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She has a recipe for success

Olympia Shilpa Gerald
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Patricia Narayan's passion for cooking led her to become owner of restaurants

Patricia Narayan —Photo: R. Ashok
Patricia Narayan —Photo: R. Ashok

FICCI Woman Entrepreneur of the year, Patricia Narayan's tale may sound like the quintessential rags- to- riches story, but it is also a stark tale of survival. An entrepreneur by accident, director of Sandheepa Chain of Restaurants, Patricia belongs to the ilk of those who bloom in adversity.

“Till the FICCI award was announced, I never realised what I had achieved. It was an opportunity to look back.” says Ms. Patricia unassumingly, attributing her success to ‘lady luck'.Hailing from a conservative Christian family from Nagercoil, her marriage to a Brahmin caused an uproar in her family. Soon, all went downhill for Patricia who suffered abuse at the hands of her drug addict husband. At 18, Patricia was left to fend for herself and her two children.

“I reached the crossroads where I had to choose between living and dying. I chose to live.” Keeping her two children in mind, Patricia decided to fight her own battle. “My entire life has been driven by my determination to be independent.” Her passion for cooking only fuelled her will to survive. She started out by selling pickles, jams and squashes. From then on, there was no looking back and she set up a kiosk at the Marina beach, selling juice and cutlets. Her first- day sales would not count as memorable- she sold one cup of coffee for 50 paise- undeterred, she was back at the Marina next day.“I had no time to sympathise with myself. Soon, my hands were full and I was running all the time.”

Ms. Patricia's road to becoming a restaurateur was no overnight miracle but a journey spanning 30 years. She took up catering contracts in the cafeterias of the Slum Clearance Board, Bank of Madura and the National Institute of Port Management after which she forged a partnership with one of the restaurants of a leading hotel chain in Chennai.

Patricia's progress was halted briefly when tragedy struck in the form of her newly married daughter's death. A bereaved Patricia left her business to her son Praveen. After two years, the resilient woman came back and set up her first restaurant named after her daughter Sandheepa.

“Everybody should have a motto in life to succeed. At that time, mine was to stand by my son.”According to her, the hallmark of the restaurant is the home-made quality of the food. She advises entrepreneurs in the food sector never to compromise on quality or hygiene.

Ms. Patricia also operates an ambulance service from Acharapakkam, the spot of her daughter's accident to Chengalpet. “I shall never forget the sight of my daughter's corpse which arrived in the boot of a car, as the ambulance had refused to take her.” Willpower is the most important attribute to succeed, claims the entrepreneur. “When she sets her mind to something, she always achieves it,” her son Praveen asserts. Not a complacent entrepreneur, she sets targets for herself . Her next goal? “To operate a cruise liner,” a wish that was triggered off at an event in Tiruchi. Going by her record, this should be a cruise as well.

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