With over 2,600 employees and 70 stores nationwide, the City Pharmacy Ltd Group managing director Mahesh Patel has helped build the company to what it is today. Business reporter PETER ESILA writes
CITY Pharmacy Ltd (CPL) group managing director Mahesh Patel started the company with his wife Usha in 1987 along with co-business partner Alan Jarvis, with just one pharmacy and four employees.
Patel, who was out of the country, was named the 2019 Papua New Guinea Institute of Directors (PNGID) male director of the year in Port Moresby on Sept 26.
His message to all young Papua New Guineans and promising directors in organisations was simple: “There is no alternative to hard work, integrity and honesty is of paramount importance in everything you do.
“One of the keys to great leadership is values, another is positivity.
“I believe in setting the standards for others to follow, be it punctuality, business ethics or work performance.”
Patel lives and breathes these underpinning core values of the business and remains as positive as possible, even when things do not go to plan, another sign of a strong leader.
Beginning at Garden City in Port Moresby, Patel has helped build CPL to what it is today, with more than 70 stores with a nationwide footprint and employing around 2,600 employees.
“While the current state of the economy is tough right now, we are very positive that it will turn for the better, we have a very positive outlook for the long term,” Patel told The National.
The PNGID award recognises outstanding directors who have displayed professionalism and have made a significant contribution to the organisation’s strategy, financial success or in any other important areas of performance while exemplifying the practice of good corporate governance and displaying high ethical standards.
Patel won a similar award in 2010 but it was lost during the CPL warehouse fire at Gerehu in Port Moresby in 2017.
“The most important people to thank are my 3,000 team members across the nation, who showed great resilience after our two devastating fires which almost brought the company to closure in 2017, and our nationwide customers who believed in us and stuck by supporting us despite our shortfalls in inventory and services,” he said.
“I came to PNG 35 years ago in 1984 and got married in Port Moresby to my wife Usha in 1988.
“Usha has been my backbone since we started the business in 1987 with just the one pharmacy and four staff.
“Both my children, Nikhil and Ajay, spent their early years in PNG and help in the business currently.
“I am very humbled to be able to be recognised by my peers, thank you PNGID.
“This is particularly special as I lost my last award from 2010 in the warehouse fire.
“It has been a tough and very challenging first couple of years, with turnaround and transformation of our company, from the brink of collapse after the devastating fires.
“All credit must go to my value resilient team of 3,000 people across PNG.
“I am proud also to have added two female trainee directors to our boards, which now makes a 50-50 gender split on the boards.”
Patel has served in many organisations.
His great passion in community services led him to be the chairman of the Red Cross Fund Raising committee in the late 1980s; Committees of the Port Moresby General Hospital’s charity and cancer society in the 1990s; volunteering in the organising committee boards of the 1991 and 2015 Pacific Games; supporting and funding the Buk Bilong Pikinini library at Tatana village; and, supporting various sports such as netball, rugby union and soccer.
In addition to the other sponsorships, these eventuated in the setting up of the CPL Foundation which focuses on women’s empowerment through enterprise and the Pride of PNG awards.
“CPL has supported almost 1,000 farmers across the Highlands, East New Britain and Central by buying their produce and galip nuts.
“Our support for the Ginigoada Foundation has graduated almost 25,000 grassroots and settlement SMEs with financial literacy in Port Moresby and Lae.”
Patel has helped build a string of well-respected retail brands within CPL Group, including, among others, Stop & Shop, City Pharmacy and Hardware Haus.
He has built these brands with a clear intention of improving the customers’ shopping experience, while providing quality products at affordable prices.
Patel’s ability to achieve the success he has had is underpinned by his strategic vision and a sound business acumen, accompanied by ethical business practices, one that is based on trust and respect for customers, suppliers, business partners and employees.
To help him with this, he has made an effort to have a board that complements his vision by having a good mix of directors, consisting of young versus old, male and female, veterans and trainees.
This way, he obtains viewpoints from all angles to support his vision.
Patel has created a dedicated and dependable management team that will survive the business should he choose to retire at some point.
Some of the team members have been with CPL for more than 20 years, adding testimony to his leadership style and for selecting CPL as their employer of choice.
Asked on what his views about the retail sector along with transport, hotel and accommodation to benefit materially when the Papua LNG commences with its national content and the pending commitment to P’nyang, Patel said: “Our focus will be on internal efficiency and new job creators, and anything from the LNG will be a bonus.
“We have huge plans for PNG and our focus will remain to develop the domestic economy before we look at expending outside of Papua New Guinea.”