Introducing Alitam member Kalpen Patel.

“I’ve come from zero pounds to where I am now through caring for customers,” explains Kalpen Patel, whose 3 pharmacies in North London are renowned far and wide for their deeply caring approach and convenient healthcare services. While always going the extra mile for customers, Kalpen has also single-handedly built a thriving wholesale business. He’s an active member of his community, volunteering as a children’s sports coach, and he’s treasured by his devoted staff, whom he treats ‘like family.’ It’s this unique combination of business acumen and caring ethos which makes Kalpen an inspiration to all around him.

The natural choice

“Pharmacy is in my blood,” says Kalpen. “My grandfather established a herbal pharmacy in Mombasa, which my father inherited. I spent my childhood serving in the shop, learning vital lessons. It was an environment that required you to both care for people and run a profitable business. This was hugely appealing to me. When the time came to choose a profession, pharmacy was the natural choice.” One pharmacy has even taken the name of his grandfather’s store – Eico Pharmacy – as Kalpen continues the legacy of attending carefully to people’s health, often advising on non-pharmaceutical options. “We stock a wide range of vitamins and natural treatments, alongside the usual pharmacy fare,” he says. “We spend time talking through a customer’s needs and have the expertise to advise them on the right supplements. We really look after people. My customers come from a wide radius, because the attention they enjoy here is hard to find elsewhere. And it doesn’t exist when buying over the internet.”

Wholesale success

With business skills, as well as care, in his blood Kalpen ventured into the wholesale business in 2013. “Pharmacists need to be very price conscious,” he says. “Prices fluctuate constantly. I wanted to be more in control and pass on savings to customers. I also love a challenge,” he grins. “I had enough space in one of my stores to hold a large quantity of items, and later I expanded and bought a warehousing facility in Perivale. I can buy 3 – 6 months’ worth of stock when the market moves in my favour. I’ll soon be buying generic medicines, not just OTC items, and see profits increase further.” Kalpen is incredibly keen to bring his negotiating skills to the Alitam table, allowing all member pharmacies to benefit from cheaper prices. “Cutting out the wholesaler makes a dramatic difference to your bottom line,” he says. “One of the great attractions of Alitam is that it’s a forum for exceptional business skills, not just pharmacy know-how. As such it’s a unique opportunity to share and develop my negotiating ability, supported and stimulated by brilliant peers and the vision of the management team.”

‘A mind blowing knowledge bank’

Kalpen is unequivocal about the future of pharmacy, “Clinical services are the way forward,” he says. “Millennials don’t have the time or inclination to wait for NHS appointments, but they have the income to pay for on-demand healthcare. As an independent I can’t exploit this opportunity enough, but with the group strength of Alitam I definitely can. When I heard Feisal speak I thought, ‘this is it!’, because suddenly there was a future built on sound principles. It takes advantage of our skillsets and close relationship with customers, to offer high quality preventative care, treatments and wellbeing services which look after the whole person. It’s a new model of healthcare. One which has enormous presence on the high street and in the digital realm, enabling customers and pharmacists through the latest technology, and enhancing our position of trust within the community.”

Kalpen is enthused by the myriad opportunities Alitam affords, “I love the idea of offering Alitam-branded products across all stores,” he says. “Being able to motivate staff with rewarding careers, while I access the best talent and pick the brains of so many brilliant business people and pharmacists. There’s so much individual expertise available on tap, everyone has different connections. The knowledge bank within Alitam is mind blowing.”

Plans are already afoot to expand his offering to include osteopathy, colonic irrigation and cosmetic treatments such as botox. “Customers see us as a centre of well-being, and already tell their neighbours to come here for their wider health needs. With the backing of Alitam I can create many more avenues of engagement and income streams, and help people even more.”

“With his inside knowledge of price fluctuations and formidable negotiating skills, Kalpen will help bring Alitam real competitive advantage,” enthuses Feisal Nahaboo, Alitam founder. “But what’s also impressive is that his bricks and mortar pharmacies are built on care. This is the foundation of every strong pharmacy business, and it’s the foundation of Alitam. A business model created from the caring qualities, trusted community position and underappreciated clinical skills of community pharmacists. He’s an incredible asset to the team.”

Kalpen adds with a smile, “As I always say, if you look after your customers the money will come in. None of this would be possible without the immense support of my wife and daughter. They have both been integral in helping to achieve our corporate success to date.”