It was near madness when Ubaid Mehraj decided to chase his dreams of turning raw stones into tiles instead of reaping benefits of his engineering degree. Tasavur Mushtaq talks to the young entrepreneur who despite odds managed to translate his dreams into reality
Jubilations were all around in the modest house of Ubaid Mehraj who cracked All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) in 2005 which enabled him to get admission in National Institute of Technology (NIT) Hazratbal. Ubaid’s banker father and housewife mother were satisfied with the performance of their son as they had thought that he will get a decent job. But as the fate had in store, after few semesters, Ubaid’s idea of life put serious question mark on the dream of his parents of him getting a good job as he planned to be entrepreneur and try innovative ideas. There was resentment to his approach as everybody thought he is going to land in trouble. The first offer he rejected was Rs 4.5 Lakh per annum package from a reputed company outside J&K.
The family had a reason as Ubaid’s academic career was not that ‘glorious’. “I was never good at academics. In fact never in the race,” says Ubaid with a smile. Not only this while being in NIT, Ubaid was rusticated for a year, but later Court order gave him relief and he joined back. “For being upright I was punished.”
Prior to joining engineering field, Ubaid’s childhood dream was to join Army. He says uniform and discipline always fascinated him. But what went wrong in pursuing the dream, Ubaid says was issue of ‘nationality’.
Now 28, Ubaid did his B.tech in Metallurgical and Material Engineering in 2010. Though he could not join army, but he had inculcated self discipline in him and playing with stones always fascinated him. In his last semesters at NIT, Ubaid visited many production units in India to have firsthand experience of how stones are chiseled and given shape. He also worked in production plant to know the tricks of the trade.
Done with his degree, as he came back to valley, he was all set to make his dream of chiseling stone in to a reality. The idea to approach Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) struck his mind and he went to their Pampore Office. His visit was a success. He got 7.5 lakh subsidy from EDI and 25 lakh finance from Jammu and Kashmir Bank which he believes was enough to get started. He finally started his unit in Industrial Area Khonmoh where initially he had machinery for Marble, Granite, and what in local parlance is called Dever (Ashlow).
Ubaid named his unit: L- Crystals, which became Valley’s mass scale unit where mechanized processing of stone took place to make it in to fine tiles.He says that his unit is one among largest unit in valley which has machines like block cutters, Ganti cranes, numetic polishers, edge cutting machines and mobile loaders.
The genius is that he has modified the machines according to the local need, specifically to make dever into fine tiles, which till date valley has not seen.
The primitive means of processing a stone by hand entails loss of 60 per cent, but in Ubaid’s unit this loss is minimized to just 15 per cent. This reduction in loss in turn has made the finished product cheaper by huge margins.