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Startup ecosystem in J&K struggling in wake of limited internet access

It has been more than a year now since the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is struggling with the internet connectivity. The startup ecosystem in the region which is in its nascent stage has been affected negatively by the ‘lockdown’ of the internet.

The J&K Startup Policy of 2018, which also has influence over the Union Territory of Ladakh, focuses on non-tech sectors and does not care much about the technological sector which has a major effect over the region’s economy. It has been very hard to operate such services when the customers lack accessibility to the internet. However, local startups are constantly trying to overcome this challenge.

Ishan Verma, founder of tech startup Nentoir and director of J&K Startup Association, while talking to Inc42 pointed out that even though startups don’t get affected much by internet issues as high-speed internet services are available on broadband. However, customers have been facing major issues while surfing over the internet. He said that many startups have been trying to find different ways to connect to customers.

Srinagar-based agritech startup e-fruitmandi collaborated with local startups such as FARM2U, Fastbeetle and ElanMart to match up supply to the demand of apples in Kashmir Valley during the high-demand Ramazan season in April. In order to enable customers to access services without any problem, efruitmandi decided to take orders through phone calls, WhatsApp messages or Google forms, which can function well even in 2G internet.

Startup founders had to redesign their business model in order to incorporate an offline model through which a wider set of customers can place their orders.

The Chemist and Druggist Association of Kashmir had also been dropping doorstep medicine delivery through phone calls. Even though the internet wasn’t the main problem in this case, restrictions imposed by the police and paramilitary forces on internal travel was a major issue.

President of the Chemist and Druggist Association of Kashmir, Fayaz Azad, pointed that security forces should permit delivery of medicines, as it comes under essential items. He also demanded that the police should let people from the pharmaceutical industry pass through after checking their documents and confirming their identity.