Insights: Future Pharmacist x Ravi Chal

Like most MPharm students, I knew my degree would lead me to a single endpoint - becoming a pharmacist. While my friends (most of which were students of more broader subjects) regularly changed their target industry, I felt mine was very much set and as i progressed through university, this idea was reinforced as everything I learnt felt so specific to pharmacy.

In 2013, I submitted my pre-reg audit and it eventually went on to claim the UKCPA "pre-reg audit of year” award. Whilst the award brings me immense pride, the real win was internal. I realised I could use my pharmacy skills away from the ward - something that I had always overlooked.  We often miss the fact that through the MPharm course, we gain a highly valuable and transferrable set of base skills which allow us to grasp more specific pharmacy concepts.

Two years later and with real life experience of working as a pharmacist, the itch to do something different became unbearable. It was an equal amount of “pull” from me wanting to explore other career opportunities and “push” from the profession that I had come to love yet become frustrated by.

So in earnest, I began stripping away the “white noise” of my frustrations. Distilling the wide range of emotions and thoughts I had about the profession led me to realise one thing - I really did love the profession and my frustration was born at the inefficiency of its delivery.

In a world where Google instantly answers your questions, where Uber makes journeys simple and Amazon delivers your favourite items on the same day, I had simply become impatient with the healthcare system and the scope of the pharmacist. I couldn’t make sense of why the very technology we used on a day to day basis hadn’t been made available in a professional manner.

This was the focal point of what turned out to be one the greatest adventures of my life. Day in, day out, I spent time working on an idea which was nothing more than scribbles on scrap paper until I began discussing it with my friends and family. Those who were connected to the healthcare profession challenged me to refine my idea and those who had no experience supported and encouraged me to take it further. After all, what did I have to lose?

With this mentality and a genuine enjoyment for the work I was doing, I found the details of a business accelerator, Entrepreneurial Spark. Armed with nothing more than a roughly hashed out business plan and a mumbling 60 second pitch, I took my chance and applied for a spot in the hub. I was accepted and began my life as a budding health tech inventor.

The time at E-Spark was invaluable to me and it opened up doors to working with some of the most recognised companies in the world; Dell, Natwest and KPMG. With their guidance I was able to ascend the steep learning curve of being a business owner and transform an idea into a sustainable business. This period of my development was not all positive however and it took resolve to come through the many rejections, blanked emails and what felt at times, to be almost snail-pace development.

As the business began to develop, I made the decision to stop working full time as a pharmacist and devote my attention to creating a truly next generation Clinical Decision Support System. With the added time and resources that I could now afford to give to the business, I successfully applied for a government grant to turn my idea into a reality. Innovate UK are a great source of funding; you can easily search through their grants to find the right one for your project.

My team and I are now creating new technology that is solely designed to empower pharmacists. It has been a privilege to introduce some really great people from the worlds of big data, IT and wearable technology to the pharmacy sector and thus, I feel extremely lucky to have experienced a whole world outside of pharmacy while remaining very much in it.

My advice is to simply give your idea the time and attention it deserves. Research around it, clearly define what you want to achieve and distil your idea into something you can succinctly describe in 60 seconds. Talk to those around you about it, grow thick skin and learn to take any negative feedback objectively so you can constantly refine and nurture your idea into a great pharmacy business, without becoming disheartened. There will be those that call you crazy for venturing outside of the norm, but as the great Steve Jobs once said “Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, usually do.”

This article was written by Ravi Chal



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