Employee Speak: Chandru Kini, CEO, LifeKen, Bangalore


About the company: LifeKen was born as a dream of two promoters – Chandru Kini and A. Suryanarayanan. LifeKen is a Retail Pharmaceutical Chain that operates in total 82 Stores in Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai. It is actively pursuing the opening of its Retail Pharmaceutical Chain in the cities of Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad and Kochi. Plans are on the anvil to expand to other cities in the South and West and thereafter to the North and East.

1. How was LifeKen conceptualized? What prompted (Surya and) you to start this venture?

Surya and I ventured into this since we were both entrepreneurs at heart, and were passionate about starting something of our own. A great deal of hands on research was required for establishing a retail pharmaceutical chain like LifeKen. A model pharmacy was set up in Jan 2004. With the success of the model pharmacy, we were granted funding by the Modi’s family, based out of Mumbai. They have put in their personal investments into our venture. Mr Pranab Modi is on the board of directors for LifeKen.

It has been an eventful ride since then. We were also inspired by the success stories of various other retail pharmaceutical chains that were born in India in the last few years.

2. What is the unique experience LifeKen offers to its customers or its unique selling proposition as compared to other retail pharmacies?

Apart from the pharmacies that are successfully operating in the various cities, we have planned to initiate health care awareness programs for our consumers, educating and enlightening them about the preventive measures that could be taken to avoid certain ailments. Health check up mechanisms will also be available at the pharmacies for the consumers to get an insight into their current health status especially for ailments like osteoporosis etc.

The fundamental reason for commencing these programs is to promote a long-lasting relationship with LifeKen consumers.

3. What are the key challenges you face in your industry? How do you deal with them?

The key challenges for a retail pharmacy like LifeKen are at the sourcing as well as at the marketing phases of operations.

At the sourcing stage, there could be a great deal of supply chain issues especially when it comes to availability of commonly purchased drugs. There is always an urgent need to replenish the stores with drugs that are in constant demand with customers. That’s when our relationship with drug suppliers comes to our rescue. The suppliers that we work with are reliable and have the professionalism to ensure timely delivery of urgently required drugs to the pharmacies.

Another complexity that we face is on the marketing front- it becomes a challenge to advertise and to do any promotional activities. It would undermine the ethical standards that we maintain as a retail pharma company.

4. What are the values that you would like your employees to imbibe?

I strongly believe that customer engagement as well as customer delight should be at the forefront of the value system in LifeKen. It would be a reflection of how effective the pharmacy set up is. Employees are required to follow ethical standards of employment which will be critical for the overall success of the organization.

Something that I really hold key to my success is the support and guidance that was provided to me during my stint as a professional. And to a great extent, I would like to continue this tradition with the employees of LifeKen as well. In fact, we would like our employees to be with us and grow along with the success of the organization. 

5. What are your suggestions for future entrepreneurs in retail pharmaceutical?

A great deal of hands on approach would be required for establishing a retail pharmaceutical company. Considerable amount of time and energy have to be invested in research activities to set up an establishment like LifeKen.