19 Aug 2004
Designing Minds(HKTDC Electronics, Vol 04,2004)
Vol 4, 2004
Daka Design Ltd
The popular Sea-Doo sea scooter is one of more than 120 ingenious products designed by award-winning Daka Design Ltd
Innovation may be an overused word, but it perfectly describes what consumer lifestyle product manufacturer Daka Design Ltd does, according to founder and chairman Pat Mah. His company produces more than 120 ingenious gadgets such as ultrasonic pest repellers, pin clocks, projection clocks, pens-cum-radios, voice memo pens, pet grooming and automatic feeding items and revolutionary torches that don't require batteries.
Many of these items have won industry plaudits such as the prestigious iF product design award for the Dual Power Eternal Light, a flashlight that doesn't need batteries or bulbs and operates by shaking; a Hong Kong Award for Industry 2003 for the Pin Clock, which uses a system of raised pins to display the time; and a BusinessWeek and USA Today Best Products of 2002 ranking for the no-batteries Faraday Star torch.
A computer engineer and self-confessed "shopaholic" with a passion for designing, Mah founded Daka in 1993 to trade his patented invention the PestContro, an electronic pest control device that repels mice and cockroaches using ultrasonic and electromagnetic technology.
Next came the Earfit, the world's smallest radio that plugged into the ear and attracted the attention of British inventor Sir Clive Sinclair, who became a customer. "Then he had an invention and asked us to do that - it was another small radio that was a very good seller," recalls Mah.
This collaboration with a world-renowned inventor is not the only unusual aspect to Daka, which eschews the conventional OEM and ODM business model in favour of designing and marketing its own products, outsourcing manufacturing to a Chinese mainland factory. "We are a design and engineering company," Mah maintains. "We have 120 staff, and 68% are designers or engineers."
Daka also prefers making "strategic partnerships", negotiating licensing agreements with brand leaders and leveraging off their recognition value and reputation, rather than holding its own brands.
Licensed brands include General Motors' Hummer and ACDelco, Bombardier's Sea-Doo and Evinrude, and National Geographic, while sales and distribution agreements have been made with leading retail chains like Sharper Image, Brookstone, Yamasa, Radio Shack, Toys "R" Us and Canadian Tires.
Two years ago the company moved from lifestyle products towards the sports and leisure and marine/boating sectors. "We recognised we had to focus on a certain industry to build a product road map for the future," says Mah. "We are one of the first companies to develop and apply sonar technology to marine instruments like depth detectors."
The result has been products like the best-selling Sea-Doo seascooter, a light and efficient personal water propeller that is garnering favourable reviews from divers, and the portable fish finder that checks water depth and helps pinpoint fish for sports fishermen.
"The fish finder is very popular in the American market," Mah notes, adding that Daka is the first company to bring the fish finder (traditionally an expensive, high-end product) to the mass market. "We have one that goes to depths of 60 feet where deep sea bass live, and we have a road map to develop one for deep sea fishing at 1,200 feet."
The company has posted annual growth of 35% for the past two years, and Mah believes Daka will be able to maintain or better that figure in coming years. Part of that growth will be fuelled by its IPO on the main board of the Singapore stock exchange in July this year.
"Whatever product we do, our goal is to be the market leader, and give people a product they want and can't get anywhere else," Mah concludes.
WRITTEN BY HELEN WONG
Daka Design Ltd