Spotlight on Success: Tariq Muhammad, Invatech Health
In the second part of our ‘Spotlight on Success’ stories, we talk to Tariq Muhammad, CEO of Bristol-based Pharmatech business, Invatech Health.
Hi Tariq, why don’t you start by telling us about your business?
I’ve been involved in the pharmaceutical industry for the last twenty-five years, from running my own chain of pharmacies to starting up new online pharmacy businesses.
When I was running the pharmacies, as they grew, I built the tech I needed to support them from ground up. When I sold the pharmacy chain, I wanted to make the tech that I’d developed available to other pharmacy owners.
Understanding the needs and wants of pharmacies was obviously a huge advantage, but we still had to put in the due diligence and develop the tech into a marketable product. The first three years of Invatech Health, as it became, were spent developing and comprehensively testing the technology. Not only did we need to build a robust product that would provide pharmacies with real value, we had to get NHS accreditation, which is an extremely rigorous process.
Was there a ‘lightbulb moment’?
There wasn’t really a ‘lightbulb’ moment as such, the technology evolved from when I was running my own pharmacies. I guess the thing that is different about Invatech though, is that we are approaching it having come from the pharmaceutical sector and building a tech solution to support it. Often, it’s the other way around where techies spot a gap in the market or see an opportunity and build the tech they think that sector wants. Obviously, no product or service is perfect but I do think we have an advantage, being industry-lead.
What’s been your biggest challenge to date?
In pharmacies across the UK at the moment, there are a number of legacy systems in use and established, long standing practices and procedures. Our product turns this approach on its head and asks people to work in a different way. Asking people to change completely from what they are doing now and adopt a whole new way of working isn’t easy. It’s much easier to be offering a new ‘like-for-like’ product where customers can put your offer into a category and compare it to what went before. Being first to market is often an enviable position to be in, but it can also be hard treading where no one has gone before.
Where does professional advice come in the story?
Developing the product and getting accreditation is only one part of the story. Packing up your product or service to make it commercially viable and appealing to customers is another huge part of the process.
To get customers to sign up for ‘Titan’ our product for pharmacies, we needed to ensure we had the right contracts in place to make it attractive to them and also watertight from our point of view.
One of the areas where GL’s help was really invaluable was in the ‘test phase’ as it were, of us going to market. Before going ‘mass market’ we wanted to work with a smaller group of select customers to tweak our product and see how it worked in practice.
For this particular group we were able to put in place a ‘trailblazer’ agreement alongside the usual commercial contract, so that both sides were working on the understanding that during this time tweaks and updates would be made.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs?
I don’t really think of myself as a business guru! I’m sure there are enough consultants out there who can give you snappy formulas and tell you that you that it’s about Product, Price, Packaging and Promotion etc.
Whilst all these things are valuable, I would say that that most important ingredient is to have a purpose. You need to have a vision which is bigger than the product you create and sell. In my case, I wanted to make a difference in the pharmacy profession. I believe that pharmacists have a greater role to play in healthcare, and I wanted to build a solution that would help liberate their time and support the creation of new services for patients.
Being ‘purpose-led’ in business is not the easiest journey, and you have to be in it for the long term to reap the rewards. But then, who said business was easy.
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