An IT start-up in the conflict zone of Kashmir



It needs not just courage and a brave
heart, but immense confidence and commitment to give up hefty pays
and cozy life working abroad and take up the challenges to start a
tech firm, not in Bangalore but in the conflict zone of Srinagar,
Jammu and Kashmir.  It was in 2004, when Fayaz Bhat, Amin Bhat
and Tahir Kazi—three techie friends—took a bold decision to leave
their jobs abroad and returned back to pursue their aspirations to do
something worthy for locals in this state, the land once called by
Jawahar Lal Nehru as the heaven on earth.  “We three friends
came together and co-founded Musky Software Solution (MSS) in
December 2004 with the initial investments of Rs five lakh. Our
concept was that we all belonged to J&K, so wanted to give back
to the place where we were born,” says Fayaz Bhat. Looking
at the turbulent socio-political situation in J&K over the past
three decades due to constant terrorist activities, security issues,
curfews and so on, setting up an IT business will not be considered a
wise decision. “Yes, we were aware of the problems here but were
enough confident to meet those challenges and determined to give a
chance to the locals with our positive thinking,” added Fayaz
Bhat. Because of the uncertain situations,
Bhat takes extra care and safety of his staffs. He has created a
residential and kitchen area where the staffs prepare food and stay
overnight during curfews. According to Fayaz Bhat, the state
has some eight to 10 engineering colleges, institutes and
universities, so every year a big number of tech graduates pass out
from the state. “So getting IT staffs here is not a major issue but
getting work or projects regularly is the key problem for companies
like ours,” explained Bhat.

Initially, it was the support
and references of friends based abroad that offered IT projects, back
office work, software development and support type of jobs to MSS.
Owing to the difficulty in getting a smooth flow of work, they
decided to have five business lines rather than having just one
specialized sector, in order to keep the business sustained. “Our
business include software development, flash product development,
banking services, IT staffing and recruitment and IT consultancy,”
said Bhat. Apart from the socio-political situations, the
start-up also faces issues like regular power-cuts, inconsistent and
low Internet connectivity, lack of business locations along with
non-availability of evening flights, which hampers client visits and
meetings.

Despite the challenges and problems, today MSS is a
six-year-old firm with 30 staff members, two offices in Srinagar and
Jammu and they are furthur planning a third one in Bangalore in the
next fiscal. “Though our client base is small, most of them
are from the US, Africa and other countries. On an average we are
able to add a couple of clients every year and growing at 50 percent
annually. Last year we posted revenue of over Rs one crore,”
claimed Bhat. Currently, MSS has 10 clients from verticals such as
banking, healthcare, e-commerce, exports along with software
companies for outsourcing work. According to Bhat, there are some 45
plus small and mid-size IT firms providing various IT support and
services such as data entry, web designing, back-office outsourcing
and software developments.
 But in the absence of a state IT
policy or vision, he reckons that the prospects of utilizing IT
resources and boosting small IT firms here highly depends on big IT
enterprises such as Infosys, HCL, Wipro and TCS. “If these
big companies can share or outsource even 0.5 percent of their
non-critical work or back-office jobs to firms in J&K, then it
will not only boost the IT sector but will also create big job
opportunities for the locals,” quoted Bhat. “If telecom
firms are operating and doing business in J&K, why can’t the tech
companies follow the same and change their attitudes?” asked the
entrepreneur with a mission.

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