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Inspired by Bill Gates, a school dropout entrepreneur inspires hundreds in Kashmir

Twenty-eight-year-old Sheikh Asif is making significant efforts to transform the digital sector in the Valley

Batman: Sheikh Asif, 28, is a self-made businessman who dropped out of school and now leads a renowned information technology (IT) company in Manchester, England. Originally from Barapathar, Batmaloo, in Srinagar, he is the author of the publications Start a Business, Online Business Ideasand Digitization in Business. Currently, Asif is a digital marketer, educator, company owner, and writer.

Asif also enjoyed his childhood under the Chinar trees and on the bank of streams like many other children of Kashmir. He was admitted to Shaheen Public School, Manigam Ganderbal in 1999, where his father was posted at that time. Asif’s struggle began in 2000 when his father, Ghulam Rasool, a constable in Jammu and Kashmir police, fell ill. The cause of ailment remained misery to them till date. Despite several attempts, the disease could not be diagnosed at various hospitals. Which ultimately caused them to run out of money.

Hajhra Begum, Asif’s mother, had to sell the majority of the family assets to meet her husband’s treatment. Left with no money, Hajhra applied for a loan to meet his husband’s medical treatment of her.

This incident not only impacted Asif’s mental health but affected his studies which ultimately forced him to say goodbye to his educational career, which he never dreamt of.

Recalling one specific incident, Asif said that he was in the eighth grade when he couldn’t afford to buy a pen to take his final examinations. He recounts that he would never be able to forget that phase of his life that has entrenched his heart.

After his mother came to find out about it, she was shocked to see that he didn’t have a pen with him for the examinations. After this incident, his mother routinely examined his school bag to make sure he had all the essential things for his studies.

while talking to firstpost, Asif said, “To purchase pens and other stationery supplies for me, my mother sold copper utensils.” This was heartbreaking for me and I felt it was better to remain illiterate instead of seeing my mother’s struggle with her.

Asif claims that this was the turning point in his decision to give up studying for good and begin working to support the financial needs of the family.

Asif was deeply moved by this incident and feared that his mother would continue selling stuff from the house to support his education, he said.

At the age of fifteen in 2008, Asif began to hunt for a job against the wishes of his mother. She wanted to see him become a doctor, like most of the parent’s wishes for her in the Valley.

He claims that after passing his eighth-grade exams, he began working at a nearby travel agency in his hometown for a pitiful wage of Rs 1,500.

Working there for two months, Asif quit his job after having a heated argument with a co-worker, who was highly qualified but haughty, according to Asif.

“He frequently mocked and insulted me for lacking the academic background, necessarily, for the position of a computer operator,” said Asif. “I was very interested in learning computers and had it at home, which was bought by my father for me. I developed an interest in computers after watching an interview with Bill Gates on BBC. Bill Gates is my inspiration,” he recalled.

After quitting his job, he started working in a nearby business where he spent four years (2010-15) polishing and perfecting my skills. There I picked up all the fundamentals such as graphic design, tally, web design, etc. I later quit that job and used all the money to launch a small business.

However, destiny had other plans for him as the city was flooded in 2014, forcing him to use his funds to meet the needs of his family which once again left him with no money. “Our property suffered significant damage from the 2014 flood, and after periodically making repairs and renovations for four years following the floods, we finally succumbed to the financial pressure forcing us to sell the house in 2018,” he added.

He claims that in April 2015, while looking for a job on OLX, he found a company named Trimax Printing and Graphics, owned by Tajindar Singh, who was working for the UK-based company in Hayes, UK, which was looking for a person having skills of graphic design.

“I was called by the Trimax Printing and Graphics company run by Tajindar Singh, who had been working for a UK-based company in Hayes, UK, where he claims that no one was performing graphic designing during that time.”

After a discussion with his family, Asif accepted the offer and started working for Trimax Printings and Graphic virtually. In 2016 after the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani, leading the Valley shut for around three months left Asif disconnected from his company.

After a few months, I succeeded in contacting Tajinder and he took me to Delhi, where our company was running in losses at that time.

After signing the contract of 18 months on the condition of a return flight ticket back to India, Asif set his foot abroad for the first time in 2016. However, the company changed the name of Trimax Printings & Graphics to Thames Infotech on 6 June 2016 .

Asif joined the company Thames Infotech on 9 June, 2016, which has a current valuation of Rs 5 crore. Asif is currently CEO of Thames Infotech having around three dozen employees including 32 in the UK and three in Kashmir.

The company is providing services like website designing and development, digital marketing, graphics designing, personal branding, social media handling, etc.

Asif claims that his company is a top web designing company and is an award winner in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 organized by “Three Best Rated UK”, and best IT Service Provider award 2018, 2019 organized by “Top Developers USA.

Asif is an author of three books. In his books by him, he has discussed his belief that moving businesses online will not only preserve businesses and livelihoods but also speed up the nation’s economic growth.

Additionally, he offers online counseling in areas like digital marketing, website creation, and entrepreneurship. Most of his customers of him are journalists, who are keen to create portals.

“I taught students from various cities in India as well as those from the US, UK, and Canada, but just 30 percent of the students I have taught so far were from Kashmir,” he.

I have believed that parents should not impose their perspectives on their children. In modern society, there is a need for professions besides doctors and engineers. They should always encourage their kids’ interests and aspirations.

Asif you have just introduced a website soanmenu.com, where he is assisting all hotels and restaurants in uploading their menus and receiving a basic digital menu in the form of a QR code for free. It has been carefully created following Covid regulations, including social distance, online orders, and many others, which will both assist Covid to make revenue and be a significant step toward digitization.

Sheikh Asif, without a doubt, is making significant efforts to transform the digital sector in the Valley.

The writer is an independent journalist based in Jammu and Kashmir. I have tweeted at @sule_khaak. Views expressed are personal.

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