Along with operating a travel company, Danish Mir runs a travel community named, ‘Being Kashmiri’ that aims to eradicate fears of people travelling to Kashmir.
After battling a hard time and giving two years to the market research, as soon as Danish Mir, a Kashmiri, began with his two businesses in the valley, the internet curbs forced him to take a back seat. Talking a leap of faith, as he dedicated himself to the revival of his businesses after the situation seemed “normal”, the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir made up for the rest of the trials- making him explore alternatives to sustain livelihood.
The “heaven of the earth” – Kashmir might appear majestic to the tourists who visit here for a while, the conditions of locals narrate a different story altogether. Even though the locals cannot resist appreciating the beauty of their land, the question of survival and the gloomy future fill them with anxiety, like in the case of Danish Mir, who is a 33-year-old from Rohama village of Rafiabad, Baramulla in Kashmir.
Surviving the dark past where his father was shot dead in 2004 (he does not disclose more), Danish decided to leave Kashmir to pursue higher education the same year. Back in his village, he was deprived of many opportunities, for which he shifted to Pune. For some reason, though, he did not complete his course and started working for United Airlines in Mumbai. During this time, he suffered a heartbreak that shattered his energy.
It was a tough decision but Danish decided to return to Kashmir in 2012. Soon after, he discovered his interest in travelling and made it on his first trip to Ladakh. However, Danish had an old longing to run a business, and for the same, he researched the business opportunities in the valley and came up with Kashmir basket – an e-commerce platform for selling “Geographical Indicated” products of Kashmir like fruits, dry fruits, along with Pashmina shawls in 2014. This apart, in 2016, he founded GoKash Adventures – a travel company offering exquisite packages to tourists.
After several days of operations from Kashmir, Danish suffered a setback due to an internet blackout in Kashmir. Not just the internet, even phone calls were not allowed during that time. Without wasting time, Danish considered going to Pune again to be able to run his businesses. However, even after putting a lot of effort into his first startup – Kashmir Basket, it could not yield positive results, after which Danish decided to close it down for good.
Now, he was left with his travel company that promised tourists a tour to off-beat places in Kashmir. “Majority of the people were aware of popular places in Kashmir like Srinagar, Gulmarg, but not of the beauty of the off-beat places. Hence, I thought to provide them with a chance to explore that through GoKash Adventures,” Danish says.
He started working rigorously for his travel company, in the midst of which he observed that people had various notions about travelling in Kashmir due to socio-political reasons, and some were also hesitant to visit the place. Noticing this, he initiated ‘Being Kashmiri’ – a community of travellers to share their travel and living experiences from Kashmir. Present on Instagram, this community is aimed to promote Kashmir as a “safe tourist place”.
The initiative also demanded Danish learn photography skills to show the world how beautiful his land was, and he did and posted the beauty of Kashmir on Instagram so that he could invite people. This apart, he also started sharing client experiences who came through his travel company – on the platform to ensure authenticity.
His business was doing good through word-of-mouth publicity when the repealing of Article 370 was announced in the state. The internet was curbed again, and the businesses saw a closure, with the owners having no forecast of the opening.
Danish was sure that it was going to hit his business hard. But he had other priorities, one of which was to rescue his client, who was a woman solo traveller, and drop her off at the airport. Amid curfew and lack of connectivity, it was difficult, but his team, somehow, managed to fulfill the commitment. Danish did not stay back either. Describing the scenes, he says, “I remember the airport was filled with crowd and people queued up for obtaining tickets.”
After the situation got a bit better, Danish resumed reviving his business, and even after the COVID-19 lockdown, his business survived, and after the second wave of lockdown, his business flourished like never before. “People were locked up for long so, they found comfort in travelling and that proved to be a boon for me,” Danish says. Since then, his business has been providing a tour of Kashmir and Ladakh while also offering packages based on the preferences of people. “We ask people about their plans and make itineraries according to that,” he adds.
For Kashmiri community
Along with turning GoKash Adventures into a full-fledged website and restarting ‘Kashmir Basket’, Danish is also looking forward to helping the Kashmiri community with education – a motive that he has had for no less than four years since his mother was admitted to a hospital in Delhi for cancer treatment. He started helping people through crowdfunding. Even though he lost his mother, he continued helping others.
Later, Danish decided to help people only through education, and for him, it was his community who needed the help first. “Many times, students cannot go to schools in Kashmir for geopolitical tensions and that affects the growth. I want to contribute towards education in some way,” says Danish, hinting toward his plan to start an NGO for Kashmiris.
Reportedly, while Kashmir has been observing a good number of tourists since March 2022 Danish takes pride as he says, “We host the majority of women solo travellers.”