From rags to riches: This school-dropout-turned-entrepreneur from Kashmir bags US fellowship

Apart from heading the business empire, Hamid also runs Rahim Green, an eco-friendly initiative by his group of companies

In late 1980s, Abdul Hamid Bhat, a boy from Batamaloo, Srinagar had to give up his school education to earn livelihood for his family. He started his career as a scooter mechanic and after learning the skill, he opened a small workshop on a family-owned land. Three decades later, the mechanic Hamid  is among one of the leading businessmen of Kashmir, creating job opportunities for around 200 youth at his chain of automobile outlets running under the local famous brand Rahim Motors.

Acknowledging his struggle, a US-based university has selected him for a fellowship program at the Bartos Institute for the Constructive Engagement of Conflict. Bhat will also attend the Harvard Social Enterprise Conference.

During an exclusive chitchat with InUth, Hamid candidly admits that he didn’t even know the spelling of entrepreneur but he never stopped learning and internet became his teacher. “I couldn’t even spell ‘entrepreneur’. I only knew first three alphabets ‘ent’ and my search engine friend Google would do the needful and this is how it all began.”

Hamid says he looks ahead to improve “social entrepreneurship” through the “concept of business for society.” “We live in a capitalist, entrepreneur-dominated society and this needs to end through social entrepreneurship.”

The businessman says there was a dire need to improve “collective public responsibility.” “Gone are the days when people discussed corporate social responsibility. Now it’s time for common man to take up the social responsibility because if each one of us become responsible at ground level, we’ll collectively reap the benefits of prosperity.”

Interestingly, for the fellowship program, Hamid will be accompanied by his son, Musaib who is pursuing graduation in India. “Frankly speaking I am not well-versed with English as I only manage some toti-phooti interaction, so to get the fullest out of this fellowship, I am taking my son along as an interpreter lest I miss anything.”

Apart from heading the business empire, Hamid runs Rahim Green, an eco-friendly initiative by his group of companies. Over the past decade, Rahim Greens has planted over one lakh conifers in Kashmir. This year it looks ahead to plant 15,000 more trees under a special program whereby institutions like government schools, mohalla committees and religious places including mosques and temples are being offered free saplings.

“See you cannot look at the growth in isolation where one excels in professional life alone. You have to equally contribute towards society and this is something I try through my humble efforts,” says Hamid while distributing saplings among schoolchildren, with a message “Let’s make Kashmir green together!”