Amidst the breezy winds and spring chills, the sound of the machines and chatting of workers is the only noise that breaks the silence of the residential colony in the outskirts of Srinagar in Kashmir.
Located at Narwara, Soura, the cricket bat manufacturing unit in the area is abuzz with activity.
Run by 38-year-old mother of two, Riffat Jan Masoodi, Masoodi Arts and Sports (MAS) manufactures cricket bats that are supplied to different states across India. Riffat single-handedly looks after all the work from manufacturing to marketing at MAS, which she revived in 2005.
“My father-in-law owned the business but after his death, the unit was closed for several years. I decided to give the business a new life,” she says.
Most of the supplies are sent to Mumbai and Delhi for international and domestic matches. “Ninety percent of our products are based on orders coming from Mumbai, Delhi, and Latur. Only a small share of the bats that we make are sold here in the Valley. We work according to the orders and as per the demand,” adds Riffat.
Riffat’s husband is a football coach and is mostly on tours so the responsibility of managing the factory as well as her household has fallen on her.
“Thanks to the almighty, I have been able to manage both home and work over the past decade or so, as my whole family and even my neighbours help me,” she says. She has become a role model for the women of the neighbourhood.
There are hiccups in every business in the initial years, and Riffat too had her share of difficulties.
“Restarting the factory, which had been locked up for years, was truly an uphill task. Arranging workers, looking for suppliers and buyers was very difficult those days,” she says, adding, “For me, trying my hands at something like running a business was in itself a challenge.”
To begin with, Riffat’s husband reached out to his late father’s contacts and with their help and guidance, they were able to restart the factory. “Believe me, it was a gamble. Risking all my resources and energy to revive the family business, it was all on my shoulders. It took time, but the unit gained momentum. It made me hopeful that I may be able to pull this off.”
The factory is located in an old, two-storied building that the family owns. The small basement is used for machines and the rest of the rooms are used to store raw material and finished goods.
“The factory has been running from our ancestral building since the 90s. We didn’t go to the bank or any other organisation for help. It’s all ours and that’s how we remain independent and self-sufficient,” she says.
The manufacturing is strictly based on the flow of orders and hence they manage to meet the demand and supply chain.
“Depending on the order, we are capable of manufacturing 3000 to 5000 bats in a month. After GST was imposed, the orders have gone down a little as have the prices of the bats. Earlier, the bats were exempted from tax, but now we pay 12% on it, so the cost per bat has increased.”
Her annual turnover has seen fluctuations, however, it has risen in the past few years with an approximate annual turnover of Rs 5 crores. The bats range from Rs 200 to Rs 5000 depending on the style and make.
The business is gaining momentum both in the Valley and outside as Riffat strictly adheres to the best quality products and customer feedback which she takes very seriously. She is also trying to sell more cricket bats in the Valley as she wants people to know her by her brand name, which is MAS.
She has big dreams but believes in maintaining a steady pace so that she does not fumble. The profit she earns goes into buying raw material and equipment. She keeps a minimum for herself as she doesn't believe in buying new cars or luxury items.
“My business itself is a piece of jewel for me that needs polishing, care, and time. That is why I spend as much time as possible on it.”
At the factory, Riffat does not believe in dictating to her workers. She sits on the floor with them and assists in packing the finished products even late into the night so that the orders are despatched on time.
How does society see a woman running a factory in a place like Kashmir?
“Society doesn’t matter, it’s your thinking. Your family’s support is what counts, the rest will follow. Women can do everything if they are determined. Don’t make your gender an excuse. I say, if I can do it, everyone can. It is very important in today’s time for a woman to work and be independent,” she says.