BY ALYSSA MAHADEO
Located at 791 Bovaird Drive in Brampton, Ravi’s West Indian Grocery is a great place to get fresh fish and vegetables brought in weekly from Guyana! Small business owners Ravi and Devika Persaud emigrated from Guyana in 1996.
Owning and operating his own business came naturally to Ravi. Back when he was living in Guyana he had learned the Goldsmith trade, like many other young men at that time. Everyone was very involved in the Gold industry of Guyana and so it became increasingly difficult to find work due to the surplus of Goldsmiths in the country. He later found himself working in the construction industry, laying concrete and doing other very demanding tasks, but still gaining skills he would be able to use later in life.
After getting married, his wife had the idea to start trading in clothing, buying pieces from Manhattan and selling them here in the flea markets in Canada. She was familiar with the business, as her parents had been actively involved in it for many years. While it was an innovative idea for a business venture, it didn’t go as well as planned. They quickly learned the market for retail clothing wasn’t thriving in the local markets as well as it might have done in Guyana. In addition to that Ravi’s in-laws were also familiar and very involved in the fishing industry. They owned their own fishing boat and so they were adept at working in the fisheries, understanding the logistics of selling their spoils for the day. While Ravi wasn’t a fisherman himself he learned a lot about the trade, the many different types of fish and those that were most sought after by the Caribbean community here in the GTA.
When they came to Canada, they initially started their business at the flea market selling fish with no intention of getting into wholesale. While business was doing well, his peers at the flea market understood that he was still new to business and they offered him valuable insight into the different directions he could take. They were very supportive and encouraged him to further his pursuits, thinking about broadening his business by getting into selling his fish wholesale, where they also offered and referred business to him.
Soon after getting into wholesale, it was suggested that he consider opening his own store. Here he was doing wholesale, being the middleman in most of his dealings when he had the skill set to run his own small business. Ravi was prompted to take advantage of his Caribbean connections, and use those associations to import more goods and products from the Caribbean alongside the fish he was already bringing to stock into his newly acquired West Indian Grocery store.
For two years Ravi and his wife Devika have owned and operated Ravi’s West Indian Grocery store in Brampton. They have a small grocery where they offer fresh fruits and vegetables from across the islands. They carry a selection of fish imported straight from Guyana, and a selection of meat not including beef and pork, which can be cut up and cleaned to your specifications. At Ravi’s West Indian Grocery they work hard to ensure they meet the needs of their customers, and if there is anything they need they will be sure to find it for them.
Like many small businesses of this time, they have had to conquer many different challenges that come along with owning and operating your own business. From ensuring that your customers know who you are, to what products you are offering for sale. It is imperative that when you have a small business to let the maximum number of people in your area know about the services you offer and the convenience your location provides them so they don’t have to go out of their way to find products without realizing they are close to home.
Ravi explains that there are many other important aspects to successfully running your own business, including keeping a positive attitude and the contribution of great customer service. When customers come into the store, they like to be treated with a greeting and a smile, that familiarity gives them a welcome feeling and they will be more inclined to come back for a second visit. The customers at Ravi’s are pleased with the service they receive when they visit the store. Ravi and Devika are very accommodating treating everyone like family when they come to do their groceries.
When they opened their store, there was never any doubt in their mind that they wouldn’t do well for themselves. They knew that by maintaining the right attitude they would succeed in their endeavors and over time the business would flourish. Many of their customers are of Indian-Guyanese heritage and they come to the store seeking Guyanese specific brands you wouldn’t be able to find in a local grocery store. In addition to grocery items they conveniently bring a variety of specific pooja items including fresh leaves and plants from the Caribbean that you wouldn’t be able to nurture in Canada’s harsh climate, but very sought after by many in the Caribbean community. At Ravi’s they also carry a wide selection of familiar Caribbean recognized snacks, including favorites like hot tamarind balls, cassava pone, coconut metai and kurma metai.
In the future they are hoping to expand the shop to include the Naraine’s Bakery franchise, very popular amongst the Guyanese community where they hope to sell an assortment of Guyanese style bakery products like bread, pastries and other sought after items baked fresh daily. When the time comes and they acquire even more products from other places in the Caribbean, Ravi’s will consider expansion into other areas of the GTA, or make renovations to their current store to accommodate. They will continue to offer more products and services to the community as long as they are able. Their focus is on keeping the customers satisfied and a steady flow of business coming in. At Ravi’s West Indian Grocery all you have to do is ask and you shall receive, come on down and enjoy service with a smile guaranteed!