Engineering confused him, designs disillusioned him before business completed him. And today, a Bandipora boy is successfully running a fast food hangout in Srinagar. Saima Rashid reports the journey of the junction and its food jockey
The moment a lady lapping a baby steps inside the restaurant, he comes forward – greets her with a friendly face. This seems his signature move. Without waiting for his employees to take orders, he himself attends his customers.
At 26, Javid Parsa – born in Bandipora and brought up between Kashmir and Hyderabad, is the proud owner of a food outlet, Kathi Junction. But before starting his career with eatery business, Parsa was a ‘blank-minded youth trying to seek purpose in life’.
“It may sound funny, but I got admission in three engineering colleges in three different cities and in three different branches, but I ended up wasting my two years,” says Parsa. “I shortly divorced engineering!”
After parting ways with engineering, Parsa pursued his area of interest – Interior Designing and Architecture. “During my graduation,” he says, “management subject interested me a lot. With the result, I excelled in this subject.”
But like a typical restless youth, Parsa grew disillusioned with Interior Designing. He then moved to Hyderabad where he opted for MBA in project management and human resource from Maulana Azad National University (MANU). In the university, Parsa rose to become the first Kashmiri student to be elected as general secretary of MANU’s student union.
“While doing MBA, Amazon took me as an intern and later on appointed me as FBA specialist,” Parsa says. “I was making good money there, even if I was doing nothing, still one lakh salary was coming along monthly, a feeling of going back home was getting stronger.” But he needed a strong reason for homecoming.
For the next eight months, Parsa would often sit to type a resignation letter, but couldn’t tender his resignation on face of prevailing uncertainty. The deadlock finally broke on May 15, 2014 when he resigned from Amazon to start his own food outlet in Srinagar.
But back home, it was no cakewalk for this Bandipora boy. “Strikes, shutdowns and other clampdown tactics made me reckon that I have to overcome big bottlenecks before banking on my business. It was such a hard time,” he says, “But then I was reminded of my favourite quote: ‘One life, live it.’ So, like a man I took struggling shots on my chin.”
However, taking shots and making the ‘mare go’ are two different things. He was still elusive about the thing he wanted to start in Srinagar. It was then a flash ran through his mind: “I had spent most of my life in Dehradun and was fond of Kathi Rolls there. It was then I thought why not to start the same outlet in Kashmir.”
He then set the date with his new destiny on September 9, 2014. But to his woes, the devastating deluge drowned the valley. A month later, Parsa finally had his ribbon-cut moment of his Kathi Junction outlet in Srinagar’s Sarah City Centre Mall.
After taking off, he apparently had a bumpy journey with many discouraging him in his endeavour. Fierce flak followed. “People in my village would mock me, saying: ‘So, you went outside just to learn how to cook Biryani!’ But then I shrugged off all cynicism as I enjoyed lot of support.”
Amid pot-shots and praises, Parsa stood unfazed and continued working to spread a positive word about his food outlet. Without spending sum on advertisements, he ‘smartly used’ social networking sites, particularly Facebook to promote his brand. He used the medium to interact and get the feedback from public.
Eight months later, Kathi Junction has become a favourite hangout for people, especially youth. “Kids celebrate their birthdays here,” Parsa continues. “You see, the main motto of my food outlet is to provide an affordable food, home like feelings, connecting them with Kashmiri culture through music and language.” To maintain a local effect, he says, he has directed his staff to speak in Kashmiri language.
A unique feature of Parsa’s food outlet is the compilation of comments on a comment board written by visitors. “Redefining Kashmiriyat in its own way. All the best,” writes Ankit from Hyderabad. “You may be rolled down by the taste of Kathi Rolls,” writes a guest from Jammu.
After his successful ‘rolling’ stint, Parsa is now eyeing to open similar outlets in South Kashmir and in other rural areas. Today, the erstwhile employee of Amazon is quite amazingly having a rolling ride with his outlet. Perhaps being blank-minded, disillusioned and restless have its own fruition – no, Parsa?