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Sporting Goods(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 12,2007)

Hot Shots

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Vigma Balls Mfg Ltd is developing new products in addition to its world-famous sets of billiards balls

Tournament-grade balls have to run true to course across pool, snooker and billiards tables the world over. The modern ball has evolved from wood to ivory, from a form made from powdered bone bound with cellulose nitrate, to the present special thermo-setting resin, as produced by Vigma Balls Mfg Ltd - and the business is rolling along smoothly.

"Vigma is also our trade mark," says Business Development Manager Stanley Ng. "We launched products under this name in 2002, although we have been manufacturing billiard balls for private labels since 1975."

He relates how his father first developed the high-grade, hard and scratch-resistant compound basic material used in the manufacturing process today. "The resin allows everything from opaque to transparent products," says Mr Ng. "Weight tolerance is also maintained to assure that the balls in any set are within 1.6 grams of each other."

The main market today is the US, which demands custom-made balls. "We sell balls with college insignia, in themed sets such as international flags, or with cartoons of various monsters, devils, Chinese dragons and theatrical face masks," says Mr Ng. "Elvis Presley has also featured."

The company attends specialist shows in the US dealing in billiards equipment. "Everyone knows the Vigma name," says Mr Ng, adding that other markets are Russia, Australia and Europe in general and the UK and France in particular.

"We did a set of balls bearing the likenesses of French presidential candidates in time for the most recent election," Mr Ng smiles. "This has triggered a similar set for the US."

Although they are eye-catching, the illustrated balls do not sell very well in European markets. "That market prefers the classic balls," says Mr Ng. "Our next big adventure will be to try to market the more fancy lines there."

He stresses that it is technology that brought Vigma to the top. "The number of expert manufacturers can be counted on one hand with two fingers closed," he quips. "We are one of just a few suppliers able to provide the only really playable logo balls in the world. Cheaper varieties have a disruptive coating of one form or another."

That said, completely customised sets of balls from Vigma can be made in low quantities and at low cost. "Clients can order a single set of customised balls with their own choice of graphics simply by supplying the digital image wanted on the ball," says Mr Ng. "We employ a technique that involves a molecular level change within the ball's surface layer. The technique is our patented HTD (Heat Transfer Dye) printing technology, and uses a special thermo-setting resin."

Balls of different sizes go to different countries. The Russian standard (2.68-inch) is bigger and weightier than the British (snooker 2.16-inch, billiards 2.25-inch), while the US standard is the 2.25-inch ball. Australia uses a 2-inch ball. Cue balls are smaller in some countries.

"We supply about 90% of the billiards balls used at US colleges and universities," says Mr Ng. "Business is stable and, despite computer and video games, pool and billiards still attract new players."

Nonetheless, to develop the non-commercial sector beyond bars and places of entertainment, Vigma has developed an alternative and quite new billiards game for the market.

"We have introduced Poker Pool into the US, and it is going well," says Mr Ng. "Typically, pool is either 8-ball or 9-ball, but our game adds more choices, giving added value to those owning billiard tables at home. In our game, two or four players can face off and play the games, which are based on poker-playing strategies. The games involve 15 balls and there are 10 new games in all."

Besides a play guide, the set comes with a polycarbonate, shatterproof carrying case with gold trim, while each ball comes with a lifetime warranty. A pad and pencil is not required as there is a counter for easy score-keeping.

The company was also the first to be able to manufacture a pearl ball. "We now offer a tournament-grade set that is pearl-finished. We are the first in the industry to do this," says Mr Ng.

The company continues to accept OEM orders besides producing under its own trade mark. It is also developing video hand-held games. "Using our own technology, we produce high-precision track-balls for game controllers. We manufacture exactly the right size and weight, which needs to be within specific parameters," he adds.

"Vigma assures customers of accurate weight, uniform density and balance, perfect rebounds, flawless surfaces and polish, vibrant colours, excellent brilliance, extreme hardness, exclusive advanced technology, customization and best value," states Mr Ng, adding that each set of balls has a unique serial number for backward tracing and trouble-shooting.

This is cue for a fanfare announcing success with high-quality products from Vigma Balls Mfg Ltd that almost seem to sell themselves.

TEXT BY TONY HENDERSON

FAST FACTS

Vigma Balls Mfg Ltd
2/F
Int'l Ind Bldg
501-503 Castle Peak Rd
Lai Chi Kok, Kowloon
Hong Kong
Tel: 852-2462-9059
Fax: 852-2456-3459
Email:
info@vigma.com
Web: www.vigma.com
Year Established: 1975
Major Product Categories: billiard ball sets, snooker balls, customized logo balls
Brands & Certificates: VIGMA
Minimum Order: 1 set or 1 ball as a premium
Monthly Production Capacity: -
Delivery Time: 30 days standard
Factory Size & Location: - Guangzhou
Workforce: -