This episode of our entrepreneurial success story is quite an inspiration to me. I’ve shared this story with my team innumerable times as a shining example of the power of perseverance and the never-say-die attitude. This is the story of Patricia Narayan, the backbone of the Sandeepha chain of restaurants.
With just 50 paise as the first day’s income, a mobile cart, the beach as the backdrop, and the desperate need to earn a living, Patricia Narayan has come a really long way. Looking just at the success run of Sandeepha restaurants and the national recognition of FICCI Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2010 will not do justice to this brave entrepreneur’s struggles. We need to start right at the beginning.
Patricia Narayan stepped into a challenging life as she decided to get married at just 17 years. Sadly, this turned out to be a tough decision as she had to face the disapproval of her family and later the travails of her married life. Very soon she realized that she had to take on the reins of her family and earn a living to feed her husband, their two children, and herself.
She soon moved to her parents’ home with her family and started working from home. Cooking was her master skill set and she decided that she had to cash on this capability. Her mother lent her a small sum of money and she started making pickles, jam, and other similar food items from her home. Her mother sold these items at her office. She was delighted at the response since almost every time the products she made was sold out within a day’s time. Until now all her initiatives stemmed out of a desperate need for survival. But soon she realized that she had to look beyond her four walls to earn a living.
One of her father’s friends offered her a free mobile cart that she could take to the beach and sell goodies. The only condition was that she had to employ two handicapped people to support her in this initiative. Patricia Narayan happily employed two smart people and taught them the basics. She also studied her competition at the beach and realized that most other such carts were selling just tea and cigarettes. She decided to make a difference to attract customer and added fresh juice, cutlets, samosas, and other quick bites to this list.
Her first day was hardly a confidence booster as she earned just about 50 paise. But she did not lose confidence and she persisted. Very soon her cart because quite a success, but it also meant a lot of hard work as her day would often start early and end real late. As the quality of her food starting becoming popular, she got an offer from the chairman of the slum clearance board to run a canteen at their office. She immediately took up this opportunity and added this to her daily routine. She soon added more canteens to her list of expertise and soon became the director of one of Chennai’s most popular restaurants.
Her second unimaginable tragedy hit her confidence levels just when she was happy that she was doing well. Her daughter and son-in-law tragically died in a shocking accident, which left her devastated. While her son took over the day-to-day management of her business, she decided to redirect her grief into starting a chain of restaurants in her daughter’s name. Thus began the dream run of Sandeepha. Patricia Narayan dedicated all her energy in building Sandeepha restaurants and expanding from one to many. The restaurant caters to many corporate houses and is a game changer in the hospitality landscape.
What an emotionally inspiring journey this has been! Most entrepreneurial initiatives start from a dream and a goal. But in this case, the trigger was the thirst to survive and earn a living for her family. It teaches us plenty of lessons, not just in business but also in life.
Using tragedy as the foundation stone to success requires a lot of mental strength and sheer determination. This is a story that every business mentor and coach must use as an example while explaining to first-time entrepreneurs that success in business is not magic or luck, but it is a smart mix of grit, hard work, business acumen, and capability.