Sigma Pharmaceuticals’ Bharat Shah says the support of his family has helped him build Sigma from a single pharmacy in Watford to a company concentrated on wholesaling that made profits of £4.8 million on turnover of £190 million. Two of his brothers work in the business – Manish, an accountant, and Kamal, who works in operations. And now his son Halul runs retail pharmacies. ‘It’s an Asian way of working,’ says Shah. ‘We are all focused on what we are doing and we are working for succession. It’s all in the family.
We are not growing the business for an exit route.’ Of the success of so many Kenyan Asians in the same field, he says: ‘We all had one thing in common – we came to a country where we had to make it and our families supported us. My wife didn’t mind me working 14 hours a day on the business and not being home to read the children bedtime stories. But we had, and still have, a good relationship. We have no regrets.’
Sigma Pharmaceuticals provides medicines and medical supplies to the UK’s pharmacies and hospitals. The company offers more than 4,000 product lines — focusing on generic and over-the-counter drugs — and serves more than 5,000 clients. Much of Sigma Pharmaceuticals’ business involves parallel importing; the company buys generic medications abroad and repackages them for sale in the UK. The company started when Shah, 58, a Kenyan Asian, began supplying pharmacies and hospitals from his local chemist’s shop. The business is worth about £70m and the family has additional wealth.