Kirit Pathak: Pioneer behind Patak’s Indian foods dies after Dubai car crash

Business leader pays tribute to a ‘great man’ who revolutionised Indian cuisine in the UK

Kirit Pathak arrives at the High Court in central London, where he is presenting his High Court defence to a "fair shares" claim by his two sisters. Mr Pathak and his company Worldwing Investments are being sued by his married sisters, Anila Shastri and Chitralekha Mehta, who allege they were cheated out of their shares in the Lancashire-based Indian food company.   (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
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The entrepreneur behind one of Britain’s best-known Indian food brands died after a car crash in the UAE.

Kirit Pathak, the former head of Patak’s, whose range of Indian curry sauces are popular among British shoppers, died on January 23 after a car crash in Dubai, Associated British Foods said.

Pathak - who split his time between the UK, the UAE and India - is remembered as a pioneer of home-style Indian cooking.

Patak’s mushroomed from its humble origins in 1957 as a husband-and-wife-run business to become a market leader.

ABF, which acquired the company for a reported £200 million ($273 million) in 2007, paid tribute to Pathak’s passion for business and Indian cuisine.

“Kirit was a great man who was blessed with entrepreneurial flair, astute business acumen and a passion for authentic Indian cuisine,” ABF chief executive George Weston said.

"From humble beginnings, he and Meena created an incredible business all built on the concept of making Indian-style meals easy and accessible for time-poor people, but what they actually did was introduce a fantastic genre of cooking into millions of homes, transforming it into a home-dining staple.

“Kirit and his family revolutionised the way we eat at home, and he leaves behind a legacy that not only employs hundreds of people but is enjoyed by millions of homes worldwide every day.”

The business was founded by Pathak’s father, Laxmishanker, who came to Britain in the 1950s as a refugee from Kenya with his wife and six children. He was said to have had £5 ($6.80) in his pocket.

Identifying a market for Indian food in London, the family began making samosas in their small kitchen before buying a shop near Euston railway station in central London.

As the business grew, the ‘h’ from Pathak was dropped so the name could be more easily pronounced by English speakers.

These days, Patak’s can be found in nearly three quarters of Indian curry houses in Britain, while it exports to more than 40 countries.

Pathak worked for the business as a young child. He told the Guardian in 2007 that he started out making food deliveries, catching the bus with two notes in his pocket - one showing the address he was going to and the other his home address.

"We showed the bus driver the note in our left pocket to go and the note in our right to come back," he said.

A customer selects a jar of Pataks Rogan Josh curry paste, produced by Associated British Foods Plc, from a display shelf inside supermarket in London, U.K., on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012. AB Foods shares have gained 17 percent this year, fueled by the growth of the sugar unit and Primark, the company's two main profit contributors. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Patak's is popular among British shoppers. Getty Images 

He went on to study for a business degree but was unable to complete it as the family business was “virtually bankrupt”.

He ended up running the firm alongside his wife Meena, making the product more widely available.

He said in a 2001 interview that it was his goal “to be on every plate in the world”.