Having won the award for the best business pitch in both WIEF’s Young Fellows 2012 and IdeaLab 2015, Ideasparq went on to exceed their own sales and commercialising expectations after tireless years in research and development.
Born in India, in a small district called Azamgarh, 30-year-old Ahmad Ahsan, is now the managing director and co-founder of Ideasparq. It’s a company dedicated to developing an automated guided vehicle (AGV), one of the first in Malaysia. Ideasparq develops AGV which is, ‘A mobile robot vehicle that can move raw materials and finished products from one location to another, within a factory floor,’ Ahsan explains.
This idea sparked in 2011 when Ahsan met his co-founding partner at a sales event. ‘We were discussing about the technology used in the manufacturing industry and how there’s a lack of automation within Malaysian manufacturers. We then had this idea, of developing an Automated Guided Vehicle,’ he recalls.
Ahsan realises that the way things were traditionally done in the manufacturing business and its internal logistics were inefficient. ‘Workers were either manually picking up finished goods from the machine and dropping them to the warehouse or they were using forklifts,’ he says. ‘This work was not value added and [not only] very time consuming but also prone to damage as well as hazardous, even to the workers themselves.’ Case studies by Ideasparq show that workers had to walk over 20km per day, just to make internal deliveries.
Before venturing heavily into the project, Ahsan was aware of the importance of doing the initial research and market validation. So, the team decided to join Cradle’s Coach and Grow Programme (CGP) which helped to facilitate their understanding of their business process.
Fortunately, his initial supporter – who then became his business partner and co-founder – Asyraf Abdul Rahman comes from the manufacturing business. ‘He had contacts within the industry and got us to meet customers as well as potential customers we could introduce this technology to. He managed to introduce us to Proton, Panasonic and PHN Industries which is a manufacturer of automotive components,’ Ahsan says. ‘His connections played a major role in the success of the project.’
How AGV works
When the machines require some raw material, the operator can easily press a button and request the AGV to collect that raw material from the warehouse and deliver it to him. Basically, AGV works around the clock. It’s hassle-free, it’s cost-effective and saves time. ‘Imagine a factory floor or manufacturing plant,’ Ahsan explains. ‘There’s a section of this factory, which is the warehouse and another section which is where the machines are kept for purpose of manufacturing a product. When the machines require some raw material, the operator can easily press a button and request the AGV to collect that raw material from the warehouse and deliver it to him. And vice versa when there are finished goods to be delivered to the warehouse, the AGV can easily do the job.’
Although there were already established foreign AGV manufacturers, Ideasparq had no local competitors at the start of their venture. Later, however, they found local startups getting involved in the AGV business and ‘Now, they’re our most mature competitors,’ he admits.
Life changing experiences
Ahsan participated in WIEF’s initiatives such as IdeaLab’s experience in 2015 because he was an active member. ‘Those were the few rare events where you got to network with international investors and other like-minded entrepreneurs. We were exposed to investors who held face to face meetings with us who actually invested in us. It was a life changing experience,’ he recalls.
During WIEF’s IdeaLab 2015, both co-founders of Ideasparq pitched their idea to a panel of judges who were actual investors. Although Ahsan and his team didn’t have any experience pitching to judges they devised a strategy of telling the honest story about themselves and their vision. ‘We wanted the judges to know how passionate we are about what we do,’ Ahsan says. Since then on, they’ve continued achieving their business potential.
Ideasparq used the cash prize of RM10,000 from the award they won for the best business pitch at the IdeaPad Stage in IdeaLab in 2015 to invest in their team members by giving them bonuses for their commitment and dedication.
Having learnt a lot of lessons along the way Ahsan advises entrepreneurs to focus on their product and don’t be distracted by other activities as well as other trial and error. ‘Once you’ve determined that your idea has a potential market, clear value proposition, then focus on that respective idea,’ he concludes.