Nadeem Sarwar - Phlo

Nadeem Sarwar is the founder and CEO at digital health start-up Phlo – the UK’s first and only on-demand digital pharmacy that provides, secure, real-time prescription delivery across England, managing the technology, pharmacy and logistics to make it easier and more
convenient for patients.

Entering a fast-growing market, the business has scaled quickly, and Nadeem has built a 30-strong team of future focused pharmacists, developers, designers, marketers and communication managers, across London and Glasgow to meet the brand’s growth since he founded Phlo in 2018.

Nadeem has also held positions as Chairman of Glasgow Junior Chamber of Commerce and as Director of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.

He joined the Entrepreneurial Scotland Saltire Fellowship programme in 2014 after he left a career in relationship banking to pursue new opportunities and ambitions to start his own business. It was his time on the Fellowship that inspired him to launch Phlo, and it was also where he met Adam Hunter, now COO and Board Director at Phlo.

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THE OPPORTUNITY:

After moving on from his role as International Commercial Director, HSBC Scotland and Head of Multicultural Banking, HSBC Scotland, in 2014, Nadeem was looking for a change in direction.

He explains; “I was looking for a new challenge, and it was a friend of mine, David Gallagher, a Partner at Brodies, who recommended the Saltire Fellowship Programme. He had been on the programme the year before, and he suggested I find out more. I applied and went through the application process. I remember being put through my paces, but I got accepted and have never looked back.”

You make so many valuable connections on the programme from such a diverse range of backgrounds. I’ve called on a number of our cohort when I needed advice or support, for example with mentoring and coaching.

IMPACT:

Nadeem values the relationship he built with Entrepreneurial Scotland during his fellowship and in the years preceding. He attributes the course to giving him the confidence to start up Phlo, and indeed the Fellowship cohort was where he met Phlo’s Chief Commercial Officer and Board Director, Adam Hunter.

He explains; “I think that the quality of the educational learning that I had at Babson College in Boston as part of the Fellowship, probably gave me the confidence to come back and start a company. I think it definitely nurtured some latent abilities I already had, which allowed me to go and do what I really wanted to do.”

Some of Phlo’s early investment came through members of Entrepreneurial Scotland, and Nadeem has fond memories of the organisation and programme in giving him the opportunity to really build and grow the Phlo business in line with his ambitions.

Nadeem says; “You make so many valuable connections on the programme from such a diverse range of backgrounds. I’ve called on a number of our cohort when I needed advice or support, for example with mentoring and coaching. Whenever we’ve asked for help from Entrepreneurial Scotland or the Fellowship cohort, we’ve had it. There’s real value in the network you create, especially in those long-term relationships. Of course, Adam was one of those.”

After a couple of years of setting up and nurturing Phlo, Nadeem was looking for support in growing the business. Nadeem explains; “Adam and I kept in touch and I knew I needed help if I wanted to grow Phlo in line with my ambitions. I got in touch with Adam and invited him to join the company. And the rest is history!

“We’ve both learnt a lot along the way, but I think the Fellowship taught us that often the best way is to get out and try things. We get along really well because we believe in what we are doing. We are enjoying building something together and that’s why it works so well.”

“I believe my time on the Fellowship really gave me the confidence and harnessed some key attributes that pushed me to not only start Phlo, but to grow it in the way we have. What’s important to me is that we’re doing really great work that is genuinely helping people and making an impact.”

Nadeem also explains that the learning about all aspects of entrepreneurialism from finance to hiring talent, have stayed with him over the years.

He concludes; “One of the reasons I think we have survived as a company is because we have been very good at managing cash to get us to inflection points. It’s one of the things we learnt on the programme – that cash flow was really important, and it was valuable back then to see tangible examples that we’ve been able to put into practice ourselves.”

You don’t really understand until you’re doing it yourself, but we took those learnings from Babson and really tried to live by them in order to build a really strong and talented team too. We learnt the importance of teamwork, and of hiring slowly but acting quickly when things don’t work out – that advice has helped us to grow and scale quickly. We’re expecting to hire 100 people by this time next year. It’s great to now be giving opportunities like that to other people.

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If you would like to talk to Entrepreneurial Scotland about our leadership programmes and how they can benefit your business please email andy.macnicol@entrepreneurialscotland.com