In 2014, on a work vacation, Javid Parsa had an epiphany, a sudden realisation to start a venture in Kashmir. It was a difficult decision, but he finally sent a resignation letter to his employers in Amazon India. Then began the journey of Parsa foods, to create a food-joint that has become a hub, for many other ventures led by young Kashmiris.
Javid’s tied up with a lesser known Kathi Junction fast food franchise in 2014. By 2016, Javid’s Kathi Junction restaurant had outperformed every other franchise of Kathi Junction. A success that takes years to create, especially in a conflict zone like Kashmir, Javid made it possible.
His biggest marketing tool was his iPhone and his social media channels that he used creatively. He incidentally became the first ever social media influencer of Kashmir, a feat that not only brought success to his venture, but also to many other people who became his closest friends.
In 2016, two teenagers Furqaan Qureshi and Amir Dar would frequent Kathi Junction, a small 260 square feet space. Javid’s infectious ability to make friends brought them together. For them, this friendship would change their lives. During Javid’s frequent conversations, he kept motivating them to create something of their own. In 2016, under Javid’s mentorship, Furqaan and Amir would start Kashmir’s first ever food delivery service. A service that has grown in scale in just a single year. Furqaan Qureshi, who is running the operations out of a small room at Lal Chowk says, “Javid is more like a brother, a guardian and a perfect teacher one can ever have.”
The small space became a virtual start-up hub, with a few more ventures that were created by youngsters who continue to be under the mentorship of Javid. His style of marketing continues to be emulated by bigger restaurants in Srinagar.
During the seven months of the uprising, when Kashmir continued to remain under curfew. Javid was on the verge of closing his venture, to stop the losses that he was enduring like many others. In a conversation with the author, Javid spoke of how it was getting difficult for him to run the operations. But for him the only motivation, as he said over a cup of tea during in the curfewed Srinagar, “the people who love this space, that’s the only thing that stops me from giving this up.”
Javid has had his fair share of controversies too owing to his bluntness. His outspokenness that turned a student in Hyderabad, into becoming the first ever Kashmiri President of a student association in India. His association with the political movement and also his honesty on social issues would have brought the ire of authorities as well as the society. Instead, it helped develop debate and discussion. Javid’s peculiar nature would make him invite his online critics to his restaurant, and they would leave the place as his friends.
Javid participated in many protests, social discussions and even started initiatives such as protecting Chinar trees who were being culled. He has given support to many ventures started by many youngsters who sought his mentoring. At any launching of a venture, you will see Javid uploading his trademark selfie.
In 2015, Javid was awarded with the Youth Icon award, by a little-known organisation in Kashmir. That organisation was said to have contacted by the Indian Home Ministry, who would give awards to those who had won again. After consulting with his friends, Javid threatened to give his award up, if the news was true. The organisation rejected the offer.
One of his frequent customers and friends, “this person has the ability to create the best from the best, in such a way due to his ambience that radiates with compassion and hope.”
In an increasingly repressed, and closed society, Javid has swum across the tide. Due to his success, more people in Kashmir started opening restaurant joints and cafes. He maintains contacts with most of them, sharing advice and tips to develop their ventures.
By early 2017, Kathi Junction became synonymous with Parsa. Javid had found the moment that he was waiting for, to end his franchise and create a brand of his own. Parsa.
Ruhan Madni Naqash, co-founder of a million-dollar startup the Climber based in Bangalore, India says, “Javid’s rebranding has an impact on the youth in a way where they can see Kashmiris and Kashmiri change makers as strong individuals, who have their own powerful presence.” He continues to say about Javid’s ability to combine social change and food, “I have always believed that if both these segments can come to one platform and exchange ideas, we can make the best out of our political, economic and social aspirations.”
The rush on his launching of the Parsa brand was a testament to his abilities that have built a network of Kashmiris in thousands. Among them could be many who would create another startup, with Javid’s mentoring.
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