A Flair for Success
The word “entrepreneur” has become a bit of a cliché, overused rather misused to the fullest. In French it simply means a contractor but of course now it has many meanings. What is the essential difference between an opportunist and a true entrepreneur? Essentially, an opportunist creates a false need and then markets it aggressively, to the extent that it is perceived as a real need. Many versions of smart phones and their accessories fit this description like a glove.
On the other hand, a true entrepreneur identifies a real need, creates a product to fulfill that need and effectively markets that product to the potential customers.
The Flarian success story is one such business which can be called a true entrepreneurial venture. The fact that just last year they were ranked 24th on the 2017 STARTUP 50 ranking of Canada’s Top New Growth Companies by Canadian Business, gives testimony to this statement. However, their latest achievement was just added last week which is even bigger than before! It is that Canadian Business have ranked Flarian No. 91 on the 30th annual Growth 500 for the year 2018. The Growth 500 ranks Canadian businesses on revenue growth. The Flarian group achieved a five-year revenue growth of 959 %.
But who exactly are Flarian?
Flash back 2006; two young lads, Ali Rizvi and Hammad Naseem met in the university residence, at New College, University of Toronto and got to know each other. In 2012 they got the opportunity to be in touch again, this time sharing off- campus housing. They were about to graduate and were attending numerous networking events to meet recruiters and find job opportunities. Carrying around multiple copies of their portfolios in binders with print outs of codes and CDs got to be quite a tedious activity. They saw other students around themselves facing the same predicament. More time and energy were being spent carrying around information rather than on efforts to share it with the potential employers. They had their light bulb moment while sharing this frustration with each other. Why not develop a business card with a built-in USB Flash drive, rather than carrying all the information in piles of papers, CDs etc.? So Flarian was born as the two decided to start a company producing such a product.
By late 2015 the company was rapidly growing and Naseem began thinking about delegating the sales and marketing role to someone else, so he could take care of other business development aspects. Rizvi and Naseem had previously worked with one Hammad Fasih on other projects, and decided to recruit him to take over Flarian’s sales and marketing operations.
Like all successful entrepreneurial businesses, good customer service was always a priority with Flarian. It was essential to have a role, dedicated to taking care of and give individualized service to each customer. Rahim Khanani was the person chosen for this role.
The flagship product the company launched in 2012 – the USB Business Card – serves a simple purpose; to allow people to share more information than they could with a traditional paper business card. In addition to the contact information printed on the card, USB business cards can be plugged into a computer to view additional content in a digital format.
The customers are mostly marketing departments at various companies attending tradeshows and conferences, looking for a simple way to distribute their content and material to their audience. The Flarian USB Card serves as a convenient format to do so, while also providing publicity and brand recognition.
The list of customers includes big names like 3M, The World Bank Group, Nike, Intel, Ogilvy, RBC Wealth Management, and the United Nations.
The flash USB card is used in over two dozen industries, including law, education, and healthcare.
Some details about the team:
Hammad Naseem: Co-founder and CEO graduate from York University with a BSc Computer Security in 2012. He had no formal business education. To rapidly build this skill, he took business and entrepreneurship courses, and did intensive reading to supplement his knowledge.
Ali Rizvi: Co-founder and Director of Product, Sourcing, and Fulfillment. He completed his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Toronto at the start of 2015, and pursued working for Flarian full-time. Prior to that he was working part-time with Flarian. Ali’s in depth understanding of manufacturing allowed Flarian to make contacts in China and prototype and build products.
Hammad Fasih: Director of Sales and Marketing. He was a business and marketing student at George Brown College. He graduated in 2014. Before Flarian, Hammad Fasih ran his own marketing agency named Citrus Lace.
Rahim Khanani: Head of Customer Experience. He graduated with an MSc. in Sustainability Management from the University of Toronto, Mississauga in 2016. Rahim Khanani was one of the first people consulted in 2012 when Ali Rizvi and Hammad Naseem were brainstorming the concept of Flarian, and often gave advice throughout the years prior to officially starting the project.
One does wonder about the brand name, Flarian. It is catchy, easy to remember and somehow seems to suit the kind of product it represents. Effective and successful branding is a huge advantage as any marketer knows.
Hammad Naseem shared with us that the “Fla” part of Flarian was derived from “flash drive” which is a core component of the flagship product. The “rian” part implies a Flarian customer to be someone who uses a flash drive, like a Canadian is someone from Canada.
“It made sense at the time,” he said. “In hindsight I don’t know if it still does, but we were excited to get started and the name stuck.”
About this amazing roller coaster journey Naseem had this to say:
“It’s been a crazy ride so far. There have been highs and lows, mistakes, and lessons. Seeing the company go from having zero customers to top Canadian Universities such as the University of Toronto, McMaster University, University of Waterloo becoming our customers. From establishing a solid presence in the United States, to eventually serving customers in 24 countries across 6 continents and two dozen industries. Finally this September, being ranked #91 in the top Growth 500 companies by the Canadian Business 2018 and in 2017 STARTUP50 as the 24th fastest growing new company in Canada, all this in a period of 5 years, has been a bizarre experience to say the least.”
We wish this amazing team all the best moving forward.