From School Dropout to Entrepreneur: Kashmiri Youth’s Mission to Digitize the Valley

When Sheikh Asif, a resident of the congested Batamaloo district of Srinagar, dropped out of school in 2008 to support his financially-struggling family, he was one of millions of such stories. Fourteen years later, however, Asif owns a renowned computer company based in Manchester, England. He is the author of three books and has worked to transform the valley’s digital sector.

Asif, who is an inspiration to the young people of the valley, is the eldest of four siblings. Her struggle began early when in 2001 her father fell victim to a mysterious illness that eluded every hospital in the valley. but his mother managed to lead the family.

“To manage the house, my mother sold copper utensils, which tore me apart. In 2008, I felt it was better to remain illiterate than to see my mother’s struggle. I decided to drop out of school for good and started working to support my family financially, consisting of my two younger sisters and one brother,” Asif said. DH.

It was his mother’s dream to see Asif become a doctor, but it didn’t happen. When he was 15, he started looking for a job. His first job was at a local travel agency where he was paid Rs 1,500 per month.

Always intrigued by computers, Asif developed an interest in the IT field after watching an interview with Bill Gates on the BBC. From 2010 to 2014, he jumped from job to job, while honing his computer skills.

Asif quit his job in 2014 and started a small business, but misfortune awaited him as his house and office were swept away by a flood a few months later. Heartbroken, Asif was back in the workforce and got a job as a graphic designer in a company named “Trimax Printing and Graphics” in 2015, owned by a Hayes-based Tejindar Singh in the UK. But Asif was cut from work when the internet went down in the valley following the murder of activist Burhan Wani. Tajinder then took him to Delhi and offered him to work in England.

Unfortunately, the business quickly went bankrupt, 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 a space to work.

Asif’s success story began when he met a Google employee who offered to build a website for him. “After a few months, a person who ran a food chain approached me to do a logo. I expected 50 pounds for the job, but he gave me 500 pounds. He also asked me to create a website for his business. Happy with my work, he paid me 7000 pounds. He also wrote a review for me on social media, thanks to which I started designing many websites,” he said.

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

In March 2018, Asif returned to Kashmir after his visa expired. “I wanted to stay in Kashmir for a few months with my family and during that time I also set up a local office here. My partner runs the business in Manchester (England) and I work virtually from here. For the past three years, due to Covid, I couldn’t go back, but now I want to establish an office in Dubai where I can employ young Kashmiri people,” Asif said.

It is Asif’s mission to digitize Kashmir. He is the author of three books on the same subject and he also teaches computer skills virtually to students in Kashmir and other cities in India, as well as in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. .