Breaking stereotypes by earning a name for herself in a male-dominated profession, Rifat Masoodi, a 40-year-old mother of two, has been running cricket bat manufacturing unit in the conflict-ridden Kashmir valley.
Though the stone-pelting by civilians and faceoffs between radical Kashmiris and security forces might be common in the area, that hasn’t stopped Rifat Massodi from dreaming big.
Rifat Masoodi is the only woman owner of a cricket bat manufacturing unit in J&K and has a dream that Indian cricket stars will use her products one day.
It all began in 1999 when the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee went on a bus journey to Pakistan. She recalled:
“His efforts at fostering peace brought a sense of calm and normalcy to Kashmir as well. There was renewed interest in Kashmiri products among buyers across the country.”
Though her father-in-law had started a bat-making unit in the 1970s, with the political unrest in the 1990s, the business had crumbled. Bat makers in Jalandhar had replaced them as a hub for the industry in India.
But, in 1999, the then 21-year-old decided to revive the business irrespective of all the challenges.
She reached out to every Indian buyer who had shown any interest in Kashmir bats. She even offered a free stay at the Masoodi residence for her wholesale customers.
But, she couldn’t have done it without her husband, Shauqat, who encouraged her idea throughout.
Rifat shared how society, who disliked the idea initially, started supporting her too.
“In the beginning, people, including women, used to dislike my venture. But when they realised Kashmir needed business beyond tourism, apples and apricots, they agreed that there was no problem with cricket bats and women making them” said Rifat.
She further added:
“I would love to see Team India players use our bats…Today we receive bulk orders from Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. But I appeal to PM Modi to waive off the 12% GST.”
“It is a myth that Kashmiris support only Pakistan when there is a cricket match with India. I love Indian players. In fact, when we started in 2000, it was Dravid, Ganguly and Tendulkar who inspired me. But that does not mean one can’t like a good Pakistani fast bowler” she added.
Being a women entrepreneur isn’t easy. But it takes a brave heart to stick to her dream in the middle of terrorism and an unsafe environment.
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