Patricia Narayanan: Fighting Against Odds
By Meera Srikant
It came as a jolt when her love marriage broke up. The man of her dreams had turned a nightmare, and apart from what it did to her, she was more worried about her two young children who were witnesses to domestic abuse.
Wisely, she left (her?) husband to return to her parental home. She may have despaired, but Patricia Narayanan was not about to let that stand in the way of the future of her children. She took up what she could do best and loved best – cooking.
Patricia started Prasan Catering Services 30 years back, naming her business after her two children, and sold pickles, squashes and jams. Soon she began a food stall in the popular Marina Beach, providing snacks such as cutlets, samosas, bajjis, fresh juice and coffee and tea. With time, she moved on to institutional catering, running a team that prepared and served food to offices like Slum Clearance Board and later, at the Bank of Madura canteen. In 1998, she partnered with one of the units of the Sangeetha Restaurants group, thus entering the hotel business.
Just as she seemed to be emerging from the blow life had doled her, the second one hit – her daughter and son-in-law died in a road accident, leaving her shattered. Knowing that work was the only opium that would bring his mother out of depression, in 2004, Praveen – Patricia’s son – started Prasan Sandeepha, a vegetarian restaurant in T. Nagar.
Patricia uses all her learning and experience to help her son steady the new business he has launched. Though the restaurants on GN Chetty Road and TTK Road had to be closed due to logistical issues, they are popular stopovers at IT parks around Chennai. The group has also opened San’s Kitchen – their non-vegetarian chain, Quenchers – a new venture that offers mocktails and chaats, and Golden Wok – with Chinese food.
For her contributions, Patricia was recognized as this year’s ‘FICCI Woman Entrepreneur’. Modest to the core, Patricia understands challenges and leads by example. She is there in the kitchen, ready to fill in any role required. Only then, she believes, can she win the respect of her employees and keep the business going.
Author’s interview with Patricia Narayanan on 9 July 2010.
Warrier, Shobha. “From 50 paise, she now earns Rs 200,000 a day”. Rediff Business. * June 2010.