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Unity of brothers behind success of business

Litia Mathewsell
Sunday, March 01, 2015

THE national home and building franchise may only be named after a single founder but its operations are overseen by all the Patel brothers.

Founder Vinod Patel, the eldest of six brothers and three sisters, still resides in Ba, where the company has its roots.

His brothers Uma Kant Patel, Arvind Patel, Pravin Patel, Jayanti Patel and Jitend Patel all serve as company directors.

The youngest of the brothers, Jitend, is based in Suva and additionally oversees operations as managing director.

Also in Suva are Uma Kant Patel and Pravin Patel, though Arvind now resides in New Zealand. Jayanti is the only other brother who remains in Ba with Vinod.

As Vinod Patel attests, he left DAV College at the age of 15 to help his father supplement the income of their large family.

This gave him his first taste of the thriving hardware industry, as he began working for AN Patel Hardware, later purchased by RC Manubhai.

He moved on to Bombay Trading, from which his father, Shankar Bhai Patel, insisted he leave.

"My father wanted me to leave the job because of the laborious hours and demanding work," he recalled. "Work hours then were unregulated and I often worked from 6:30am to 7:30pm, and then from 7pm to 9pm. At the end of each month, work usually ended at 11pm."

Upon his father's insistence and vote of confidence, Vinod finally left Bombay Trading to open his own hardware business.

This was a tiny, wooden shop at the CP Patel building along the Kings Rd and sold pipes, lanterns, bolts and a host of agricultural necessities for the farming community.

Despite a slow start, it successfully made a £1978 profit within eight months of opening.

Initially, Vinod wanted to name the business after his father, who had helped kick-start it with capital.

"My father flatly refused and it was a bit tricky getting a name. I also considered Ba Farmers Hardware but he urged me to name it after myself, which I did."

His shop went up against the well established Burns Philp and Morris Headstrom, and according to Vinod, they had even refused to sell him equipment at the discounted, merchant's price.

"I made my orders from the BS Agencies in Kingston, London, which were very good suppliers and would give us 90 days to clear our accounts."

The shop employed one other person in Mohammed Yusuf but it wasn't long before Uma joined. By 1965 the brothers expanded to Rakiraki, where Vinod oversaw business while Uma Kant managed their flagship in Ba.

With the rest of their brothers coming of age, the Patels gradually branched out to other towns in the country, and today the siblings remain equal shareholders, alongside their sister Sarla Ben Amin, the remaining sister in Fiji.

Headquarters have since shifted to their Centrepoint complex in Suva, and today the company also supplies to the region, including whitegoods, home ware, furniture and of course, building material. The ascent to success hasn't been easy as the Patels didn't bank on the security of "old money" and built their fortunes as business partners within the family.








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