Kashmir willow has always been favoured by cricketers all over the globe.
The quiet locality of Narwara in Srinagar, is known for the tense face-offs between civilians and security forces. Much like the rest of the state, this part of Kashmir is also always embroiled in turmoil.
From the ashes of conflict has emerged the story of Rifat Masoodi, who is the first woman to own a cricket bat manufacturing unit in Jammu and Kashmir, according to the Times of India.
Rifat has merely picked up after her father-in-law, who had started a bat-manufacturing unit, in the 1970’s. However, beginning in the late 80s, the escalation of the Kashmir insurgency, saw many businesses slowly come apart, including the one started by him.
In 1999, 21-year-old Rifat decided to revive the unit. The decision came from inspiration provided former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who went on a bus journey to Pakistan. Rifat told TOI, how Vajpayee’s efforts at fostering peace brought a sense of calm and normalcy to Kashmir. That led to a renewed wave of interest in Kashmiri products, from buyers nationwide.
Rifat started from scratch, making calls to Indian buyers, even offering wholesale customers free stay at the Masoodi residence.
By her own admission to KashmirBox, Rifat was married very young into a conservative family that didn’t approve of women working outside the confines of the home. However,
she states that her venture received complete support from everyone, especially her husband, Showkat Masoodi, a forest department employee who quit his job and became a full-time football coach in 2010.
Rifat’s business model is quite simple. The raw material comes from Pampore Mandi, and once procured, the entire process is carried out under her watchful eye. As of now, she has five workers currently working for her, but if a large order comes in, more workers are hired to finish the job on time. Interestingly, her unit makes all kinds of bats, including tennis bats and season bats.
While Rifat’s business like the others spread across Pampore, Anantnag and Srinagar isn’t as large as other bat manufacturing giants, like Punjab’s FC Sondhi BAS and Meerut’s SG, she states that she has a small but loyal customer base.
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While the 40-year-old receives queries from people to use stickers from brands like Reebok on the bats she makes, she steadfastly uses the stickers of her own brand, Masoodi Arts and Sports (MAS), and yearns to see Team India players using the cricket bats manufactured by her, one day.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)