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How these immigrant brothers created biggest Indian grocery chain in the US

Think Change India
30th Aug 2017
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In 1968, when 23-year-old Mafat Patel heard a knock on his door, he anticipated the big change. An approved visa for an MBA at the Indiana University, it read.

The eldest of six siblings, Mafat grew up in the village in the Mehsana district of Gujarat. After pursuing his Mechanical Engineering in the neighbouring district, Patan. After completing his business degree, he relocated to Chicago where he met a lot of immigrants from every part of the world and India predominantly. The foreign cuisine did not excite the Indian folks and most of the dinner parties were just rants about the Indian food and how much the Indian crowd in the pardes craved it.

In 1971, when one Ramesh Trivedi approached Mafat for a storefront on Devon Avenue that he was willing to sell, Mafat saw a business opportunity. He invited his brother Tusi and his wife Aruna to help him with the setup, said a report by Quartz Media. In the next three years, the first store was launched. On September 1974, a dingy 900-square foot space that demanded 9am-9pm of running around from the Patel duo opened up. In their remaining time, they indulged working for small jobs.

Credits: Chicago Business and The Better India

Today, Patel Brothers have built a $140-million enterprise. Apart from their first venture, Devon Avenue in Chicago, the family owns Patel Air Tours, a travel agency; Sahil, a clothing boutique meant for Indian weddings; Patel Handicrafts and Utensils and Patel Café, an eatery, read The Better India report. With over three generations indulged in fueling the engine of Patel brothers, they have their tributaries in 51 locations, starting from Texas to California.

The thought of a food store came to us because of pure Gujarati business acumen – we knew that food was an industry that would never face any crisis, Tulsi Patel said in an interview to the Times of India.

The Patel brothers have captured the need of immigrant Indians through their Indian grocery stores. From Sabzi Mandi to supermarket, the grocery chain offers Indians- a home away from home. By mid-90s, the brother duo had their outlets in New York, Houston, Atlanta, and Detroit.

In 1991, the next generation launched 'Raja Foods', a subsidiary of Patel brothers that offered readymade chapatis, pea and potato samosas as packaged Indian foods. Today, they are on the board of Indian American Medical Association, an NGO that works for the needy and poor. Back in India, they have built Samvedana Foundation, which has gifted 160 houses, a school and a medical centre for the survivors of Gujarat earthquake.
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