This new Sri Lankan food business is helping London immigrants lead better lives
Posted on September 2nd, 2017

Sri Lankan food startup Papi’s Pickles has opened in London, and it’s working with women relocating to the UK who have been a victim of their country’s conflict.

Set up in 2014 and founded by New Radicals winner Abi Ramanan, the company wants to make a difference whilst offering South Indian and Sri Lankan food for events, street-food markets and pop-ups.

The food is made by the women who have fled Sri Lanka, but the business could change their lives. Through the company, women can receive a London living wage, training and support. Then, they reinvest all of their profits to provide jobs for the community.

Rose Apple & Star fruit (Carambola)
Image Source: Hafiz Issadeen
 Ramanan is very optimistic about her company, believing everyone is equal and deserves a chance: London is a city of immigrants… Not enough is said about the great positives that immigrants bring.

Combine this with strong-held beliefs about the future of business; in five to 10 years it will be impossible to start a business with the sole objective of profit. There has to be a social return as well.”

This is where Papi’s Pickles drive and inspiration derive from. Ramanan has worked with 14 women over the last three years, she currently has four part-time trainee chefs: Ruby, Ragini, Chrishanthi and Inthumathi, who have provided thousands of pounds in salaries, created 5,868 hours work and delivered over 5,000 hours of training.

Ramanan knows the struggles of finding work when you’re an immigrant and as a Tamil, she had a connection with the community. Whilst researching a documentary and doing charity work, she met several Sri Lankans in the UK.

She continued: Unemployment in migrant and refugee communities is really high, particularly among women, and employment is core to the process of integration.”

The women working for Papi’s Pickles have had to adapt to a new country, new culture and new language. However, Ramanan’s head chefs at the company, Radhi and Shanthini, are familiar with the Tamil language and culture which has helped to ease them into the world of work.

Papi’s Pickles has also adapted to its staff’s needs; many women have children so they offer flexible hours. In the future, they will also aim to offer English language classes.

Of course, London has many food startups so the competition will be fierce. However, the company wants to stress that it offers more than a salary and training – it offers a transformational impact” too, it’s more than just a job.

The founder continued: We have managed to establish a space for ourselves because of the quality of our products and the excellence of our service.

People come back for the taste and then we are delighted that it’s a social enterprise as well.”

In terms of where the company is heading, Papi’s Pickles aims to take on new recruits and expand its opportunities for countless more women in need.

In doing so, Ramanan plans to find a restaurant space, commercial kitchen and community space to host English lessons as mentioned before.

She recognises that other businesses could replicate Papi’s Pickles, but she sees this as a positive in helping to support various communities and individuals alike.

One Response to “This new Sri Lankan food business is helping London immigrants lead better lives”

  1. Nimal Says:

    Sadly,hardly a Sinhalese hold a good business outlet in UK.

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