Chai Wala went viral on Internet through Photography

The true power of the internet is its capability to connect like minded people on a thought that they strongly agree on. Once all of these people find the thought that connects them, they share it with their friends, creating a never ending chain of liking and sharing. This is known as “Going Viral”. Think of it as if the thought is a virus. The virus finds a suitable host and infects them until the host interacts with someone and transfers the virus.

Pakistan has its fair share of viral photographs. Whether it is the Friendship Breakup announcement meme or the Blue Eyed Chaiwala or the Bald Disappointed Fan over a missed catch in a cricket match, the common denominator in all of these photographs is that their virality made these individuals end up with unexpected million dollar business opportunities. Depicting the power of the internet and the importance of photography in a nation like Pakistan which is considered a third world country.

The Internet has truly changed the lives of common man in Pakistan. Due to the widespread cellular network more people have access to content over the internet. They can now not only consume media, but are able to make media for the masses. It is social media platforms like facebook, twitter, instagram, youtube, and tiktok that connectivity, relevance, and building a community is not an issue of the present time. This has helped people change their own lives with other people’s lives. You just have to keep uploading until you have your viral hit. But not in the case of Arshad Khan.

In this article we will look into the story of the viral photographs of Arshad Khan. What was that that they portrayed was so viral and captivating. How this photograph has conveyed powerful emotions. How the internet had impacted and connected millions just because of his photograph. And how just a viral photograph can make you money in the modern world.

Arshad Khan – The Blue Eyed Chai Wala by Jiah Ali

Jiah Ali, a Pakistani photographer, who lived in Islamabad at the time had a fondness to capture the life and culture in the streets of Pakistan. In her early photography too, she had been capturing the raw and unfiltered warmth of diversity, the calmness of daily life, and the unreasonable smiles of common people who just saw into her camera lens. She can be named in the first few professional female photographers in Islamabad who also were paid for journaling events and product photography. In her rise, the Internet and Importance of photography can be weighted high, as she used the internet to get more paid opportunities within photography, and her hobby of capturing daily life in Pakistan was the key to her fame.

October, 2016 Jiah Ali took photographs at a chai dhaba at night. She saw this handsome blue eyed pathan boy in a blue kurta working there and took a few shots of him without knowing.

Captioning the photo “Hot-Tea” (pronounced hottie) she posted it on her facebook and instagram, where she was building her online portfolio. The photo went viral within a day. Not just all Pakistani women, but all of Southeast Asia was drooling over this one photo of a Blue Eyed Boy Pouring Hot Tea.

Arshad Khan, 18 years old at the time, became an overnight sensation. The photograph encapsulates the innocent Arshad with his blue eyes and the matching blue kurta, giving the photo the harmony and the emphasis it requires to be a viral photo. His beautiful features are even more captivating as he stares down the camera lens. Though in his statement he was unaware of the photo being taken, which is believable due to his straight face. Hence gives off as if Arshad is a professional model, acting casual and natural.

With all of Islamabad trying to find him in a dhaba near or far regardless. The internet had made this handsome young boy the talk of not just the town but the half of the world. He was everywhere from our phones to the television. This photograph has become an important pivotal point from now onwards for Arshad Khan and Jiah Ali.

Impact of a Viral Photograph

What happens when you get overnight fame which you did not even have worked for? Arshad Khan was the new celebrity in Pakistan. His family dhaba was flocked with thousands of customers daily just to see him serve tea and take a few pictures with him. The Internet and Importance of photography in Pakistan has made this young boy the most desirable male. He was thrown with modeling campaigns, film proposals, TVC’s, DVC’s, sponsored posts and what not. He was interviewed by every show on the television. He was even awarded the title “Face of the Year – 2016”.

The timing of his viral photograph was so unexpected, as India has practiced surgical strikes in Azad Kashmir, created immense tension between the two countries, but the viral photo of Arshad Khan was trending even more than the developments of the tension. As to diverting the notion of twitter from emerging war to adoring the beauty of a pathan boy from Islamabad.

In retrospect, these opportunities came to him unwelcomed, as a young famous boy with no insight of the mainstream industry. He unknowingly started to take up work that were not aligned with his moral values. He was quick to be criticized for his photo shoot with Muskan Jay for her music video. The backlash was so intense that he decided to quit the media industry for good. Examine how the internet and the importance of photography in Pakistan impacted Arshad’s life decisions, from becoming the most wanted man in the media industry, to leaving all his fame. All due to a few viral photographs.

The Greater Good

Arshad Khan might have quit the media industry too soon, but he had become famous enough to have things go easier for him and his family. Their family dhaba was doing far better than it ever was. People from all over the country and world, who travel to Islamabad, would visit his dhaba for just a cup of tea to look at the spectacle of beauty he has.

The internet and the importance of photography in Pakistan has helped Arshad Khan make, the once small dhaba, into a cafe franchise named “Cafe Chai Wala Arshad Khan” in October 2020. He opened his first cafe in Islamabad, full of colorful ambiance and still managing to make it look luxurious and a place to relax. The cafe now attracts more customers having a house full every day.

Arshad is highly involved in his business and was able to open up another branch in Murree in January 2021. His third branch in Lahore opened in May 2021 with the same magnitude of success. The idea of branding himself is similar to KFC’s Mr. Kentucky, where Arshad is the main face and mascot of the franchise.

With the cafe’s massive success in the major cities of Pakistan, Arshad plans to go global with his business. He has made a contract for 10 franchises being opened throughout the UK by 2023.

It is astonishing to witness how the power of the internet and photography combined has affected Arshad’s life for the greater good. He has made his legacy by just the age of 23 with an international franchise on his way. Jiah Ali has changed his life. As for Jiah, she worked as a professional photographer for a few more years, until she was married and moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. But her passion for Photography is still alive and will be a part of her forever.

In a country like Pakistan, where things go viral only because it is gossip or politics, we have rarely seen simple, straightforward viral content that has dominated the internet. Hidden gems that emerge showcasing the importance of photography amalgamated with the outreach that the internet provides to this phenomenon is unimaginable. It is rarely seen that fame like Arshad Khan has been cashed out in such a way that could be exemplary for the upcoming faces.

The bald disappointed fan and the friendship breakup images have also reached a height that was far greater than Arshad’s reach. These two famous images have turned into NFT projects, with the DFans NFT listed at 999 BNB (est. $390000) and the Friendship Breakup NFT already sold at 20 ETH (est. $54500).

This shows that the internet now holds a market that flourishes all the niches that are inimaginable. When you encapsulate emotions in the most authentic way, it will speak volumes. It will touch many lives. That all the cultures can thrive in the space of the World Wide Web. That making money is just a click away. That you can become a multi-millionaire just with a click, without you even knowing. You are just a click away to your financial independence.


Graphic Designer
A hardcore biology student who ended up as a graphic designer. She is also pro at thrifting and would die for a good bargain. "Call me a cheapskate, but every thrift find has a story and I want to adopt all of them."

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