Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Amber Connect to enter South African market

Published:Friday | February 24, 2017 | 2:00 AMNeville Graham
Amber Connect CEO Dushyant Savadia.

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.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com