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Steve Lalchan - Your Friendly Neighbourhood Pharmacist

Lutchman Lalchan is the founder a small chain of three drug stores that continues to grow despite the challenges of a stagnant economy. He now owns the leading pharmacy in central Trinidad.

How did he do it?

Lutchman ‘Steve’ Lalchan grew up in Arena Road, Freeport in central Trinidad.  His father, a taxi driver, unhappy with Lutchman’s performance in school, made Lalchan aware that he wanted a doctor in the family. Lalchan completed his Ordinary Level Examinations and signed up for the Advanced Level Examinations. However, his father died suddenly. The Lalchan family was almost broke but Lalchan continued with school to make his father’s dream come true.

By 1980, the cost of transport became too much for Lutchman so he and another student slept in the school to save money and got meals from the school maid. Though he was being fed, he was bothered by the fact that his mother, brother and little sister were unable to find food, so Lutchman decided to farm on some acres of unused land near his home.

Though he made enough money, through crop sales, to put food on the table, he was forced to sacrifice his study hours. At the time, he was studying Biology, Physics and Chemistry and as the labs for Physics and Chemistry were on the same day, he attended school only on that day, collected notes from his classmates and dropped Biology as a subject.

He did not have the finances to pursue tertiary education, so he began working in the Ministry of Legal Affairs in 1982. As time passed, Lutchman and his brother continued farming and became quite successful.

In 1984, Lutchman applied to the University of the West Indies to read for a degree in Pharmacy and graduated in 1988. In the same year, he was married and he, along with his pharmacist friend, attempted to purchase a drugstore. Unfortunately, the deal fell through on the day that the purchase was supposed to be made. Later, while sitting in a mall, attempting to collect themselves, they spotted the Mall owner and approached him about their idea to start a pharmacy.

The owner was convinced and a few days later, Lutchman was ready to sign the lease. However, Lutchman’s coworker found a new venue and together, they opened Valini’s Drug Mart.

When Lutchman was 26 years old, he began to experience financing problems. When he approached his bank, he was turned down so he decided to approach Republic Bank’s Chaguanas Branch, where he spoke with the Branch Manager who eventually approved his loan for $100,000.

However, this amount was still not enough to cover the cost of a pharmacist, which he had to hire as he did not yet possess a pharmacist’s license. Eventually, after selling a piece of family-owned land, he had enough money to open The Medicine Chest. “I would set aside $100 per day from sales to pay the pharmacist, my wife’s job and my gardening would pay the loan,” he recalls.

Having learned a great deal about negotiations, customer service and business, his company was able to survive the 1980’s recession.

In 1994, he opened Chaguanas Pharmacy, his second pharmacy at that location and later opened another outlet in St. James.

In the future, Lutchman hopes to open more stores and plans to venture into wholesaling. He is the president of the Chaguanas Rotary Club and enjoys giving back to society and while he was unable to achieve his father’s dream for him, he was able to help his sister achieve her dream of becoming a medical doctor.

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