Colleagues and friends paid tribute to Kirit Patel, chief executive of the Day Lewis pharmacy chain, whose sudden death last week has shocked the industry.
Dr Bharat Shah from Sigma Pharmaceuticals said: “My recollection of Kirit goes back to our first meeting in 1979 at my pharmacy, when Kirit approached me with a view to supplying my pharmacy with branded, OTC and surgical products.
“This was at a time when the very idea of an independent wholesaler was way ahead of its time.
“However, Kirit was a man with a vision and that concept of wholesale and retail pharmacy had been birthed as far back as 1979. This vision has done so much for pharmacy and wholesaling, for which we all owe him a great debt of gratitude.
“For those who knew him, he was ‘Mr Pharmacy’ with a larger-than-life personality and a relentless appetite for pursuing the hard-fought corner of independent pharmacy.
“His family were a regular attendees at the Sigma annual conferences and this year in Jamaica, Kirit and his son Jay were one of the most notable presenters, where he held the audience captive by his spirited presentation and delivery. A few days ago, he had confirmed his attendance to our next year’s conference in Rio with his wife and one of his sons. He will now be sadly missed there.
“Only four weeks ago, the University of Bath awarded Kirit an honorary doctorate in business administration for his achievement in business and contribution to the pharmacy community.
“His pharmacy career has had its fair share of turbulence, with the initial formation of Delouis and then the birth and start of the Day Lewis group. Even though there was an initial business failure, his natural, indomitable spirit and vision stood him in good stead to see real growth and lasting achievement so that his name is now synonymous with pharmacy success. The Day Lewis group now is an established independent retailer and wholesaler.
“Kirit was a real ‘flag flyer’ for the independent pharmacies, pharmacists and pharmaceutical industry. He was an active former member of RPS and current member of AIM, NPA and the PSNC, fighting in the political arena to achieve the best for pharmacy and in particular, independent pharmacists.
“The directors and staff at Sigma extend their sincere condolences to Nalini and all the family at this time of sad loss. May Kirit’s vision bear much fruit in the future and be a steering light for all his friends and admirers. The pharmacy profession will miss one of their ‘pillars’.”
Hiten Patel, managing director at Pharma Plus, added: “A great loss of an incredibly generous human being, a husband, a dad and recently a grandfather. A great man. A great leader. Someone who was charismatic and always engaged and talked about community pharmacy with such infectious passion.
“There would always be a buzz whenever Kirit walked into a room and his contagious personality was a gift to the pharmacy world.
“I honestly believe there is no equivalent to a Kirit Patel in any other profession. We were lucky to have had him in community pharmacy, and for nearly four decades he has advanced our cause with persistent regularity.
“I began my career in pharmacy 35 years ago, and Kirit gave me my first job. I worked for him for three years, when he only had five shops, and remember after the job interview feeling like I was about to start on some adventure.
“During those years under his stewardship and mentoring, I got guidance and businesses skills I would not have experienced with anyone else. He was Mr Dynamic. He taught me nothing is impossible. The Nike tag line, ‘Just do it’, is standard Kirit.
“We maintained our friendship and this continued when we went on a seven-week road trip from London to India a couple of years ago. I shared a room with Kirit and there was only one thing we competed about – the write-up and posting of our respective blogs each day. He conceded early on, not being able to stay up regularly until 3am.
“We also shared a trait of being a bit clumsy. A full glass of red wine, or a plate flying across the table as Kirit was describing a story in his animated way, were regular occurrences.
“One consolation, if any is to be found, is Kirit lived life to the full, took challenges head on but had fun en route in his own unique way, always with a touch of mischief.
“It is difficult to comprehend what has just happened, particularly so for Nalini, Jay, Rupa and Sam, but we know his strength and spirit will empower them to remain resilient and continue his endearing legacy.
“God rest his soul. It was an honour and privilege to have known Kirit.”
David Mitchell, director, David Mitchell Healthcare Consulting Limited: “I first met Kirit in 1981. I had been told about a bright young pharmacist with a fresh approach to business. When we met, I knew immediately that he was different.
“Kirit exuded energy. During the meeting he spoke of a vision to build a pharmacy business in partnership with industry. That open, collaborative approach stayed with him and the industry knows that Day Lewis is a great place to do business.
“Kirit was an outstanding businessman, an excellent leader, inspiring all who worked with him. He retained great humility, a wonderful curiosity and an ability to listen and learn. He was so proud of all that he had achieved but knew much of this was due to the love and support of his family, the skill of his leadership team and all the hard-working colleagues at the Day Lewis family.
“Kirit had a fabulous personality with a sharp intellect. His smile lit up his face, his eyes sparkled and his laugh was contagious. He had a great sense of fun and loved to party. Despite his enormous success, Kirit kept his feet firmly on the ground, enjoying the simple things in life – family, friends and sport with a passion for Liverpool FC.
“Kirit adored his wife Nalini and his three children, Sam, Jay and Rupa. He deeply respected his big brother JC. He was so proud of his first grandchild and excited that two more were on the way.
“I count myself honoured and privileged to have known and worked with him. His early passing is sad but we should count our blessings for all that Kirit did while he was here.”
Jeremy Main, managing director, Alliance Healthcare: “The first word that springs to mind when I think of Kirit is generous. He always wanted to look after those around him. Always offering hospitality to those in his company, the first to offer a drink or pay for dinner. Kirit loved to be at the heart of things, business, socialising, family, friends. He loved to help people, give them a chance, be a friend.
“The second word that springs to mind is family. He loved and cared for his family, his business life involved them all, he wanted his business to be a family affair, an inspiration, a legacy, not just numbers on a balance sheet, a profit statement.
“Kirit always had a smile on his face, he was down to earth, just a great guy. Kirit was someone everybody knew, liked and respected, he was an inspiration and supporter of all those in his life and on his team.
“The world is now a lesser place for his passing and he should be remembered with joy for what he gave.”
Helen Gordon, chief executive, Royal Pharmaceutical Society: “Like all of us, I received the news of Kirit’s passing with disbelief and sorrow.
“He was a friend and colleague who stood out as a strong, principled and engaging leader. He was bold and pragmatic in embracing change in pharmacy, his approach underpinned by a genuine passion about delivering care to the public.
“He was also passionate about seeing his team develop, and was genuine in his support of the RPS as the professional body for pharmacy.
“Earlier this month, Kirit shared with me the video of when he received his honorary doctorate from Bath University. In his speech, he talked about his four business principles – respect and care for people; aspire to achieve the impossible; create a network of support and; never stop learning.
“He lived by these words. They resonate with me in my leadership story, and we aim to extol them at the RPS.”
Sue Sharpe, chief executive, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC): “At the PSNC meeting last week, we celebrated Kirit’s honorary doctorate in business administration, awarded by the University of Bath two weeks earlier. Kirit was so proud to be recognised for his achievements in the profession.
“I first met Kirit at a school sports day in 1993, long before Day Lewis grew to be the largest privately owned pharmacy chain. As Day Lewis flourished, Kirit became committed to using his talents more widely, joining pharmacy’s national bodies, and this is where I came to know him and see his brilliant and mercurial mind at work.
“On the RPSGB’s Council his commercial acumen led to his election as treasurer, and he was a member of the NPA board for many years. He was pleased to be a member of a government advisory body on small businesses, and thrilled to be awarded an MBE. At PSNC, Kirit’s business brain and creative mind helped our work. He was a strong advocate of developing our data systems to provide resources to help contractors, and closely involved in our negotiations with the government, often offering a different and valuable insight. His mind was agile, creative, and his exuberance evident to us all.
“For me he was more than a colleague – a mentor, supporter, above all a friend. Always generous with his time and immensely hospitable, he always sought to offer help, whether by using contacts, offering assistance from Day Lewis, or giving a fresh perspective on an issue. Last Thursday, two days before we lost him, Shailesh, Kirit and I spoke to plan a lobbying reception in September.
“As the news spread, tributes to Kirit from members of the committee flooded in, with sympathy for his family, and a real sense that we have lost a great figure in pharmacy.”