Am­ber goes hunt­ing in South Africa

Jamaica Gleaner - - FINANCIAL GLEANER - NEVILLE GRA­HAM Busi­ness Re­porter neville.gra­ham@glean­erjm.com

JA­MAICAN TECH­NOL­OGY com­pany Am­ber Con­nect is close to sign­ing a deal with a South African part­ner that will open up a mar­ket of around 10 mil­lion ve­hi­cles for its fleet- and auto-tracker de­vices.

The com­pany aims to use South Africa as the spring board into other mar­kets on the African con­ti­nent.

“We started a joint-ven­ture com­pany with a lo­cal dis­trib­u­tor. It is too early to name them, since there are some agree­ments to be signed off on,” said Am­ber Con­nect’s Man­ag­ing Direc­tor, Dushyant Sava­dia.

The joint ven­ture will see Am­ber in­vest­ing about US$5 mil­lion over three years. This will give the com­pany a 20 per cent stake, ac­cord­ing to Sava­dia.

“Our dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nel in South Africa has over 500 elec­tronic re­tail chains through which Am­ber Con­nect will be re­tailed and dis­trib­uted,” the Am­ber boss said.

The South African part­ner will op­er­ate the busi­ness in that mar­ket, leav­ing Am­ber Con­nect to re­main fo­cussed on the soft­ware and prod­uct en­hance­ments.

“We will be ac­tu­ally li­cens­ing them the soft­ware at a fee, and will be pro­vid­ing them the hard­ware as well; and they would be man­ag­ing all the lo­cal sales, the busi­nesses, in­stal­la­tion – es­sen­tially, they will be in charge of ev­ery as­pect of the busi­ness,” Sava­dia said.

“We went the joint-ven­ture route be­cause the prof­itabil­ity in­dex is so ap­peal­ing that do­ing the dis­tri­bu­tion our­selves would have put us in a less prof­itable space,” he said.

Sava­dia says the part­ner­ship will also take Am­ber’s prod­ucts to Saudi Ara­bia, Dubai and Bahrain, along with Aus­tralia. These coun­tries, to­gether with the African push, will be putting the lit­tle Ja­maican up­start in a grow­ing list of coun­tries, in­clud­ing Trinidad & Tobago, St Maarten, United States (in­clud­ing Puerto Rico), Canada, United King­dom, Spain, Greece, Es­to­nia and In­dia. The Am­ber Con­nect CEO says the list will grow again in three months.

As the com­pany weighs geo­graphic ex­pan­sion, it has also been rolling out new in­no­va­tions. Most re­cently, it de­vel­oped a de­vice that utilises ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, or AI — which it calls Am­ber Shield. The new de­vice au­to­mat­i­cally shuts down a ve­hi­cle’s sys­tems, ren­der­ing them use­less in the event that a door is forced open or any at­tempt is made to move the car with­out the key.

De­spite hav­ing per­sonal track­ers, house­hold sur­veil­lance de­vices and en­trance se­cu­rity items on its list of prospec­tive roll-outs, Am­ber has so far con­cen­trated on ve­hic­u­lar de­vices and per­sonal track­ers since its launch in Oc­to­ber 2015.

“We’ve re­ally fo­cused our ef­forts on the ve­hi­cle de­vices. Our tech­nol­ogy is con­stantly evolv­ing and this has put us way ahead in ve­hi­cle se­cu­rity and fleet man­age­ment. For the per­sonal track­ers, they are do­ing well in a few mar­kets, but not with a big push at this time,” Sava­dia said.

He re­fused to di­vulge sales fig­ures and fi­nan­cial de­tails, but he said US, Canada and Ja­maica were the com­pany’s top three mar­kets.

Along­side the joint-ven­ture plans for South Africa, Am­ber Con­nect will be ‘white la­belling’ its soft­ware and hard­ware to take ad­van­tage of a cap­tive mar­ket in the in­sur­ance in­dus­try. The deal will see Am­ber sell­ing tracker units and li­cens­ing their soft­ware with in­sur­ance com­pa­nies, who will dis­trib­ute the prod­ucts to their cus­tomers us­ing their own brands.

“Africa is a very ed­u­cated mar­ket for ve­hi­cle track­ing. In­sur­ance com­pa­nies pretty much make it manda­tory for ev­ery­body to have a ve­hi­cle tracker,” Sava­dia said.

Am­ber Con­nect CEO Dushyant Sava­dia.

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