Photo: Kashmir Ink
When I began setting up Kathi Junction in Sarah City Center, I knew almost no one in Srinagar
I joined Facebook eight years ago, on a whim. Curiously, trying to figure out what all the hype was about. When I opened my account, I had the faintest idea that down the line, it would form a very important part of my work, well, life!
Back when I was in college, social media was a big deal.
There were floods of requests, hundreds of messages exchanged, new people and new names everyday.
Social media was like this really big party where you got to meet a lot of people, share ideas, move beyond your social circle in college. Plus it seemed really practical that you would be able to contact the same people once you left college.
Thus I hopped on into the world of interaction through social media to have my contacts safe, post the hundreds and thousands of pictures I clicked, and share my views with people.
Little did I know that it was social media that would set the foundation of my business in Kashmir. It worked like a charm! I had the biggest tool to boost my business. I had the best way to reach the masses. I had the best strategy to take my food to the people of the valley. But this did not come easy!
To use social media to your advantage, the biggest thing one needs is to reach out to the maximum number of people possible. This being the hardest task!
Whether they are the number of likes on Facebook, or just followers on instagram and twitter.
You have to reach out to the maximum number of people possible and only then can you endorse your business.
To tell you my story
When I began setting up Kathi Junction in Sarah City Center, I knew almost no one in Srinagar. All my acquaintances were around home in Bandipora and some people around the city. Thus I began alone. I was toiling hard and had the least possible time to go out and make new friends.
Also I had not even planned on advertising my business through social media.
I was overwhelmed that I was seeing my dream come to life in the form of Kathi Junction. Thus I captured every milestone on my phone and proudly posted pictures on my social media profiles.
That’s when KJ started its online journey.
Friends on my lists were curious about the new restaurant coming up in the city. Some shared the posts, some talked. News was spreading around. Just one little picture on Facebook informed people about who I was and what I was coming up with in the city. That is when I realized the power of social media.
I began looking at it from a completely different angle.
It wasn’t just a profile I had to keep updating, I realized it was part of my work, part of my journey to take my restaurant to the masses.
Social media has been the greatest boon for my business and the reasons are many.
Well, to start with, it really cut down on the costs of advertising.
I came to the city as an amateur and started the restaurant with all the money I had saved. Thus I was really looking for ways to cut down on unnecessary expenses. This was when social media came to the rescue.
Every new startup needs advertising. People have to know about the new things springing up around them in order for it to flourish. Instead of newspapers and hoardings I chose social media to reach out to the masses. Because that is where the people are today. Especially the youth, always accessible online.
This would ensure that we would reach out to a large number of people.
And so began the task of tagging all the people I knew, sharing more and more posts and requesting others to do the same. Little by little more and more people got connected. More people came to know about us. And today we serve people at our restaurant most of whom have come across our Facebook page or have known me through my Facebook or instagram profiles!
Also social media served my business interests since it posed as the easiest and most comfortable way to reach out to people. Today a little incident in one corner is read around the whole world because of the power of social media.
I did not have to take up efforts to establish hoarding around the city or post advertisements in newspapers and magazines. Social media ensured the frequency of posts about my place against weekly occurings on print media.
Thus I knew I had set forth into an arena where I could tell people about KJ on a more frequent basis, also at a closer level, through their phones and laptops. And let us not ignore the fact that people today are inseparable from their phones and laptops.
Other than these reasons, social media helped me create a special bonding with my customers. Today I have a KJ family, both because of the love the people have for me and also because they felt more connected to me and the restaurant because of social media.
I love clicking pictures with people and putting up selfies with them on my social media accounts worked like a charm. Whenever I clicked selfies and posted them I made sure to tag all the people in the picture. This made those customers believe that I was genuinely interested in knowing them and really happy to have them at my restaurant. When you engage with people, make them a part of what you do, talk to them and proudly show them off, they know that they are loved and are beyond customers for you.
For me, people who come to my restaurant aren’t just customers who come and dine in, they are the people who made me who I am, and I try my best to engage them in my life as much as possible.
The greatest gift that social media gave me was the gift of my growth as a person and helped me carve out an identity. I can proudly say that today I have hundreds and thousands of people who look up social media for me and send me requests. I get hundreds of messages telling me how I inspire people and how they are dying to meet me at KJ. Reading all those at the end of the day wipes off all my worries. Talk about ‘present-day fanmail’.
All this wouldn’t have been possible without my social media accounts. People can easily access me and know my story, communicate with me and sometimes they use social media to express their criticism when they aren’t able to do that in person. I love that it brings a sense of informality. The huge inflow of messages and beautiful words from people makes me realize how far I have come and how it is the people who are the real reason of my restaurant’s success. It has taught me to be humble and always be grounded. With the people, is where I belong!
Social media is the reason why I can connect with the masses. Without it, a huge chunk of my customers would be aloof to all my activities and I too wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to bond with people.
But the picture is not always rosy, social media, like other things too has a negative side. People have long used it to spread rumors and cook up stories and spread them like wildfire. If used it the right way it can create great opportunities and help you make life easier.
For me, social media is a bridge between me and my customers. Slowly wiping away all the distance.