The founder and CEO of digital health start-up Phlo Technologies has revealed how his journey in business began. Speaking on the Go Radio Business Show With Hunter and Haughey, Nadeem Sarwar described how his family’s entrepreneurial spirit inspired him to create the UK’s first and only on-demand digital pharmacy, providing real-time prescription delivery.

“I grew up in Golspie in the very far north of Scotland. I’m the son of a shopkeeper and I think there was entrepreneurship from the start: running businesses was always in the family,” Mr Sarwar said. “Now I don’t think my parents ever thought they were entrepreneurs, running a small shop, but you still get an idea of how to serve customers and how to look after people and how to get money in the till.”

After studying economics and politics at Glasgow University there followed a spell in corporate banking, before Mr Sarwar experienced what he describes as an epiphany.

“I ended up coming back to Scotland in 2012. I had a senior role for HSBC then I had an epiphany. I was 32 years old and my epiphany was feeling I wasn’t very happy. I thought there had to be more to life than this. So I applied for the Entrepreneurial Scotland Saltire Fellowship programme.

“My ambition at that point was to experience some kind of learning then maybe take myself out of banking and work for a real business. I had no kind of ambition at this point to go and run my own company. 

“I met some really good people. I became fascinated by some of the digital health businesses I was seeing out in the United States. 

“I was already interested in the sector and had actually done some deals in the pharmacy sector when I was in banking. So I knew how pharmacies and chemists in the UK made money.” 

Mr Sarwar recalled one particular meeting in the US with a company called Pillpack, which subsequently was sold to Amazon. 

“What fascinated about me about them was they were creating a business that was customer-centric, digitally focused, with brilliant engineering and they were building basically the pharmacy of the future. I thought to myself, this is fantastic. 

“It was solving a customer problem. And actually the starting point for any business is are you solving a problem for someone? So I came back to the UK and thought: ‘Okay, let’s see if we can go and build a class-leading digital pharmacy start-up.’

“It was an incredible experience doing the Saltire Fellowship. It taught me how to think differently and also taught me what real ambition is and to believe you can build a world-class company from Scotland.”

Mr Sarwar said he was fortunate to have been able to tap into the entrepreneurial Scotland network that exists in Scotland, and praised in particular the support he received from serial entrepreneur Mark Bamforth.

“Mark’s been an investor of the business for many years now. He’s an incredible guy. He’s one of the best men I’ve ever met. He’s very insightful in terms of how to build a business. With his help and with some others, we ended up raising capital, we did some crowdfunding and we started scaling the business. 

“Our core product is now called Phlo Digital Pharmacy and it’s an NHS product. What I realised was what I’m actually building for my own business is digital infrastructure. I’m building physical infrastructure on a city by city basis and I’m building logistics.

“There is absolutely no reason you cannot build a world-class business from Scotland, as far as I’m concerned. At the moment, if I look at where we are from a marketplace perspective, we have a number one place. We are competing on a UK-wide basis and we’re competing well. 

“The talent pool to build an amazing company in Scotland is there. I just wish some of my peers would see you can do it and actually go for it.”