Wednesday, June 09, 2010

50 paise a day to Rs 2 lakhs a day .. An Entreprenuer's story ..


     
    From 50 paise, she now earns Rs 200,000 a day
    Shobha Warrier in Chennai
     
    The story of Patricia Narayan, winner of this year's 'Ficci Woman
    Entrepreneur of the Year' award is amazing.
    She started her career 30 years ago as an entrepreneur, selling
    eateries from a mobile cart on the Marina beach amidst all odds --
    battling a failed marriage, coping with her husband, a multiple
    addict, and taking care of two kids.
     
    Today, she has overcome the hurdles and owns a chain of restaurants.
    An entrepreneur by accident was always interested in cooking and
    passionate about trying out new dishes. But, the thought of becoming a
    business woman never came to my mind at all as I do not come from a
    business family. Both my parents were government servants. But my
    marriage changed everything. Both the families opposed the marriage
    vehemently as my husband belonged to the Brahmin community;
    unfortunately my marriage did not work out as my husband was addicted
    to alcohol, drugs, etc. I could not bring him out of the addiction. As
    a young woman, I did not know how to cope with this and I was getting
    beaten up everyday.
     
    Though my father, a very conservative Christian never forgave me, he
    gave me refuge when I had nowhere to go. I was thrown out with two
    very small children. It was a question of survival for me. I knew I
    should either succumb to the burden or fight; I decided to fight my
    lonely battle.
     
    I did not want to be a burden on my parents. So, to be economically
    independent, I could only do what I knew and what I liked. I started
    making pickles, squashes and jams at home. I just took a couple of
    hundred rupees from my mother. I sold everything I made in one day and
    that gave me confidence.
     
    I earned a good income. I invested whatever I earned to make more
    pickles, squashes and jams. It was quite lucrative in the sense, even
    ten rupees was a blessing for me.
     
    The first step as an entrepreneur
     
    My father's friend, who was running a school for handicapped children,
    was handing out mobile carts or kiosks to people who would employ at
    least two handicapped people. They needed somebody who could run it
    and I was offered one such cart free. I had to train the handicapped
    children to make coffee and serve them to customers.
     
    As I lived near the Marina beach, I decided to put the mobile cart at
    the Anna Square on the Marina beach. I had seen people thronging the
    beach in the evenings. But I had to make umpteen trips to the Public
    Works Department and wait for one year to get the permission.
     
    Finally, I started working on June 21, 1982, a day I will never
    forget. The previous night itself, with the help of the local rickshaw
    drivers, I had rolled the mobile cart to the beach. It was a small
    move but thrilling as it was my own and I was going to be a business
    woman the next day.
     
    While such carts sold only tea and cigarettes, I decided to sell
    cutlets, samosas, bajjis, fresh juice and coffee and tea. On the first
    day, I sold only one cup of coffee and that was for fifty paise!
     
    I was very disappointed and came home crying. I told my mother, that I
    would not like to continue. But my mother consoled me saying, at least
    you sold one cup of coffee. That's a good sign. You will do well
    tomorrow. And, she was adamant that I go the next day also.
     
    The next day, I made sold snacks for Rs 600-700 which was big money
    for me then! As I started making money, I added ice creams,
    sandwiches, French fries and juices too. I used to keep thinking of
    adding more items.
     
    I ran it from 1982 to 2003, and the maximum I made from that mobile
    cart was Rs 25,000 a day. That was during the bandh days! We used to
    be open from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. every day, and later, I started opening
    from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. for the walkers.
     
    I used to personally stand there and sell all the stuff I made. I
    never felt scared to stand there late at night. My only thought was to
    prove myself and move ahead.
     
    There was a fire in me that made me believe that I could be successful
    without anyone's help. I did not want to be a failure. If you have
    that fire, nothing in the world can stop you from succeeding.
     
    Offer to run a canteen
     
    On seeing my work at the beach, within a year, the Slum Clearance
    Board gave me an offer to run the canteen at their office with a
    proper kitchen. The chairman met me during her morning walk. That is
    how I got the offer. The canteen was a huge success.
    On Wednesdays, it was the public grievance day, so about 3000 people
    used to come there and I had a roaring business.
    I used to get up at 5 a.m. in the morning, make idlis and go to the
    beach. From 9 a.m. I would be at the canteen. From 3.30 p.m. I would
    again be at the beach cart and would be there till 11p.m. By then, I
    had employed people to cook, and clean, and all the cooking was done
    at the canteen kitchen. My monthly income in those days was around Rs
    20,000.
     
    Later, I got an offer to run the Bank of Madurai canteen, I stopped
    running the canteen at the Slum Clearance Board canteen. At the Bank
    canteen, I served food to around 300 people daily.
     
    The turning point
     
    One day, after a fight with my husband who used to come to trouble me
    often, I boarded a bus and travelled till the last stop. I got down
    and saw the National Port Management training school run by the
    Central government.
     
    On the spur of the moment, I told the security guard that I wanted to
    meet the administrative officer. I met him and told him that I was a
    caterer and that I heard they were looking for a one.
     
    He said, to my surprise that they were indeed looking for one as they
    had problems with the current contractor. I still believe it was God
    who took me there.
     
    I got the offer. I had to serve three meals to about 700 students.
    They gave us quarters to stay. It was a new life for me. I got into
    the groove in a day. It was successful from day one, and I took care
    of the canteen till 1998.
     
    My first weekly payment was Rs 80,000. I felt so elated having seen
    only hundreds and thousands till then. During those times, I was
    earning almost a lakh a week.
     
    In those days, I wanted to do everything personally as I felt only
    then, things would run smoothly. Now I know if I train people well,
    they will do the work the way you want.
     
    Starting restaurants
     
    My connection with restaurants started in 1998 when I met people from
    the Sangeetha Restaurant group. They offered me a partnership in one
    of the units. But my son, Praveen Rajkumar wanted me to start my own
    restaurant and build a brand of ours.
    But destiny played truant with me again. I lost my daughter, Pratibha
    Sandra and son-in-law road accident, a month after their marriage in
    2004. It shattered me, and I withdrew from all that I was doing.
     
    Then my son took over and started the first restaurant 'Sandeepha' in
    my daughter's memory. It took some time for me to come out of the
    shock and start helping my son in the business. Now, I am fully
    involved in the business. The fire to succeed has come back to me now.
     
    Ambulance to help the accident victims
     
    I still cannot get over my daughter's death as I did all this for my
    children; to bring them up and give them a good life.
     
    What shocked me was the way the accident victims were treated by the
    ambulance operators. When they found that all the four in the car were
    dead, they said they would not carry dead bodies. Finally, somebody
    carried all the dead bodies in the boot of a car. When I saw the
    bodies being taken out of the boot, I broke down.
     
    No mother can bear such a scene. That is when I decided to keep an
    ambulance on that very spot to help people whether the victims are
    alive or dead. It is in memory of my daughter.
     
    Ficci entrepreneur of the year award
     
    I started my business with just two people. Now, there are 200 people
    working for me in my restaurants. My lifestyle has changed too. From
    travelling in a cycle rickshaw, I moved to auto rickshaws and now I
    have my own car. From 50 paise a day, my revenue has gone up to Rs 2
    lakh a day.
     
    The 'Ficci entrepreneur of the year' award is the culmination of all
    the hard work I have put in over the last 30 years. It came as a
    surprise as this is the first time I have received an award.
     
    Till now, I had no time to think of what I was doing. But the award
    made me look back and relive the days that passed by. Now, my ambition
    is to build my Sandeepha brand.
     
    Advice to young entrepreneurs
     
    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 know what
    you ask them to do.

--
Sincere regards,

George Easaw
Bangalore, India.

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