Ground Reports

Kashmir Filmmaker Breaks Barriers, Turns A Successful Beekeeper

By Haris Jeelani Toogo, 30 Apr 2023

Faisal Simon, 39, filmmaker who returned to Kashmir from the UK, has started a new business venture focused on honey production. Faisal has always been passionate about the environment. With a vision of providing high-quality, organic honey to consumers, Faisal established his business in Kashmir. His venture aims to not only produce delicious honey but also to promote environmental sustainability by protecting the natural habitats of bees and promoting their role in pollination.

Simon's connection to Kashmir goes back to his high school, where he spent his formative years. After completing his high school education, Faisal pursued his passion for filmmaking by moving to the UK in 2005 to complete his masters. After gaining valuable experience as a filmmaker and creative director in Bollywood, Faisal returned to Kashmir to reconnect with his roots and explore his love for nature. It was during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 that Faisal got the idea of starting a honey farming business.

Faisal Simon's experience as a filmmaker allowed him to document various aspects of Indian agriculture. When reflecting on his work, Simon shared, "I had understood the struggle of working as a farmer, it is always a physically and mentally fulfilling job." This understanding of the hard work and dedication helped him to start his own honey farming business.

Fueled by his passion and commitment to the environment, Faisal established his business, leveraging his filmmaking and creative expertise to promote his brand and products. Today, his honey production business is thriving, providing high-quality, organic honey.

Through his business, Faisal hopes to create job opportunities for locals and contribute to the development of the region's economy. His passion for nature and dedication to his community serve as an inspiration for others to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

With the brand name of Virgin Himalaya he started the business from a set of 100 boxes in 2021, but within a year that number rose to 300. Despite the challenges posed by weather, Simon's commitment to his business has paid off, with his operation producing an impressive 3500 kilograms of honey each year. Faisal Simon's Virgin Himalaya has expanded its offerings beyond honey production. The business now offers over 30 products sourced not only from Kashmir but also from six different Himalayan states. To ensure the quality and authenticity of his products, Faisal personally travels to these states to source the organic products in their best form.

His commitment to making organic products available to as many people as possible is evidenced by his efforts to circulate his produce throughout India. Rather than confine his business to Kashmir, Simon has taken steps to make high-quality honey available to a wider audience, reflecting his dedication to spreading awareness about the benefits of organic products.

However, honey producers across Kashmir have been facing a significant challenge when distributing their products across India. They claim that they frequently encounter issues with adulteration, with corn and sugar syrup being added to their products in order to increase the volume of the honey. This practice of adulteration is a serious concern for producers who prioritize the authenticity and quality of their products, and it threatens the livelihoods of honest producers like Faisal Simon.

Zahid Fayaz, a 24-year-old undergraduate student from North Kashmir's Baramulla district, has been working as a bee farmer for the last six years. He has created employment opportunities for more than four people each season. In addition to operating in Kashmir, Zahid also travels across India, including states like Rajasthan and Gujarat, with his bee colonies to produce honey from different regions. "Initially, my father helped me in starting this business. Now, I only cater to the local market because I feel that exporting it to other states of India doesn't give us much in return," says Zahid Fayaz.

By starting such initiatives, the younger generation not only contributes to the growth of the economy but also creates job opportunities for others. Fayaz, shared, "I create employment for more than four people each season." This shows how small initiatives can have a positive impact on society by providing sustainable livelihood opportunities.

Despite the challenges faced by honey producers across Kashmir, Faisal's commitment to spreading awareness about the benefits of organic products has led him to circulate his product throughout India. Through his hard work and dedication, he has created a brand that reflects his values and has inspired others to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

As for Zahid Fayaz, his small initiative of bee farming has not only provided employment for himself but has also created job opportunities for others. This serves as a reminder that even small initiatives can have a positive impact on society, contributing to sustainable livelihood opportunities.