Social media turned fast-food chain Kathi Junction’s Sarah City Centre outlet into a ‘must-visit’ place overnight. In an interview, the entrepreneur who effected the turnaround, Javed Parsa, tells Kashmir Scan about plans for his new venture, Parsa’s, which has replaced KJ, and business opportunities in the Valley.
KS) Tell our readers about yourself, Javed. Where were you born and what brought you into business?
JP) I started from a small school in my village in Bandipora and later went out of Kashmir for higher education. Drifting between Engineering, Computers, Interior Designing and Management, I landed at Amazon.com. I left my job in 2014 and came back to Kashmir to venture into restaurant business.
KS) You are very popular for taking selfies with your customers. Is this your hobby or a business stunt?
JP) I took my first selfie in the nineties with a Yashica analog camera! Who knew back then that they were called selfies!
Selfies at Kathi Junction happened by chance. People who visit and eat with us are precious to me. Thus, initially, when people started coming, I made sure I captured the moments and interacted with all my customers. And at KJ, it became the most effective marketing tool when I started taking selfies with people and tagging them on social media. This increased my visibility online so much so that people gave me the title of ‘Selfie Parsa’.
The selfies I initially took with my customers were a result of my desire to capture those moments. What started as a desire turned into a habit and later into a trend. This way I connect with my customers on a personal level. It’s a win-win situation!
KS) Your KJ outlet was doing well. Why did you change it into Parsa’s ?
JP) Working with KJ was one of the most interesting phases of my life. It really worked well for me and within a span of three years, the company was able to open nearly 10 outlets across state with the help of my promotions and increasing visibility in the market. And to me, it was a great learning experience as a businessman. But I always had this plan of introducing my own brand into the market and work to expand it. This was the high time to do it, given the experience I gained in last three years.
KS) How is your new venture different from others? Has the ‘rolling’ menu changed?
JP) Apparently, my place has never been just about good food. We have succeeded in creating a social space in our city where people share love and laughter at pocket-friendly menu. From book launches, music releases, poetry recitals to start-up events, we have been actively working to promote local talent. And not to forget the selfies!
KS) How challenging is to be an entrepreneur in Kashmir?
JP) Not only in Kashmir, being an entrepreneur or businessman anywhere in the world is difficult. You have to start with your business or sell your product amidst the uncertainty of whether you will succeed or not.
But in Kashmir, life shapes you in such a manner that you are always ready to face whatever uncertainty comes your way. So you find way to accommodate! That is what I did with my business. In the past three years, I have learnt to manage it in times of great crisis. Sure, times are hard but not hard enough to take you down.
KS) What are your future plans? Should we look forward to the start of a new fast food chain in the ever growing Kashmir market?
JP) I am already receiving queries for the franchisees of Parsa’s. I will be designing a franchisee model very soon and then work on expanding the brand across the state and outside.
KS) If one of your dreams were to come true, what would it be?
JP) I always dream of an economically empowered Kashmir where we are not reliant on doles from others. That is why I have been actively working on promoting new start-ups and helping people to connect with each other. I wish more people join the league by exploiting opportunities in the market and thus creating employment for others.
KS) Any message for food lovers?
JP) With Parsa’s, I am striving to make good food accessible to all at low prices. I have taken my menu forward with many new dishes!
Now all the food lovers can go back home with a happy tummy and an almost full wallet!