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Ex-Amazon employee's startup Parsa's brings Kolkata's kathi rolls to J&K

(Debolina Biswas)

Targeting college-going students, Javid Parsa has made his eponymous brand a success in Jammu and Kashmir.  

Driven by a passion to bring more than just food to the table, ex-Amazon employee Javid Parsa left his corporate job in Hyderabad and returned to his home state Jammu & Kashmir in 2014. As a child, Javid would often accompany his grandfather to the local bread shop early in the morning. Inspired by conversations that Kashmiris indulged in there, he wanted to create a new age 'Kandur Waan' or bread shop.

Javid was all set to open a franchise of the national food chain Kathi Junction the same year, when Kashmir was hit by one of the worst floods of all times. While "the deluge claimed several lives, livelihoods and hopes...and despite the possibility of imminent closure, we opened for customers on October 31, 2014," says Javid.

Kathi Junction soon became popular among school and college students. However, when Kashmir witnessed a seven-month shutdown in 2016 following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, business suffered.

Founder Javid Parsa

But 30-year-old Javid’s childhood passion for food kept him inspired, and looking to put his own spin on kathi rolls made famous by brands like Nizaam's and Kareem's, Javid set up Parsa's.

Three years later, on the very same day that he opened the Kathi Junction outlet, Javid launched Parsa's - a fusion of Kolkata and Hyderabadi cuisines in the land of Wazwan food.

"Despite being a rigid society, you can see people sharing tables, experiences and memories at Parsa's," says Javid.

Having a menu that ranges from Rs 50, (for an egg kathi roll, their most selling item) to Rs 190 (for the mutton korma) helps Parsa's attract the young college crowd. "Since my main target is college students, most of Parsa's outlets are located near colleges and universities," says Javid.

Presently, Parsa has seven functional outlets - the founding outlet at Srinagar's Sarah City Center , one in Leh market in Ladakh , one in Baramulla, and the fourth one at SSM College of Engineering in Pattan, the fifth outlet at Islamic University  of Science and Technology in Awantipora, sixth one in Ganderbal and one in Anantnag.

Parsa's firsts

Javid handpicked people to help him at the restaurant. Most of his employees have not been to school, and are between the age of 20 and 29. Parsa's also hired Jammu and Kashmir's first waitress. They have some employees who are working while studying as well.

The founding outlet in Sarah City Center has a team of 10 serving hot kathi rolls.

Jumbo Non-veg kathi roll at Parsa's

Taste of success

Javid had invested Rs 9 lakh when he opened Kathi Junction's franchise. "I topped it up with Rs 12 lakh more to set up Parsa’s," he says. He claims to have recovered the entire investment in the first six months.

Team Parsa's

Parsa's serves 300-400 customers every day at each outlet, and have an around 30 percent margin. The profit, however, varies from season to season, due to price variation and availability of raw materials in the state.

The business of rolls

According to a report by Statista, the Indian F&B Industry market size is estimated to be $46 billion in 2020. Food outlets like Wow! Momo, Haldiram's, The Great Kebab Factory and Paratha Express have several franchises across the country, and have been making it big.

While there are several kathi roll joints (like Kolkata Kathi Roll and Rolls Mania), Parsa's biggest competitor in Jammu & Kashmir remains Kathi Junction, which has other outlets in the state.

What's unique about Parsa's is their in-house book bank. Each outlet of Parsa's has a book bank that has over a thousand books and is open to the public. People can borrow and donate books there. They also hold book launches at their outlets. “Publications like HarperCollins and Penguin Publications have launched their books at Parsa's. We are trying to revive the book reading culture in the valley," says Javid.

Inside one of Parsa's outlet

Of things to come

Javid plans to open outlets at Hazratbal, Sopore and in Jammu city this month. "We are on a mission to mark our presence in every district of J&K by the end of 2018," he adds.

In 2016, Javid was named a Nelson Mandela Leadership Fellow in Istanbul, Turkey.

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