SRINAGAR: A mannequin draped in a beautifully embroidered saree welcomes customers at the entrance of a swanky showroom of Government Woollen Mills, Bemina.
Just a few steps inside, racks of silken and woollen clothing with a dash of Kashmiri artwork create a five-star aura. From pure woollen waistcoats to silken embroidered sarees, the product range pales even the best in the country. Add the ambiance and it makes the showroom truly a bonzer.
The showroom is a part of a World Bank-funded project to revive the woollen and silk industry of Kashmir. For the first time, the government has thought out-of-box to compete with the private sector. An exclusive product line-up makes it a one-of-its-kind in Kashmir.
“From processing to designing to stitching, we do everything. Our products are pure and that is our USP. We use 80 percent wool and 20 percent acrylic. We can’t use 100 percent wool because it will not have a perfect fall. So we have to use some amount of acrylic for the fall. Plus our products are guaranteed because we use virgin wool. You have different varieties in the market and rates too differ. Our rates are commensurate to the product quality,” Sajid Nazir, deputy general manager, J&K Industries, told The Kashmir Monitor.
Once called the pride of Kashmir, Government Woollen Mills, Bemina was set up in the seventies to harness the local wool industry. However, it became sick with the passage of time.
The 2014 floods added the last nail in the coffin with the factory losing 70 percent of machinery. With 110 regular employees, the factory was on crutches when the Jammu and Kashmir government decided to revive it.
Enter World Bank project, the dream became reality and the government speeded up work to restore the glory of the local ‘navratan’. The new showroom was established at Rs 4.25 crore and the machinery for processing cost Rs four crore. Similarly, the revival of Raj Bagh silk factory is estimated to cost Rs 23 crore.
Official data reveal that Jammu and Kashmir produce 900 metric tonnes of silk cocoons and 70 lakh kilograms of wool. “We have a huge wool production. It is mostly exported. Our aim is to process some of the wool to bring greater economic benefits,” said Sajid.
For the showroom, the government worked very hard to make it attractive. Since the showroom is located on the Srinagar-Gulmarg highway, the government feels that it will become a shopping point for tourists.
“Consultants were hired to create an ambiance and give it a new look. It is one of the best in the country. So tourists and local people could come and easily shop here,” he said.