When you think about multinational Canadian companies, the first to jump to mind may not be Surati Sweet Mart Ltd. of northern Scarborough. But Shalini Sheth, director of operations and part of the third generation of her family to run the firm, points out that the maker of a wide range of tasty Indian foods – from sweets and snacks to baked goods and vegetables – has plants in Canada and India, and a series of distribution centres in the U.S. Its headquarters on Middlefield Road employs 120 people, often new immigrants that Sheth and her colleagues train and help to join the Canadian mainstream. “A lot of them have been with us for 30 years plus and have reached management positions,” she says.
Sheth, a graduate in operations management who had to follow a family rule that she work outside for 10 years before joining the company, is part of a truly Canadian tale. The company dates back 70 years to Uganda, where it was run by her grandfather Maganlal Sheth and his brother. Then came dictator Idi Amin’s expulsion of the “Ugandan Asians” in the early 1970s. Maganlal’s eldest son Mansukh, Shalini’s father, came to Canada as a refugee while the rest of the family went to India. One by one, he sponsored his family over, and in 1981 they restarted Surati in Toronto.
For 35 years Surati was located near Victoria Park and Lawrence, and Maganlal became a familiar local figure, often sitting in a chair outside the retail store. Now, in Agincourt, the third generation is in the driver’s seat.
“We continue to build on the foundation my grandfather and our family left for us.”