Indian-origin tycoon conferred honorary degree

July 23rd, 2010 - 10:58 pm ICT by IANS  

By Venkata Vemuri
Leicester, July 23 (IANS) Vijay Patel, a pharmaceutical tycoon and one of the richest Britons of Indian origin, was conferred an honorary degree by the De Montfort University here for his “many achievements in business, nationally and internationally”.

Senior lecturer in business at De Montfort, Robert Webber, said: “This is in honour of Dr. Patel’s many achievements in business, nationally and internationally. It is a great pleasure to be honouring him in this way.”

Patel, who was awarded an honorary degree in business administration, said: “I had a dream to start my business when I was just 10 years old but I never dared to tell anyone. I never imagined this would happen, though, and I am so deeply humbled to be honoured by the university in this way.”

Patel was conferred the degree Thursday.

The head of Waymade Healthcare, a global pharmaceuticals company, is worth nearly 400 million pounds - it had crossed the 500 million-mark before the recession - and has featured in the Sunday Times Rich List for over a decade now.

Born in Eldoret in Kenya, Patel was brought up in one room with his brother, Bhikhu. Their father died when Patel was six and the boys were brought up by their mother, who eked out a living as a schoolteacher.

At the age of 16, he arrived in Leicester with just five pounds and a high school education.

Patel, now 60, said childhood poverty was a big motivator. “I never want to go back to living in poverty.”

To put himself through sixth form and university, he worked as a dishwasher, waiter, grill chef, labourer and barman.

After graduating from the College of Pharmacy from De Montfort - then called Leicester Polytechnic — he set about trying to raise finance to open a chemist’s shop.

“I was Asian, I had no experience, I had no collateral and nobody wanted to give me money.”

Eventually an uncle stepped in and offered to be a guarantor on a loan for 6,000 pounds. Patel opened his first pharmacy in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, in 1975. By 1982, he owned six shops and sales had doubled.

By that time his brother, Bhikhu, an architect by training, had joined the company to give it some financial discipline. In 1984, they founded Waymade Healthcare and sold all but three of their pharmacies to focus on turning Waymade into a global venture.

Today, Waymade Healthcare has more than 1,000 licences for prescription medicines and sells to more than 100 countries. Sister company Amdipharm is developing drugs with markets too small to interest the giant pharmaceutical firms.

(Venkata Vemuri can be contacted at venkata.v@ians.in)

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