Javid Paras is Young Businessman and Entrepreneur, recently we talked to him about his early life, business, and other issues:
1. Tell us about your early life, childhood, school and college life?
From delivering letters with my grandfather who was a postman to safeguarding apple orchards from wild bears, my childhood has been a wholesome one. I started my schooling from a small private school-cum-madrasa (Rumi School) in Bandipora. I later shifted to Dehradun to pursue further studies. To say that school days were the best days of my life would be an understatement. It was much more than that.
This was where I made relationships of a lifetime. At school, I used to be quite an entertainer. I’d often entertain my classmates by mimicking various radio characters of those times. I remember once protesting in school for rugs for the students while the teachers had wooden chairs. I was the teacher’s true nightmare but I balanced it out somewhere in academics.
2. What is Food for All, and how you started this business as you are in that part of Kashmir were starting a business is not easy as security and political conditions are not as good as compared to rest of the world and plus what is the main difference between Food for All and others restaurants ?
It is Parsa’s – Food For All. I have lived and worked across various cities in India. The nature of work has always been variegated- ranging from interior design to working for giants like Amazon- but the wish to come back home and contribute to Kashmir has been a constant.
I was always been inspired to make meals mean more than just sharing of food. As a child, I would accompany my grandfather to buy bread from the local baker and I couldn’t help but fall in love with how the place would be brimming with activity early in the morning with people discussing politics, important events of the day and their lives in general.
It was these visits, where I sowed in my mind the idea of creating a new age ‘Kandur Waan’ (bread shop) where youngsters could sit together and share much more than a meal. I knew that my interpersonal skills were my biggest strength and, in a restaurant, where I am a hands-on owner, I knew I’d end up building a place that is more than just an eating joint. Pasra’s is a place for people to share experiences, conversations, and make memories.
Of course, Kashmir is not an ordinary place for business. But I have always believed that one’s monetary goals alone are not enough to survive in a place like ours. One does not just need to have an idea or vision, but also the courage to live for it.
The essence of our brand is in the tagline “food for all” itself. We cater to people from different age groups, income groups, and religions. We at Parsa’s, have always been beyond food and hospitality. Our engagement with the community is the only factor that I think differentiates us from the rest.
Be it about running Kashmir’s largest book network #ParsaBookBank, hosting book launches and literary events, campaigning for various issues like menstrual hygiene, road safety, education for the underprivileged, we have led some exemplary campaigns in the past few years.
We have also been running various training initiatives like “Starting up as a Student”, which has encouraged a number of young Kashmiris to take to up entrepreneurship. From KartFood, the valley’s first online food delivery service to the precocious 16-year-old baker Hanshika Kohli, we have helped infuse life into Kashmir’s spirit of business, economy, and risk-taking.
3. After the abrogation of Article 370 how are you managing your business and what kind of difficulties Restaurant businesses like you are facing?
Like every other business, my ten outlets across Kashmir were shut for 5 months and we were still trying to bounce back when this pandemic broke out. Since eating out is itself a luxury in a place like Kashmir, the restaurant and hospitality industry takes a major hit in such times and is, in fact, the first victim of these adversities. But, over the years, I have learned to deal with these times and there is nothing that has been strong enough to kill my hopes and courage to live my dream.
4. You are doing business in some Indian cities too, are you facing any difficulties to doing business as Kashmiri – because the number of cases has been reported in media that people of Kashmir facing issues in Indian different cities after 370 articles abrogation?
Irrespective of the differences in politics, I have received an overwhelming amount of love from people outside Kashmir too. I always believe in the idea of love and I guess food is the best medium to bridge gaps between communities and regions. While some of my guests want to engage in political conversations, most of them leave with a happy belly full of Kashmiri food appreciating my Kashmir-to-Karnatka journey.
5. As this Coronavirus pandemic affected the whole world and business and our all lifestyle, how are you managing your “Food for All” business?
My business is has been on a standstill since March 18th and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our clients, we have closed our delivery services as well. The need of the hour is to ensure everyone’s safety and extend a helping hand in whatever capacity we can. Business can wait for some time.
6. Do you face criticism and how you manage negativity?
Yes, I have faced so much that life seems abnormal without criticism now. But in the past five years, I have learned to look past it and not let it step between me and my dreams. People have different opinions and views about things and we are certainly not here to please everyone.
7. Are Kashmiri women equally empowered or finding equal opportunities?
Saying ‘equally empowered’ would be disrespecting the struggles our women have to face in almost every field of life. But I am glad to share that in the last decade we have seen significant growth in women’s participation in every sector and that keeps the hope alive. I personally know and have worked with some amazing women from the valley and there is no dearth of empowered/talented women but there is still a long way to go.
8. How you see future for your business and rest of valley in coming times?
After article 370 abrogation and this ongoing pandemic, it is too early and difficult to predict something, but I am hopeful about things getting better. We have been shut for almost a year now and desperately want to see things moving around again.
9. What do you do in free time?
I like reading- non-fiction mostly, or literature around themes of politics. I am an ardent singer and listen to classical ghazals by Mehdi Hasan and Surinder Kaur. I am fond of Urdu poetry- Iqbal’s work is my go-to. With the pandemic locking up most of us at home, I have been spending quite some time on social media lately, engaging with youngsters and hosting interactive sessions.
10. You have any message for young people who want to start their business or want to work on their ideas – especially young people of Kashmir?
Entrepreneurship is a journey for the patient. You may put in all the hard work and you may have the best of resources but things will take time. Be patient, persistent, and never doubt your ability or idea if you know you have given in your best.
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.
Special thanks to Ayesha Mushtaq for arranging this interview .