Meet this School Dropout who once was a grocery store worker, now built retail company with Rs 1000+ crore turnover in FY23

Millions of people migrate from India’s villages to Mumbai with big dreams. However, only a few manage to make it big.

Startup Pedia brings to you an inspiring entrepreneurial journey of Dhanji Patel who is a son of a farmer, came to Ambernath with big dreams. Four decades down the line, he runs a retail company Patel Retail Pvt Ltd which exports and sells FMCG, grocery, clothing and household supplies. The company has a revenue of more than Rs 1000 crore.

Dhanji, now 55, hails from Dudhai village in Kachchh district of Gujarat. His father was a struggling farmer who would work round the clock in his farm to put food on the table for his family. 

“There was no struggle when it came to having sufficient food for all of us because my father would grow, in the farm, whatever was required to eat at home. However, my father would hardly have money for our education and new dresses for festivals,” told Dhanji during an exclusive conversation with Startup Pedia.

Dhanji studied until 8th class from a government school in his village and then moved to Ambernath (about 65 kilometres away from Mumbai) where his elder brother Bechar Patel who is also a director of Patel Retail was a worker at a local grocery store in 1984. He joined the grocery store as a worker earning Rs 100-150 per day.  He was just 16 years old. 

At a young age, Dhanji became a helping hand for his family to support financially. Since he had a big dream, he did not settle for the grocery store job. 

In 1990, investing around Rs 25,000, he with his elder brother opened their own grocery store in Ambernath called patel enterprises. This is when Dhanji’s entrepreneurial journey started. 

The grocery store was running so well that Dhanji was always on the hunt of investing money to expand the grocery business. He was intrigued by the supermarket idea. After  running the grocery stores, in 2004, he opened his first supermarket in Ambernath where all the products related to food were available.

Patel Retail Pvt Ltd.
Patel Retail Pvt Ltd.

While talking to Startup Pedia, Dhanji said, “Since the investment amount was big, apart from me and my brother’s savings, we borrowed some money from a few friends. It was a huge risk, but I was not scared of taking risks because success lies on the other side of the risk.” The supermart are named as Patel’s R Mart where a wide range of FMCG, grocery, clothing and household supplies are available.

Patel’s R Mart
Patel’s R Mart

As the business grew, two more vertices were added under the umbrella of Patel Retail Pvt Ltd. – export and food processing. Powder Spices, flour, grains, pulses, ,lentils ,legumes, spices, peanut, sesame, mango pulp,  and many more commodities are processed at the Patel Retail owned factory. 

The first factory, which is in Dhanji’s village Dudhai, was built in 2016. Later in 2019 one more factory was set up to fulfil the industry demand. Earlier, processing of these commodities were outsourced.

Today, Patel Retail is a 4 star export house exporting spices powder, spices, grains and FMCG products. It exports to more than 25 countries in  Europe, Middle East, Asia, America,Africa,Australia and New Zealand

Patel Retail Pvt. Ltd. has a couple of sub brands such as Indian Chaska, Patel Fresh and Patel Essential.

Blessing in disguise

During the pandemic in 2020 when the entire world came to a halt, it was a blessing in disguise for Dhanji. He launched a smartphone app, Patel R Mart, where people can order groceries online from the comfort of their houses. It provides free home delivery. 

Dhanji Patel - Chairman and MD at Patel Retail Limited
Dhanji Patel – Chairman and MD at Patel Retail Limited

“We have been thinking of launching an app but it could not be possible earlier for some reasons. But the covid-19 pandemic made me expedite the process and launch the app  as it was the need of the hour. We have seen tremendous growth since then,” added Dhanji. 

The journey that was started with one grocery store, now has 31 supermarkets across suburbs of Mumbai  such as Ambernath, Badlapur, Dombivli and Kalyan. In the 2022-23 financial year, Patel Retail Pvt. Ltd. managed to clock Rs 1000 Cr in revenue. The company has been growing year on year and planning to expand with more retail stores. Now the second generation of the Patel family has also entered into business. 

Impacting farmers life

Dhanji through his Patel Retail business has been doing his bit to improve the lives of farmers.  Majority of  the food grains and other groceries that are sold through Patel Retail are sourced from the farmers across India. The farmers are paid a fair price. Moreover, the farmers are also given awareness on better farming methods. 

“So far more than 3000 farmers are getting benefited because of Patel Retail. We don’t just buy produce from them but we also educate them in better farming and food trading. Being a son of a farmer I don’t want any farmer struggle,” Dhanji expressed his emotions towards farmers whose motto is- from the farmer, for the farmer, to the farmer.