Illusions Of Monopoly?

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KC EXCLUSIVE

THE Valley of Kashmir has long been perceived as a place devoid of potential for private business, with public employment being the presumed mainstay for the educated populace. However, recent developments have been challenging this assumption, as Kashmir has been witnessing a rise in private industries across various spectrums. Despite this progress, a common trend emerges – the creation of monopolies by certain industries, blocking the entry of other players. And Tramboo Industries serves as a prime example of this phenomenon.

Tramboo Industries stands as one of the pioneering members of industrial innovation in Kashmir, with lucrative businesses spanning various services. From cement manufacturing to real estate, fertilisers to pesticides, poultry to cricket bat manufacturing, and a chain of hotels to textiles, Tramboo’s diverse portfolio showcases its expansive influence. However, this dominance has resulted in the monopolisation of various sectors, creating bottlenecks for aspiring entrepreneurs.

A controversy unfolded recently when Tramboo heirs participated in India’s famous reality TV show ‘Shark Tank’. During the show, Tramboo claimed to be the sole manufacturer of indigenous Kashmiri willow bats, equipped with modern machinery, asserting superiority over other competitors. Notably, they projected Alpha manufacturers as their property, a claim that proved misleading and deceptive.

The Cricket Bat Manufacturers Association of Kashmir (CBMAK), representing all cricket bat manufacturers in the Valley, vehemently refutes Tramboo Sports’ portrayal as the exclusive producer of Kashmir willow cricket bats. The association emphasises that such statements not only mislead the public but also inflict substantial harm upon its members’ businesses.

Expressing deep concern, the CBMAK highlights the severe blow to bat sales and the tarnishing of the entire indigenous Kashmiri bat-making industry’s reputation due to these misrepresentations. The association underscores the superior quality of bats manufactured by its members, endorsed by various star cricketers who prefer and promote their products. The CBMAK is particularly taken aback by Tramboo Sports’ claims during the January 30 episode, wherein the company allegedly presented itself as the sole manufacturer of Kashmir willow bats.

In response to these allegations, the CBMAK adopts a legal stance by issuing a detailed notice demanding a public apology within 15 days from both Sony Pictures Networks and Tramboo Sports. Additionally, the association seeks compensation of one hundred crores for the damages, losses, and mental agony endured.

Tramboo Sports Pvt. Ltd. responds, clarifying that the televised pitch on ‘Shark Tank India’ was a brief excerpt from a more extended presentation, leading to misunderstandings. The company emphasises its commitment to fostering business development and contributing to the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Despite Tramboo’s status as a founding member of industrial innovation, the company’s history is marked by allegations of monopolistic practices and financial irregularities. Tramboo’s hegemony has led to the deprivation of prime business alternatives for other players, with accusations of money laundering and terror financing cases. Past incidents include Tramboo joinery being reported as debtors by the Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Corporation for delayed payments.

Last year, the State Investigative Agency (SIA) issued a supplementary charge-sheet accusing Hamaad Farooq Tramboo of terror financing. The investigation revealed that funds raised from foreign sources were laundered through banking channels and deposited in the accounts of family members of killed or active terrorists. The money was primarily channelled through Hamaad Farooq Tramboo’s accounts.

The Tramboo premises include Khyber Resorts in Gulmarg, a milk factory in Lethpora, Pulwama Cement Factory at Khunmoh office, Hyderpora office in the SDPS Building, Goni Bagh, Srinagar and Khyber Hospital in Khyam Chowk, a residence near Minto Circle, Raj Bagh, Srinagar, Tramboo joinery mill etc.

In another incident, Income Tax sleuths raided Tramboo businesses for alleged tax evasions. Tramboo was raided for amassed huge amounts of unaccounted money which has been already transferred to Dubai to purchase assets. There have been allegations other than grossly under-reporting business income – the key persons of the family were found in possession of large amounts of black money and undisclosed properties. The group is now under the scanner of the tax administrators for suppression of vast income and wealth, with further investigations underway against them at various investigation agencies.

While Tramboo pursues benefits at the cost of others, their representation on ‘Shark Tank’ reflects the deep-rooted hegemonic attitude they developed in Kashmir.

Tramboo Sports dismisses CBMAK’s allegations, asserting that the footage used in the video excerpt was obtained with proper permission. However, the CBMAK maintains that Tramboo brothers, representing Tramboo Kashmir willow cricket bats, made false claims, damaging the Kashmir Cricket Bat Manufacturing industry’s reputation.

The Alfa Manufacturer owner Fayaz Ahmad Dar, talking to KC, alleges that contestants’ false claims have impacted the Valley’s cricket bat industry. He emphasises that those without any lineage towards the industry are claiming to be its forefathers, which is unacceptable. Fayaz states, “We demand an apology and retraction of the misinformation on the same platform where it was aired”.

The association contends that the bats produced by the Tramboo brothers belong to a member of their association, challenging the exclusivity claimed on the show. In response to the legal action, the Tramboo brothers and Sony Pictures Networks are under pressure to address the allegations and offer a public apology for the misrepresentation.

Meanwhile, despite the legal troubles, ‘Shark Tank India Season 3’ remains a popular platform for budding Indian entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas and secure funding from esteemed investors like Ritesh Agarwal, Deepinder Goyal, Azhar Iqubal, Radhika Gupta, Ronnie Screwvala and Varun Dua.

Despite Tramboo’s legacy of avoiding corporate social responsibility and engaging in large-scale tax evasion and monopolistic practices, this is a call for them to shun the hegemonic attitude of sabotaging other businesses through deception. Tramboo must walk the talk and uphold ethical business practices.

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