Avia Collinder, Business Writer
The Guardsman Group says it is accelerating the pace of investments, despite the sluggish economy, with new technology-based products already introduced and a timetable of mid-2013 now set to begin construction of its new J$500-million headquarters.
Subsidiary Guardsman Alarms has pumped US$200,000 into GMedic, a GPS-enabled mobile medical emergency and communication device made to be worn as a watch/bracelet.
Guardsman Communication Limited, with a projected spend of US$2 million, has also launched its digital trunked radio network for the parishes of Kingston, St Andrew and parts of St Thomas and Portland, with a Simplex system also available for individual properties nationwide.
Guardsman last big venture was Orkin Jamaica Limited started in 2009 to manage the pest-control franchise, but is yet to see positive returns from the venture.
Co-managing director of Guardsman Group, Vinay Walia, is more upbeat about the technology investments.
"'We have sold 450 units already," said Walia, while noting that the target is to sell 5,000 digital radios in the next two years.
Companies have the option to purchase or lease of units and will also pay a monthly system maintenance charge starting at J$4,500.
The sales target is similar for GMedic.
"People with medical conditions no longer need to restrict themselves to home," he said, noting that wearers of the device can be supervised and monitored through the GPS feature.
The device is also being marketed to medical groups with added applications, including blood pressure and other tests carried out remotely. A radio feature on the watch allows users to call and provide additional information on their situation.
The watches retail for J$20,000 plus tax each with monthly fees for tracking and ambulance services.
Walia said Guardsman expects to recoup the investment on the digital radio system and GMedic in four years.
He did not give a projection on when Orkin Jamaica would break even but said more funds would be pumped into the pest-control operation in its continued buildout across the country.
Two technicians were added to a new Montego Bay location this year.
Guardsman aims to grow the business by 30 per cent in another two years, he said.
To date, J$500 million has been invested in training technicians at the overseas headquarters, and buying vehicles and chemicals, said the security company's boss.
Walia estimates that the pest control market - 70 per cent of which involves fighting termites - is worth J$1 billion in revenue, with Orkin Jamaica controlling 10 per cent.
"We are in the growth mode, constantly reinvesting," he said.
The new price tag for the group headquarters of J500 million (US$5.46m) is double the original US2 million to US$3 million initially estimated in 2010.
Guardsman has already acquired property at 6 Water Lane for the development, which will house three of its businesses and areas to train personnel.
Building approval is currently being sought from the KSAC.