the store, a first in the country that houses brands from all over Pakistan under one roof, in the afternoon to a huge crowd.
Top brand ‘Bareeze’, known for its famous embroidery and cotton fabric, already has two stores in New Delhi. But other leading brands like ‘Junaid Jamshed’, a famous singer-turned-religious activist’s store for men and women, Leisure Club, Man, Urban Culture, Sefam, The Working Women, Chinyere and Shahnameh are new to the Indian shores.
“I met Zain Aziz, son of Bareeze CEO Seema Aziz, during the Life Style Exhibition Delhi-2012. He was eager to expand business across India so I nodded for Kashmir. Since I am an old buyer of Bareeze products from Kashmir, I knew the market potential,” said Sheikh Feroz (44), who owns Alkhuddam, the company getting the imports from Pakistan.
Easing up of tension between the two countries and improved trade ties has instilled a confidence among the trading community on the both sides of the border.
“There is now eagerness among Pakistani traders to explore Indian market in a big way. I had to reject seven big brands as my hands were full when I visited Pakistan earlier this year,” said Feroz, who believes traditional and ethnic wear of Pakistan has potential to attract buyers in Kashmir.
The interest and eagerness on Pakistani side can be gauged from the repeated calls made by Junaid Jamsheed and Zain Aziz to Feroz today.
“Jamsheed and Aziz were eager to be part of the launching ceremony. They are calling me to say ‘we are holding special prayers for the initiative’,” said Feroz while quoting the two brand owners from Pakistan.
The new clothing range, mainly kurtas from Lahore, and Peshwari chappals are fast attracting buyers here. “Earlier, I used to buy Pakistani fabric from Dubai, London or ask a visiting friend to buy it from Pakistan. I am happy to have the option of wearing best Pakistani cotton suits in Kashmir now,” said Zainab Habib, a buyer. Being a Muslim majority state, there is a big market for Khan Suits and traditional Islamic women dress line in Kashmir.
“I am not cashing in on any leaning or sentiment in Kashmir but my USP is fabric of Pakistan,” said Feroz.
Upbeat Feroz is just upset about model of cross-Line of Control trade system working between two parts of Kashmir.
“Instead of a barter system, there should be a proper banking system in place. The products prices could have drastically come down if we were allowed to use land route through the LoC,” said Feroz.
These Pakistani brands are targeting mainly the upper middle class and the elite in Kashmir with price tags starting from Rs 6,000 for a kurta and 10,000 for a shalwar suit.