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Sweet smell of success

Dr Amin began by growing lavender and roses (© Flagstaffotos/Flickr)
Dr Amin began by growing lavender and roses
© Flagstaffotos/Flickr

Starting with lavender and roses, Dr Gazalla Amin has built a highly successful oil-extraction business in Kashmir in the last six years. With no previous experience, she learned the hard way-by trial and error. "Right from my childhood, I was so attracted to nature, I just wanted to be with it," Amin says. "When I became a medical doctor, I was looking for an opportunity to carve a profession for myself that would keep me close with nature."

After cultivating lavender successfully on her one acre, Amin soon extended this to nine hectares and also began to grow roses on another six hectares in association with a group of smallholder farmers. They, according to Amin, showed great interest after seeing the success of her crops.

Initially, Amin self-financed her business, but as it grew she was given a grant by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries and Venture Capital - a government scheme for successful entrepreneurs - in order to buy machinery and expand further. With the money, she built three oil distillation plants, each employing between three and five people. She also teamed up with a regional research laboratory, to provide technical support to the farmer groups and teach them the necessary farming practices. In total, her company and cooperatives now provide direct employment to more than 150 farmers' families.

India, a huge market

Rose water, rose oil, geranium oil and other aromatic oils are now sold by her company, Fasiam Agro Farms, under the brand name 'Pure Aroma', both within Kashmir and beyond. The company also markets packed dried flowers. "For us, India is a huge market, a demand worth seven billion dollars for medicinal and aromatic plants," Dr. Amin estimates. Over 80 per cent of that demand, however, is outside Kashmir, so her products are transported, packaged in aluminium drums. In 2011, the company is planning to launch the 'Pure Aroma' brand in Dubai and market directly through retail outlets.

Dr Amin has formed the first Indian cooperative in this sector (© Dr Gazalla Amin)
Dr Amin has formed the first Indian cooperative in this sector
© Dr Gazalla Amin

Dr Amin has been credited with establishing the first international and national market linkages for medicinal and aromatic plants in Kashmir as she is now associated with companies in and outside India to sell Kashmir's medicinal and aromatic plant products. And recently she formed the first Indian cooperative in this sector (Jammu & Kashmir Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Growers' Cooperative). Already the cooperative has 300 members who will receive planting material and training in cultivation of aromatic plants, and through the cooperative, members will be able to market as a group, enabling them to earn higher prices for their flowers.

"This is a rewarding industry. If you tell a farmer that he can earn a great deal of money from cash crops like lavender and rose, he will never think of selling his land for peanuts. This is a huge problem in Kashmir, with fed-up farmers selling their land to property developers," she observes. "I have resolved to motivate farmers across Kashmir to remain hooked to their agricultural land and get as much from it as they can. I am proud to be a farmer and I want every other farmer across Kashmir to take pride in what they are doing."

Diversifying to grapes and peaches

Being an eager entrepreneur, Dr Amin is keen to diversify her business, and has recently taken the plunge by planting peach and grapes on two and a half hectares. While she is very particular about growing aromatic flowers organically, she uses modern techniques. "We don't use traditional methods of plantation, but the most modern methods, which we call high density or intensive farming," Amin explains. For example, unlike most farmers in Kashmir who continue growing branched trees in the traditional way, she has planted branchless vertical trees which produce more quantity and better quality of fruit.

Dr Amin has been decorated by the Kashmir government for her contribution to entrepreneurship development (© Dr Gazalla Amin)
Dr Amin has been decorated by the Kashmir government for her contribution to entrepreneurship development
© Dr Gazalla Amin

As a result of her efforts, Amin was decorated by the Kashmir government with the State Award for her contribution to entrepreneurship development in agriculture in 2011. Kashmir's Ministry of Agriculture also hailed her efforts in encouraging farmers to plant high-value crops instead of selling their land, and using every forum, wherever she is invited as a successful entrepreneur, to promote agriculture-oriented businesses.

Ask Dr. Amin what problems she encountered while building this enterprise, and she replies, "The absence of any business model for this kind of enterprise was a handicap in the beginning, but I quickly learned through trial and error." Being a woman was also a problem, with hardly any women entrepreneurs around, and getting established in a male-dominated set-up was also a problem in the beginning. "But I overcame these challenges within no time," she concludes with well deserved satisfaction.

Written by: Athar Parvaiz

Date published: May 2011

 

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she is an inspiration to so called male dominated agricultur... (posted by: syed majid rizvi)

 

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