Big Stories: From 50 paise to 2 lakhs/day…

I’m sure her story will inspire many of us and teach us about perseverance and survival.3 min


Back in the time, women were confined to their kitchen by societies. Today the world is modernizing and no doubt societies’ mindset has also changed. Nowadays, women are moving ahead and taking up new challenges. We have many women entrepreneurs all across the world, surprising us with their passion, hardwork and dedication. Today we have a Rags to Riches story of Patricia Narayan – Winner of FICCI Women Entrepreneur of the year award. I’m sure her story will inspire many of us and teach us about perseverance and survival.

Early Years

Patricia was born in a conservative Christian family in Nagercoil. She was the eldest of three siblings. Patricia’s parents were both government employees. Her childhood more like a bed of roses with her parents heeding to all her needs and wants. She studied at Queen Mary’s College, and it was here that she met Narayan, her ex-husband.

She decided to marry Narayan, against the will of her family. She was all of 17 then. Both families were against the marriage and cut their ties with the couple.

It was just few months into the marriage, Patricia found that Narayan was heavily addicted to drugs and alcohol. A year of looking after her inebriated husband, unable to bear the physical torture and the mental abuse inflicted on her by Narayan, Patricia decided to walk out of the marriage.

She was just 18 years old then.

With absolutely no support from her family, no finances, and two infants to care to, it was a dark road ahead of her. Eventually, her father’s instincts gave in and he took them in and gave them refuge.

A passion became a way of survival

Patricia has had to reinvent herself after leaving her husband.

She recalled that while growing up she had enjoyed cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. Many people had appreciated her dishes well.

She realized that she could use the same skill to support herself and her children,
For her it was about survival. She knew that she had to either succumb to the burden or fight back and she decided to wage a lonely fight.

Her first memory of cooking on order was squashes, jams, and pickles. With the money borrowed from her mother, these and sold them to her colleagues. On the first day, when all of her preparations were sold out, she became more optimistic in her culinary skills.

Kiosk at Marina Beach

The next step was to sell it to a larger group. It was then that she decided to take a kiosk at one of Chennai ‘s busiest public spots, Marina Beach. She started making and selling cutlets, samosas, bhajjis, fresh juice, coffee and tea: food that people would like when walking along the beach.

She had been doing this from 1983 – 2003. What kept her going was that she was making enough to support her little family. The maximum amount she earned from her kiosk, she recalls, was Rs 25.000 a day.

Looking at her dedication to her work and the quality of the food she made, in 1984, the Chairman of the Slum Clearance Board offered her a run at the office canteen.
It was another turning point in her life.

The opportunity opened many more doors for her, and soon she was in charge of catering for canteens at the Bank of Madurai and the National Port Trust Management School. She was now serving nearly 700 children at the school each day.

From a kiosk to a restaurant

In 1998, with her first monthly payment of Rs 80,000, she decided to enter into a partnership with the Sangeetha group in Chennai, a well-established restaurant chain in the city.

Things were on the right track when suddenly in 2004 tragedy struck them and Patricia lost her newly-married daughter and son-in-law in a cruel road accident.

Establishing Sandeepha

Named after her late daughter, Sandeepha, the restaurant is dear to Patricia ‘s heart. Patricia spent almost two years in mourning after the accident. Finally, when she was ready to go back to work, she was much more resilient.

Patricia said to Passion Connect, “To succeed, everyone should have a motto in life. At that time, I had to stand by my son. I just started my business with two people. There are more than 200 people in my restaurants working for me. From 50 Paise a day, I now make up to Rs 2 lakh a day.”

The recipient of the 2010 FICCI Women Entrepreneur of the Year, Patricia, is not one to give up on her dreams. She took life’s challenges head-on and made them a success.

Advice to young Entrpreneurs

Do not ever compromise on quality. Never lose your self confidence. Believe in yourself and the product you are making. Third, always stick to what you know. When you employ people, you should have a complete knowledge on what you ask them to do.

Surely that her determination and perseverance will keep us strong in our hard times.

Please do send in your opinions and questions in the comments below.

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