Kirit Patel, the chief executive of pharmacy chain Day Lewis, marked the company’s 40th anniversary at a reception in London by reminiscing about its rise to prominence and promising it would continue to help young pharmacists fulfil their potential.
In front of an audience of some of the most prominent figures in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries at the Orangery, Kensington Palace, Patel reflected on the beginning of the Day Lewis adventure.
It was May 25, 1975, when he bought his first pharmacy in Southborough to set in motion what would become one of the leading pharmacy chains in the UK.
“It seems like only yesterday that I walked into our first pharmacy in Southborough. I have been reminiscing over my 40-year journey,” he said.
“Pharmacy in the 70s was so different. It was a nightmare deciphering doctors’ hand-written prescriptions. We made our own concoctions to sell over the counter.
“We had no computers or patient records or electronic prescriptions or patient directions to worry about.”
Patel was assimilated into the English way of life from an early age by his father, who sent him to boarding school in Cornwall, before fears arose over the safety of his family in Kenya in the wake of political troubles in neighbouring Uganda.
By the early 1970s, the country’s leader Idi Amin had expelled the Asian communities. Patel, who had qualified as a pharmacist, debated returning to Kenya but his family told him to stay in England.
“So I took up a job with Boots,” he said. The death of his father in 1974 however prompted him to return to Kenya but the following year he came back to England. “I had a great passion to buy my own pharmacy,” he said. “The rest is history.” Announcing that Day Lewis has 275 pharmacies in Britain and has raised £300,000 for local charities in the last three years, Patel said the company would make a concerted effort to help newly qualified pharmacists find work in the UK.
“We support pharmacy schools by fitting out pharmacies in universities, offering bursaries and taking on 75 pre-registration (pharmacy) students each year,” he said.
“Young pharmacy graduates find it difficult to get employment. I believe the time has come for a second pharmacist (working in the pharmacy). We are recruiting an extra 35 pharmacists.”
He added: “So what you may ask is the secret of our success? One thing I learnt earlier in my life was to trust others and hand over the keys.
“It is all about partnership, trust and collaboration at every level. Our people are the cornerstone of our business. We invest in people.”
Kirit’s son Jay, who has taken on a prominent role in the Day Lewis business as a director, said: “Our exposure to Day Lewis started at an early age. I started visiting pharmacies at the age of five (and) we were raised to respect the business.
“In my opinion, family businesses are stronger because of the complementary skills of the family members.
“We all have a part to play. Our family values, how we conduct our family affairs; it is aligned to our business values (and that) is aligned to the NHS Constitution… respect and dignity, commitment to quality of care, compassion, improving lives, working together for patients, creating an environment where everyone counts.”
Patel’s other children, Rupa and Sam, are also directors at Day Lewis.