Twenty-eight-year old Javid Parsa has become one of our favourite millennials since we first heard about him. And not only because of his million-dollar smile. It’s difficult to define his entrepreneurial debut Kathi Junction, but let’s try – a restaurant serving delicious kathi rolls inside a mall in Srinagar where art and literature, whether experimental, radical or folksy, come together with traditional hospitality.
That just comes close to it, but in a nutshell we could call it the countercultural adda of Kashmir. Javid Parsa quit a cushy corporate job in Hyderabad and moved back to his homeland to create a meaningful venture, in the process setting an example for the youth and being awarded Kashmir’s first youth icon award. His marketing strategy is summed up in one word – Selfie. Read on to know how he did it…
How did your journey begin?
I resigned from Amazon in May 2014 and flew back home from Hyderabad the very next day. After looking around for two months I finalized a place and started working on the restaurant on my 26th birthday, July 19 to be precise. It took me around two months to make a restaurant out of the place I rented. We were supposed to open on the 8th of September but floods happened in the valley that year and we lost a great deal. I had to start all over again. After another month of tireless working, we opened the doors for the public on 31st October, 2014.
Tell us about selfies. When was the first time you shot one? How did you translate selfies into a marketing tool?
I took my first selfie in the ’90s with a Yashica analog camera! Who knew back then that they were called selfies!
Selfies at KJ 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 memory 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’. I have nearly 3k selfies at KJ as of now.
What role does technology play at Kathi Junction?
To tell you the truth technology, together with our food, is what makes KJ. Imagine KJ without selfies! Oh the thought makes me shudder! The simple act of clicking a selfie brought me closer to my customers and the social media platform helped me connect better with people and promote my business.
You have switched from engineering to interior design to management to hospitality…what part of you and your professional beliefs has remained unchanged throughout this journey?
I went on wandering, pursuing many degrees. One thing that remained constant with me was my dreams and my hard work! I always knew I had to work to make people smile. I think somewhere I believed I wasn’t cut out for a desk job. I knew I wanted something else, so the thing I was left with was my hard work. I invested every bit of me into whatever I did.
Working hard helped me believe in myself.
Considering you studied design, are the KJ aesthetics also your idea? Tell us a bit about the interiors and artworks in the space?
I didn’t hire any design agency to do KJ. I chose every single thing myself and designed it all on my own. I could never imagine bringing KJ to life without putting my design school lessons to practise. This place is way much more than just an eatery. You will see amazing art pieces by local artists and I try my best to have colours around to make a happy environment.
How old have your youngest and oldest guests been?
Starting from 10 to 90, I have had many people visit KJ. Not just Kashmiris and Indians, but people from other countries too have paid us a visit.
You seem to take a keen interest in photography too, what aspect of Kashmir do you find most beautiful to photograph?
Photography and badminton were my only hobbies in Hyderabad. I’d call myself an amateur photographer, but now my selfies keep me a little distant from photography.
Everything in Kashmir is worth capturing. Everywhere you look you see a beautiful portrait, a magnificent painting! When time allows, I would love to trek to the upper regions of my hometown Bandipora and shoot there.
Any advice for millennials?
Life will not come easy. Times will be hard. You will fall, but fall only to rise back again. People will come and go, but be honest to whoever comes your way. Believe in yourself!
You may or may not gain riches in life, but what will always stay with you is your hard work! Listen to your heart, it may not always be right, but it helps you accept yourself as an imperfect human being!
Follow the selfie king here. And if you have books looking for a good home, send them out to KJ!