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06 June 2006

Southside Group of Companies owner driven by a can-do attitude – Katharani goes extra mile to help care for patients.

By KATANIA CASTANEDA Houston Chronicle Correspondent

About four years ago, Harish Katharani, owner of Southside Group of Companies, received a phone call at 4 one afternoon from a doctor who urgently needed a medication in suppository form.

The medication, at that time, was not available in that form.

Having a strong sense of commitment to patient care, however, Katharani was not about to respond with, “I’m sorry, we don’t carry that.”

Instead, he immediately got in touch with one of his pharmacists and sent the employee to a weekend training seminar on compounding, the process of making ointments and chemical ingredients for products that a patient needs.

“On the spur of the moment, I said ‘We need to do this,’ ” said Katharani, and he made sure it got done.

It is this can-do attitude that has brought Katharani, 55, and his wife, Himadri Katharani, 52, success in their business.

The couple initiated their operation in 1992 within a 500-square-foot facility on Bellaire Boulevard. They have changed locations two times since then, and recently have moved from 4009 Bellaire Blvd. into a 27,000-square-foot facility at 7700 Main.

“It’s very exciting,” said Harish Katharani. “Pharmacy is my passion. You help patients, and you feel happy about it.”

Harish Katharani began his pharmacy career working at the pharmacies at the Montrose-area Kroger, 3300 Montrose, and at Park Plaza Hospital, 1313 Hermann Drive.

In the late 1980s, when many Houston-area patients were diagnosed with HIV, Harish Katharani was concerned for their welfare. He felt they needed extra special attention. “People used to die within three months, and I saw that,” recalled Harish Katharani. The hospital where he worked had two full floors of HIV patients. “People were very weak and very sick,” he said, which meant they often had a difficult time obtaining the medications they needed.

Home delivery
Having spoken to other doctors and pharmacists about the problem, Harish Katharani was inspired to open his own operation and deliver medications directly to patients in their homes.

He started out by providing oral medications, but quickly saw there was a need for HIV infusions, so he began providing those as well. Gradually he grew his business to include oral medications, IV infusions, durable medical equipment & home health care.

For the Katharani’s, it seems there is no limit to what they can do. “Certain pharmacies do only retail. Certain pharmacies do only infusion. We do everything,” explained Harish Katharani during a recent interview at the new location.

Their driving force above all is patient care. They pride themselves in the fact that they go above and beyond what is expected of them by providing not only service but personalized service.

Clients are appreciative
As a result, patients are quick to express their appreciation for the services they provide.

Said Vale Ford, 61, who cares for her 40-year-old son, David Ford, “In 1996, my son was stricken by a really bad illness. The doctor referred us to Southside, and they’ve been right there ever since. They always get our medication to us on time. They have been a big part of our lives.”

Bill Jones, associate director of Casa de Esperanza, a nonprofit organization that assists children in crisis, expressed similar sentiments. “They do just all kinds of things out of the ordinary to make sure the children get the medications they need,” Jones said. “They are an exceptional pharmacy, unlike any I’ve worked with before. They get to know you personally, and they stay up with your medications.”

The Katharanis outsource all of their billing and collection operations to an office in India managed by Himadri Katharani, who lives there most of the year.

“My driving force is to help my husband look after patients and make the operation flow smoothly,” she said.

When the Katharanis are not working, they like to travel. They visit India regularly and have traveled all over the United States. They are also actively involved in community service, raising funds for underprivileged children in India.

Their daughter, Disha, 21, is studying industrial engineering and mathematics at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.

As for the future, the Katharanis say they are interested in moving more towards disease management, monitoring their patients more closely to better manage their illnesses.

“That’s where the future of pharmacy is going,” said Harish Kathatani – owner, Southside Group of Companies.