Few people not directly involved in politics can say they have offered professional advice to the UK’s Prime Minister and Scotland’s First Minister but Strathclyde alumnus Iqbal Singh Bedi, founder of Intelligens Consulting, is part of that elite group.
Iqbal, who graduated from Strathclyde in 1992 with an Honours BEng in Electronic and Electrical Engineering, advised Boris Johnson, during his term as Mayor of London, on attracting inward investment in the broadband sector to the capital and enhancing the city’s connectivity.
In the run-up to Scotland’s 2014 independence referendum, he was also commissioned by the then Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to assess the impact of independence would have on the nation’s telecommunications industry and infrastructure.
They are just two names on Iqbal’s extensive client list, which takes in authorities and businesses not only in the UK but also in Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, Nigeria, Ghana and Mozambique. He produced a comprehensive report on 5G on behalf of the International Telecommunications Union and has come to be seen as an authority on telecoms; he has also recently launched an IoT (Internet of Things) research programme with the support of Strathclyde.
While he did not become an entrepreneur until some years after he graduated from Strathclyde, he recognises the many and varied opportunities that setting up a business can offer and is now a member of the Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network (SEN).
“As a person, I have always been quite determined and competitive,” he says. If anyone is thinking about starting a business, I would advise them to believe in themselves – if you don’t, no one else will. On a more practical level, you should also know your market, your customer and your product, and also make sure you have a robust commercial idea.”
Iqbal’s first job after graduating was as a software engineer with telecoms company Bell Northern Research, which later became part of Nortel. He had come to the conclusion that he would prefer to work on the commercial, rather than technical, side of business and began to pursue this with Trend Communications, where he took a Diploma to join the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
Iqbal worked with several other telecoms companies over a period of two decades, leading up to global firm Analysys Mason. During these years, he worked with Thames Water on the largest “fibre-in-the-sewers” project undertaken in the UK, supported authorities in the introduction of broadband voucher schemes and advised investors on multi-million fibre and FWA transactions.
Earlier in his career, Iqbal had had numerous opportunities to travel, working on support and power networks in Botswana and other African nations, and saw an opportunity to return to this by establishing his own business. He established Intelligens Consulting in February 2017 and the Glasgow-based company has concluded its busiest year to date, providing local authorities, operators, train operating companies and investors with strategic advice on 5G, IoT (Internet of Things), WiFi, full fibre and subsea connectivity.
“We have supported investors in developing the commercial case for investing in resilient subsea fibre connectivity to Scotland,” he says. “We work extensively across Africa and Asia advising investors and have advised development banks on improving 4G connectivity in rural areas.”
Iqbal is now branching out further by establishing a FinTech company, Gifto, which is designed to be a platform for raising funds to buy gifts for birthdays, weddings and anniversaries.
He is an enthusiastic supporter of SEN and encourages staff and students thinking of setting up an enterprise to give it a try.
“SEN is a fantastic organisation which offers advice on everything from writing business plans to raising finance and many other challenges,” he says. “If you have a good business idea, Strathclyde is one of the best places to have them. I had interns from the Business School working with me a couple of years ago and they both hit the ground running with the skils they had; the support and entrepreneurial networking is all there.”