Anyone who has been to America and spent some time with relatives there, would most certainly have heard of the Patel Brothers – the Indian grocery store where you get all the desi things. Its like a mecca for that parched tongue sick of pizzas and Subways and other things bland.
But the success of Patel stores was born from this need to satiate the tongue. The eldest of the six siblings, Mafat went to Indiana to pursue an MBA in 1968 and after two years, armed with the degree, he got a job as a “skilled worker” in a factory assembly line. This is what all educated Indian immigrants did so he took this in his stride. But what bothered him the most and made him lonely all the time was the lack of Indian food. This was the sentiments shared by all Indians around him. That necessity led him to think about opening an Indian grocery shop. He was scouting around for one when in 1971, Ramesh Trivedi, an enterprising businessman, approached Mafat about a storefront on Devon Avenue that he wanted to sell. This was a ramshackle place, more like a shanty. But Mafat did not care, he bought it.
He asked him brother, Tulsi to join him and he came along with his wife, Aruna. It took them three years to get the logistics of a grocery store sorted out and finally opened their first small store – Patel Brothers, in Sept 1974. The men held on to their jobs and worked rest of time in their shop.
Today, Patel Brothers is a $140 million empire and it has 51 stores spread all across USA, mainly on the East Coast.
This is really a story of how one man, when he pays attention to his innate needs can actually see an opportunity and spawn a huge legacy.