Iceberg Medical wouldn’t have come into existence without Asad Raja, our Founder and CEO. So we thought, what better way to tell you the story of our company than to interview the man who started it all?
By Anjalee Perera - October 2021
Anjalee: So, Asad, what got you interested in entrepreneurship?
Asad: I always wanted to run a business. My dad was a bus driver, but he also ran his own small business and I really admired that. This line of work is exciting, and I like that it always gives me opportunities to meet new, interesting people.
Anjalee: What do you think first drew you to the medical marketing and communications industry?
Asad: Well, I have a science background – I did my degree in Biochemistry. Then I went into medical sales for six years. I really enjoyed the job – especially building relationships with healthcare professionals. I was actually named as rep of the year in my first year in the industry!
I then moved to the marketing side, and launched a few products on the epilepsy market. It was really useful to have the years of sales experience behind me because it meant that I knew what healthcare professionals were experiencing, and this really informed the way I worked. I liked the added layer of complexity in med comms and marketing, in that science plays such an integral part of how you approach things.
Anjalee: So why did you decide to set up your own med comms agency?
Asad: It was a twist of fate, really. In 2008, the company I was working for decided to move their offices out of London, so my role changed, and they took me on as an independent consultant instead.
It was then that I really started thinking seriously about my dream of setting up my own business. It felt like a big risk – my wife and kids were on my mind, especially as the kids were really little then! I was also determined not to encroach on any clients from the company I was consulting for – I wanted to find brand new clients. But I took the plunge and did it, and that’s how Iceberg Medical began.
Anjalee: And it was clearly worth the risk! How did you keep yourself going, despite your doubts?
Asad: Yeah, I think it’s all about having faith and confidence in your own abilities. I also relied on the relationships I had with my support network. Many people went out of their way to help me in those early days, and I’ve never forgotten that.
Anjalee: Did you have any employees at that point then?
Asad: Not at first. I started as a one-man band! I did everything myself, including, you know, all the nitty gritty details and the manual tasks. But I like to focus on one thing at a time*, so multi-tasking was a challenge!
Three months in, I got my first assistant. They had marketing experience, but were a non-science grad. I thought nothing of that at first, but then I employed someone who did have a science degree, and there was just such a difference. It showed me once again that, in the pharmaceutical industry, having a scientific background can be such a strength. From that point on, I made it a priority to have a more balanced team: marketing and design skill on one side, and scientific expertise on the other.
We’re still a small team, but we’ve grown slowly year on year. They’re all fantastic. I’m lucky I’m surrounded by clever people, like you!
*The author can confirm this!
Anjalee: Aw, I don’t really know what to say to that, that’s so nice!** So, you mentioned design expertise. How did you start working with our Studio?
Asad: We’ve known Ian Kennedy, who is now our Creative Director, since the very beginning, as he worked with us as an external supplier.
Our first project together was designing a slide presentation platform called ProView. Nowadays we have Veeva and iBooks, but back then, there weren’t many options other than Flash, so that was a really successful project.
We continued working together over the years and built up a strong relationship, so when Ian decided to formally partner with an agency in 2017, he chose us. Now he heads up our Studio, and it’s been a game-changer to have that level of design expertise in-house.
**Apologies for the abrupt change of subject. The author was both embarrassed and rather pleased.
Anjalee: We know you love the team, but apart from that, what gets you up every day?
Asad: It’s important to me to see my clients happy. I love seeing people smile. Honestly, there’s nothing better at the end of a project than getting a message from a client to say we’ve done a great job.
And I know I already said it, but I really do think our team is amazing. We have a lot of fun! I’m grateful to have a bunch of exceptionally talented individuals who, most importantly, are decent people.
Anjalee: I’ll second that. So, what’s next for Iceberg?
Asad: I’d like to grow the company and add a few more members to our team. But I have to say, I don’t want to expand just for the sake of it. Being small has its advantages – clients recognise that a smaller agency can provide a lot more flexibility than a large one, and give service that personal touch.
I take recruitment really seriously because it’s important to me to both preserve the best parts of our culture, and change the parts we need to. I want to take on people who can uphold our values as a company, you know? But who can also challenge us in the areas we need to grow. I want my legacy as an entrepreneur to be that I created a company that was not just successful financially, but that also treated people well and did some good in the world.
Anjalee: I feel like you’ve already achieved that, but it’s exciting to hear you want to take it to the next level. Last question — how do you handle the pressures of being boss?
Asad: I actually quite enjoy the management side of things. Things like making sure everything is in place, communicating with the team, and sorting out issues when they arise – it suits my personality. And I think one of my personal strengths is ensuring other people play to their strengths.
But at the end of the day, I don’t take my work home with me. Once I walk through my doors, I’m home, you know, and I try to switch that work part of my brain off completely. Going for a run helps too – I run every day. And I love going out for a nice meal – for me, good food is one of life’s greatest treats!***
*** I have to hand it to him, he does pick really good restaurants for our team days!
Interested in hearing more about Iceberg’s story?