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Battling the Odds

07:30 AM Oct 23, 2023 IST | MUKEET AKMALI
battling the odds
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As the World Cup frenzy captivates the nation, there is a remarkable story of resilience and determination that demands our attention.

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Fawzul Kabir, a name now synonymous with bat manufacturing in Kashmir, fought for 11 years to build a brand that took the indigenous Kashmiri product, the Kashmir willow, to the international stage. His journey to success was far from straightforward; it was a gruelling path marked by relentless determination, exhaustive research, and unshakable dedication.
Fawzul Kabir, the Managing Director of Gr8 Sports India Pvt Ltd, shared his story as an inspirational beacon for aspiring entrepreneurs, emphasising that there are no shortcuts to success.

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His tale is a testament to the indomitable human spirit, showcasing the power of passion and persistence.
“I sold around 30 kanals of my ancestral land to fund my research and development. There were moments when I was on the brink of despair, and considering suicide. Such was my condition. However, the only thing that kept me going was my unwavering passion to make Kashmir’s indigenous product marketable on the international stage,” Kabir recollected.
His remarkable journey began in 2010 when he embarked on a trip to Australia to market Kashmiri willow bats. Despite travelling to various places in Australia, he found that nobody was even willing to engage in conversation with him. After a period of frustration, he came to the stark realisation that the bats he had brought were incomparable to those being used in international play. It was a stark reality check that forced him to reevaluate his approach.
Kabir made the difficult decision to close his manufacturing unit in South Kashmir and delve deeper into the research of how Kashmir’s bats could carve a niche in the global market.

While he had the easy option of importing English willow clefts and marketing them as Kashmiri products, he understood that this would make his business entirely dependent on English Willow, which was not the path he wanted to tread.

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Instead, he chose the challenging route of making local indigenous bats renowned. To achieve this, he reached out to the ICC Academy, where umpires and coaches are trained.

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There, he acquired knowledge about the specific requirements and criteria that international-standard bats should meet. In Kashmir, bats had been crafted without adhering to any specific standards, but Kabir’s newfound knowledge led to significant progress.

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Kabir then brought skilled workers and the latest machinery from outside the region to restart his closed unit, marking the beginning of a transformative journey. After seven years of relentless research across different countries, he had a product that met international standards.

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However, this marked the beginning of a new struggle, as nobody was willing to buy his bats without putting their brand names on them, a proposition he found unacceptable.

He found himself in a dilemma, having sold a significant portion of his property to rebuild his business, with most of the funds channelled into research and development.

Family pressure mounted, urging him to sell the bats as they had invested a substantial sum. Amidst these trials, he travelled abroad and received a few orders, but his breakthrough was still elusive.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, Kabir embarked on his last international flight to India before the pandemic induced lockdowns and restrictions were enforced. “It was during this trip, while in Mumbai, I contemplated suicide, feeling like a failure. However, a moment of clarity and resilience saved me when I heard his mother’s voice, dissuading from taking such a drastic step.”

Upon returning to Kashmir, he had the opportunity to reassess and regroup. “It was during this period that a turning point arrived when the Oman cricket players chose to use my bats. This marked the beginning of international recognition that would change the course of his journey.”

Today, players from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have also adopted his product. This international recognition has not only propelled his company into successful business ventures but has also revitalized the entire bat manufacturing industry in Kashmir. In the last fiscal year, over 1.4 lakh bats made from Kashmir willow were exported, a significant milestone for this indigenous product.

Fawzul Kabir, who is currently pursuing a Ph.D., expressed heartfelt gratitude to his brother, Mohammad Niaz ul Kabir, who manages the manufacturing process of the company.

Meanwhile, Fawzul oversees marketing, sales, and international relations. He also extended his thanks to Dr Perviaz Ahmad, the head of IUST’s CIED, for his unwavering support, both emotionally and technically, during his journey.

In sum, Fawzul Kabir’s story is one of inspiration and admiration. It serves as a powerful reminder that determination and unwavering passion can lead to remarkable success, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

According to Kabir, In 2006-07, the bat manufacturing industry in Kashmir was ailing, with illegally exported products from Jammu and Kashmir impacting local manufacturing.

These overseas factories were well-equipped and met international requirements, while Kashmiri bat manufacturing units struggled to sell their raw materials due to the poor quality of their products.

This dire situation had pushed the industry to the edge of collapse. However, Fawzul Kabir’s relentless efforts and unwavering commitment have not only revitalised the bat manufacturing industry in the region but have also positioned Kashmir willow bats as a global sensation.

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