Vijay and Bhikhu Patel

Areas of Interest

Business

Honorary Award

Honorary Doctors of Science, 2008

Biography

Vijay and Bhikhu Patel are brothers who have created the highly successful global pharmaceutical company Waymade Healthcare. Born into poverty in Kenya, their hard work, combined with innovation, drive and determination has led them to become inspirational leaders within healthcare.

After completing their early education in Africa, they moved to England to make their fortune. Vijay graduated from the College of Pharmacy in Leicester and Bhikhu, after taking A Levels at Kilburn Polytechnic, gained a place at Bristol University to read Architecture. Five years after qualifying, Bhikhu's need for a challenge proved too much and he invested £15,000 in his first business - two newsagent shops in Woolwich, London. Meanwhile, Vijay opened his first pharmacy in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, in 1975. The business grew rapidly, developing into a chain of 20 outlets. In the early 1980s the company then expanded into buying and supplying medicines for its own chain, and then diversified into supplying hospitals and distributors.

Bhikhu joined the fast growing pharmaceutical business to bring some financial control to the operation and together in 1984, they founded Waymade Healthcare Plc. Some years later they sold all but three of their pharmacies to Boots in order for Waymade to concentrate on the supply of prescription medicines to retail pharmacies, hospitals and distributors. In 2001, they were jointly voted Ernst and Young 'UK Entrepreneur of the Year' having already won numerous accolades from various top organisations and institutions including 'Europe's Top 500 fastest growing companies'.

In 2003, a separate international pharmaceutical company, Amdipharm was established. The company acquired a broad range of pharmaceutical brands which it commercialised throughout Europe, the Middle and Far East, Australia, New Zealand and Latin America. Their products are available in more than 100 countries. In October 2012, Amdipharm was acquired for £370m by Cinven, a Private Equity Group, which has successfully continued to expand its operation trading as AMCO. Vijay and Bhikhu still maintain the largest individual shareholder interest in the substantially expanded group.

Since the sale of Amdipharm, a Family Office (Bay Unity Capital) has been established to oversee all family investments. While the investments are spread across various asset classes, including acquisitions of companies/management teams in diverse industry sectors, the core activity remains in pharmaceutical and real estate space.

In particular, a new Company Atnahs which was formed in November 2013, manages in licensing and the sale of branded pharmaceuticals in European territories and Australia. The group has ambitious plans to expand their product range and the territories in which they operate. Waymade Plc continues to deal in licensing, sale and marketing of generic pharmaceutical products under the Sovereign Pharmaceutical brand.

The property group, Sovereign Property Holdings, manages over 50 retail, office, warehousing, specialist commercial buildings and residential investments across the UK.

Since finding success in the UK and globally, the brothers have been able to pursue goals more personal to them through Shanta Foundation, a charity named after their mother and have over the years sponsored the following:

  • Opened a new school in their native town in Kenya to improve education and lifestyle.
  • Created Medical Camps in India and Kenya
  • Created numerous Water Wells in India
  • Established the Waymade College of Education in Gujarat to improve English language skills
  • Established the Waymade School of Ophthalmic Studies in Gujarat, specialising in the prevention of childhood - blindness.
  • Contributed a wing to the Mitra School in Gujarat for children with learning disabilities and Special Needs




Citation

"Vice Chancellor, it is my pleasure to read the Citation for Vijay and Bhikhu Patel, for the awards of Honorary Doctors of the University.

Vijay and Bhikhu Patel are the brothers who between them have created the highly successful global pharmaceutical company Waymade Healthcare. Born into poverty in Kenya, their hard work combined with innovation, drive and determination has led them to become inspirational leaders within healthcare - and exceptional role models for Anglia Ruskin Faculty of Health and Social Care graduands who are today preparing to embark on the start of their own careers. This business duo, whom we honour today, has already won many business and professional accolades - and they are still relative newcomers to the pharmaceutical sector. In 2001, they were jointly voted Ernst and Young 'UK Entrepreneur of the Year' and they have won the attentions of a number of other top organisations and institutions.

This story begins in the isolated Kenyan town of Eldoret, where the brothers were born. Their father was a timber merchant - one of many Indian immigrants to have come to Kenya to make his fortune. A true entrepreneur, he believed in the importance of family, education and the need to make your own way in life which is what ultimately helped to shape the lives of his sons. Mr Patel died when his three children were still very young leaving Mrs Patel to support the family which she did by running a nursery from the family's home.

The brothers completed their early education in Africa and then came to England to make their fortune. Vijay absorbed himself in work and study from the moment he arrived in the country. He eventually achieved the first part of his dream when he graduated from the College of Pharmacy in Leicester. Meanwhile, Bhikhu took A Levels at Kilburn Polytechnic, working in a fish and chip shop to support himself while he studied. Bhikhu did well enough in his exams to gain a place at Bristol University where he read Architecture. Having gained his degree and qualified professionally, he embarked on a 'safe' career in architecture. But his need for a challenge proved too much and in 1980, just five years after qualifying, he invested the £15,000 he had been able to save in his first business - two newsagent shops in Woolwich, London.

At the same time, Vijay was trying to raise finance to open a chemist's shop. Thanks to the generosity of his uncle, who offered to be a guarantor on a loan for £6,000, Vijay opened his first pharmacy in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, in 1975. The business grew rapidly, ultimately developing into a chain of 20 outlets. In the early 1980s the company then expanded into buying and supplying medicines for its own chain, and then diversified into supplying hospitals and wholesalers. It was at this time that Bhikhu joined the business to bring some financial control to the fast-growing operation. In 1984, the brothers founded Waymade Healthcare and some years later sold all but three of their pharmacies to concentrate on the supply of high quality, affordable medicines for those who need it most, particularly the elderly. And their mission today is to continue this work.

In 2003 a new division, Amdipharm, was formed to spearhead the international growth of the company. Since finding success in the UK and globally, the brothers have been able to pursue goals more personal to them. They have persuaded their mother to move to England to enjoy her well-earned retirement, while being near to them and their growing families. They have also been incredibly philanthropic. They have opened a new school in their native town in Kenya to help give the children there a chance of a better education and lifestyle; sponsored medical camps in India, offering surgical procedures to treat blindness and physical disabilities; and ran a continuing programme in the setting-up of much-needed water wells. The latest feather in their cap is the Waymade College of Education at Vidyanagar University in Gujarat. The aim of this College is to enhance the English language skills of students for the betterment of themselves and others.

Both men are still very much hands-on when it comes to the business. When he has time, Vijay can still be found working at his first shop in Leigh-on-Sea. After all, as he says, it is his vocation. Although now part of a truly international company, Waymade still employs several hundred people at its office in Basildon, and the group has recently completed a number of deals with multinationals giving them rights to sell products throughout Europe, the Middle and Far East, Australia and New Zealand, and most recently in Latin America. In total their products are available in more than 100 countries.

The brothers would like to see Waymade ranked alongside the big multinationals like Glaxo, which judging from their progress so far is not outside the realms of possibility. They have dedicated themselves to a life of widening the distribution of medicines in the UK and are now focusing on supplying the whole 'global' village. They are probably among some of the best 'business brains' in the country but, above all else, they are people to be admired for their sheer hard work, dedication to succeed and desire to 'give something back' as they progress through their lives.

Vijay and Bhikhu Patel, I hereby invite the Vice Chancellor to confer upon you both the award of Honorary Doctor of Science."