“The most important thing I think we’velearned since we started the business is that sometimes the ideas you have arebetter than you think and if you just try something, your success may justsurprise you,” says Richard Parry and co-founder of iTrack, a Cape Town-basedcompany that develops tracking technology. The idea he’s referring to was for acost-effective, easy-to-use tracking device that he conceived together withco-founders, Jean-Claude Malengret and Tristan Phillips, when the three werestill engineering students at UCT.
Launching the iTrack Live product, as itwas eventually named, into a market dominated by the likes of Netstar andTracker was a bold move, but the partners knew a gap when they saw one. “Ourcompetitive edge is on price and ease of use. We don’t force customers into acontract but rather charge a flat fee for the equipment and installation andthen charge them on a month-to-month basis thereafter, so its very flexible.Also, the system is far more sophisticated than other cheaper, entry levelsolutions in the market. The web interface we’ve developed means customers canaccess satellite and road maps to get a full history of everywhere theirvehicles have been and when they were there and they can generate reports and afull three month history on their fleet. The system can also provide live SMSsand emails,” explains Parry. The product proved to be ideal for SMBs lookingfor sophisticated fleet management at an affordable price and on flexibleterms.
The trio started out as a research anddevelopment outfit specialising in bespoke remote control and monitoringsolutions for a range of industry players. “We kept our overheads low and ranon a contract basis so it sustained us but we got tired of developing productsfor other people and decided to launch our own products onto the market,” hesays. Doing so meant taking a risk but Parry explains how the company keptcosts low in order to make it work. “We develop all the hardware and software,and we handle all the technical support and maintenance, but we outsourcemanufacture and assembly, so we keep staff costs low – the business is stillonly made up of the three of us,” he says. They market the product through theinternet on Google ads, and as Parry comments, “It’s extremely cost effectiveand still our primary source of leads generation. Our monthly budget for it isa fraction of the return we get from it.”While they might be experts in engineeringand technology, Parry and his partners have had to be fast learners when itcame to business skills. “We had to learn about things like marketing andfinance along the way, but we’ve asked lots of questions and been very keen tolearn from others. We were also accepted to participate in the VeloCITIbusiness acceleration programme (part of the Cape Information TechnologyInitiative) and have formed partnerships with various organisations,” saysParry.
The success of the iTrack Live product hasopened doors for the company, as Parry comments, “Clients and other interestedparties started to approach us asking if we could develop a personnel trackingdevice. We’d originally conceived many applications for our tracking equipmentand this happened to be one of them.” Further research revealed that the marketwas ripe for a personnel tracking solution and the team set to work developingiTrack U, a portable hand-held version of the iTrack product range thatprovides real-time tracking and security for individuals. “Initially it’s beingmarketed to the security industry – it has a web interface that allowscompanies to see where their guards are, and a panic button allows guards to callfor help in emergency situations via two-way communication through a cellularnetwork,” says Parry. But the potential markets extend far beyond securityfirms – iTrack U is unique in the country and will give Parry, Malengret andPhillips the edge they need to achieve their ambitions “to become the firstchoice in South Africa for fleet management, personnel security and assettracking solutions, and to expand our business into the continent.”
Contact: +27 21 683 3310, www.itracklive.co.za
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