From school dropout to entrepreneur: Kashmiri youth’s mission to digitise the valley

When Sheikh Asif, a resident of the congested Batamaloo area of ​​Srinagar dropped out of school in 2008 to earn for his financially struggling family, he was one of millions such stories. Fourteen years later, however, Asif owns a renowned IT company based in England’s Manchester, he has authored three books and worked to transform the valley’s digital sector.

Asif, who is an inspiration to youngsters in the valley, is the eldest of four siblings. His struggle of him began early when in 2001, his father of him was suffered a mysterious illness which evaded all hospitals in the valley. but his mother di lui somehow managed to run the family.

“To run the household, my mother sold copper utensils which was heartbreaking for me. By 2008, I felt it was better to remain illiterate instead of seeing my mother’s struggle di lei. I decided to give up my studies for good and began working to support the financial needs of my family which consists of my two younger sisters and a brother, “Asif told DH.

It was his mother’s dream to see Asif become a doctor, but it was not to be. At the age of 15, he began to hunt for a job. His first job di lui was at a local travel agency where he was paid Rs 1,500 per month.

Always piqued by computers, Asif developed an interest in the IT field after watching an interview of Bill Gates on BBC. From 2010 to 2014, he hopped from one job to the next, all the while honing his IT skills.

Asif quit his job in 2014, and started a small business but misfortune awaited him as his house and office were washed away in a deluge few months later. Heartbroken, Asif was back on the jobs market and got a graphic designer job in a company named ‘Trimax Printing and Graphics’ in 2015, owned by one Tejindar Singh based in UK’s Hayes. But Asif was cut off from work when internet was snapped in the valley after militant Burhan Wani’s killing. Tajinder then took him to Delhi and offered him work in England.

Unfortunately, the company went under soon, leaving Asif to wander the streets of London, when luck struck and he finally met a Kashmiri who offered him a laptop, a chair and space to work.

Asif’s success story began when he met an employee of Google who offered to make a website for him. “After a few months, a person who was running a food chain approached me to make a logo. I was expecting 50 pounds for the work, but he gave me 500 pounds. He also asked me to make a website for his company about him. Happy with my work, he paid me 7000 pounds. He also wrote a review for me on social media, due to which I started designing a lot of websites, ”he said.

He then registered his own company named ‘Thames Infotech’ in partnership with a Pakistani-origin British citizen. This company, of which Asif is the CEO, employs three dozen people in the UK and three in Kashmir.

In March 2018, Asif returned to Kashmir as his visa expired. “I wanted to stay in Kashmir for a few months with my family and during this period, I also set up a local office here. My partner is running the company in Manchester (England) and I am working virtually from here. In the last three years due to Covid, I couldn’t go back, but now I want to establish an office in Dubai where I can employ Kashmiri youngsters, ”said Asif.

It is Asif’s mission to digitise Kashmir. He has authored three books on the same and he also teaches IT skills to students from Kashmir and other cities in India as well as the US, UK and Canada virtually.

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