Introducing Ravi and Ruchika Ganatra of Muswell Hill Pharmacy.

Step inside the spacious and stylish Muswell Hill Pharmacy in London, and one could be in Paris. Husband and wife Ravi and Ruchika, together with their indomitable pharmacy manager Nikesh Gudka, run one of the largest ‘shop pharmacies’ in Muswell Hill; offering superior levels of care for their community, together with highly sought after hair and beauty products. “The core of what we do is helping people with their health needs,” explains Ruchika. “However, following a trip to Paris, we were inspired to follow a similar layout and retail offering to pharmacies there. And now we have the best of both worlds – health and beauty.”

‘Setting a new standard’

The couple complement each other perfectly, with Ruchika being a pharmacist for over 13 years, and Ravi (a dental surgeon by profession) running the business development and financial side of things. They acquired the pharmacy in 2014, but there was no time to waste with the refit. Ravi explains, “The store was very rundown, dark and unwelcoming. So very quickly we redesigned the space to be much more appealing to walk-in trade, and to showcase a range of skincare and beauty products.”

“We set a new standard, locally,” continues Ruchika. “Soon premium brands were eager to be stocked by us, with some even offering exclusivity.” The store now boasts a huge range of high-end skincare, including brands such as Bioderma, Roger and Gallet, Frezyderm, Klorane and even a specialist French brand for children, Mustela. “We also feature the established English brands such as Yardley, Bronnley and Mason Pearson. And a comprehensive range of vitamin supplements,” explains Ruchika. “Before the pandemic, we had representatives from these companies offering free skincare consultations and sampling. We even had a trainee nutritionist offering instore advice to customers. We soon garnered real popularity, and now people come to us for many of their personal items.”

Serving the local community

The couple, and their manager Nikesh, work tirelessly to meet the needs of their community. “Nikesh just doesn’t stop,” enthuses Ravi. “He cares so much and adds to the ‘family feel’ of the pharmacy, which people love. He set up a volunteer group during the pandemic, and made a huge number of extra deliveries on foot. Our ethos is basically that, if people need help, we’ll help them. We’ll often stay after hours and let people in. When our doors close, we don’t stop helping people.”

Ruchika nods, “We’re really busy providing a range of services, such as prescription hayfever medication, UTI antibiotics, a Travel Clinic, and the pneumonia and chicken pox vaccines, to name a few. We’re about to implement Vitamin D and Ferritin testing instore, as well as an ear wax removal clinic. We dispense for two nursing homes and make up lots of blister packs for the elderly.”

They’re no strangers to innovations, such as online GP consultations either. “We have an iPad here, and a private room, where patients can receive their diagnosis, walk out and pick up their prescription,” explains Ravi. “Many customers will pay for this convenience, and it makes great business sense for us.”

‘United we stand’

The prospect of building on their current success, through Alitam membership, is a source of great excitement for the Ganatras. “United we stand, divided we fall,” says Ravi. “Collaboration is the way forward, and absolutely the way to counter the perceived threat of online pharmacies. With economies of scale we will benefit and so will our patients. We’ll be able to access deals and products which we can’t source ourselves – and this impact will be felt by the public. Group accounting is also a huge advantage of this model. As a single unit, we can only spend so much on professional services support. Now we’ll have the best professional brains behind us, and more time to focus on patient care, and identifying the emerging requirements of our community.”

“I’m really enthusiastic about TV screens instore,” adds Ruchika. “We have huge numbers of people walking past, and the screens will beautifully advertise the breadth of our offering to a big audience. We’re also able to expand our services now. For instance, we’re looking into providing a phlebotomy service, with the support of fellow Alitam member Gam Amar. Anything like this, which we wish to introduce, we do with the knowledge, connections and cost efficiencies of Alitam behind us. It’s unbelievable how quickly you can get things off the ground in this environment.”

A ‘one-stop health shop’

Ravi rejoins, “A website, with an e-commerce arm, is another such example. Our skincare and vitamin ranges fly off our shelves, we know there’s a huge market in the wider world for them. We also have the room in store to offer complementary health therapies, or whatever else our community needs. This is a tremendous opportunity to realise the full potential of our pharmacy, becoming a ‘one-stop health shop’ for our neighbourhood.”

Says Alitam founder Feisal Nahaboo, “There’s such dynamism in this talented young couple, their hard work and intuition has really paid off. The potential of the retail side of pharmacy is vast, and their contribution to Alitam will be enormous. In turn, I know they will reach dizzying heights steered by our experienced members. I can’t wait to see what this means for them, and their loyal community of customers.”