There has been a 34.6 per cent increase in the number of stock market investors in Jammu and Kashmir over the past year, while the increase was 88.02 per cent in the newly formed Union Territory of Ladakh, according to a recent report from BSE.

“Equity markets have seen a general surge in interest in the last few years, especially post-Covid. However, the surge in investor numbers is even more pronounced in J&K and Ladakh due to the ‘low base effect’. Even until a few years ago, these regions faced challenges in terms of [lack of] high-speed and stable internet connectivity, which acted as a significant barrier for online trading and investment activities. Improved connectivity infrastructure in recent times has been a game-changer,” said Vishv, a Jammu-based entrepreneur.

Apart access to investment platforms and tools, investors are also benefiting from the availability of online information on financial planning and investments, he added.

An unexpected outcome of the Covid-19 pandemic was the return of a skilled workforce to the Valley and Jammu. Rakshit Sharma, an official in the office of the Lieutenant Governor, J&K, said that corporate shutdowns and layoffs during the pandemic forced J&K natives working in metropolitan cities and MNCs to return home, bringing with them an urban work culture and mindset. This reinforced a demographic dividend in an otherwise sedentary economy.

“The shift from Darbar Move, a bi-annual capital shifting practice, to e-office has helped save resources and funds, which are being reinvested in other sectors. The opening up of standard educational institutions like the IIT, IIM, NIFT, IIMC, and AIIMS has helped improve literacy levels. Incubation centres and entrepreneurship cells are being set up in higher education institutes,” he said.

As a growing number of residents in J&K and Ladakh actively participate in the equity markets, spurred by the newfound access to information and financial tools, a cycle of development appears to be taking seed in a region that is slowing emerging from decades of strife.