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AMA about electronics industry with me

Paul2

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Hi people,

It has been close to 12 years since I first begin working in electronics industry. I'm kinda bored this days without much work coming, so I decided to share my life experience in a format of AMA.

Before we start, I'll tell you how I first got my interest in Pakistani industry. During 2017, I've been working along few other people on a new business, selling water vending machines, and pay per use water filters. That business has long since flopped, and I joined my current job in a company doing managed manufacturing and electronics engineering in Shenzhen.

In Pakistan, we gave 4 machines to shop owners around big housing societies like DHA and Bahria. Two machines survived their first days and ran well for 2 more months before the company ran out of money. I also went to have talks with housing society owners about doing "pay per use" drinking tap water, but those talks also went nowhere. That's how my first venture to Pakistan ended.

Along the way, I went on to explore the country, and talk with local industry people. I met people running business for Talats (Orient Electronics) and Saigols (PEL). I was quite surprised when I found that Pakistan had a non insubstantial electronics industry on its own.

During my talks with local industry people, I noticed just how well versed were their engineers, and product people in their subject matter, but their businesses were all "stuck" with the model of "knock-down kit" assemblers.

The talk went on to discussing "what stops them from doing things properly," and that went for a few hour: talented engineers moving to the West, unreliable logistics, parts availability, exports being hampered by things well known.

Even after that, I told them that it's nothing unreal, and I would've told them more, but it was already my time to leave the country.

So buddies, ask me anything you wanted to know how the electronic industry works.
 

QasimTraveler

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Thanks for the AMA.

What is your educational background?

Could you shed more light on your venture in Pakistan? Who seed the product? Where did you get in fabricated? How was your experience with the regulators and legal system here? Why do you think your venture failed?

Do you think IP rights can sustain in Shenzen?
 

Paul2

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What is your educational background?
Complicated, for my entire youth I was hoping to make a career in electronics. In between 2007 and 2009, I was a high school exchange student in Singapore. There, I joined my first job as a product documentation translator in a small Singaporean OEM. I met former TSMC engineers, and after few talks decided to self-study towards microelectronics.

By late 2009, I aced pre-qualifications to Nanyang Uni, and NTU of Taiwan, but my parents were hellbent on having me study "businessy things big men do." So, I went to study for a business diploma to Canada, but I never ever found it useful aside from earning me a Canadian visa. I worked in electronics pretty much without interruptions since.
Could you shed more light on your venture in Pakistan? Who seed the product?
The original product was a vending machine for drinking water, nothing particularly innovative. Second was a pay-per-use drinking water filters for users on size of smaller housing societies or highrise developments.

Owners seeded the product with their personal savings, with me being just a privileged employee there. I don't regret the loss of money (travel, life in Pakistan, helpers) as much as time spent. They were first time entrepreneurs, and in general "not serious people." Despite me having a good idea of who makes a serious entrepreneur, and me being close to disqualifying them at the start, I totally messed up not trusting my own judgement.
Where did you get in fabricated?
China, in owners apartment. They themselves were seasoned engineers.
How was your experience with the regulators and legal system here? Why do you think your venture failed?
We did not incorporate in Pakistan, so I don't know. We found it faster to just grant those machines to shop owners free of charge to see if it works.

Pakistani customs was kinda far from fastest, but it's comparable to Chinese one at that. Machines made it through the customs without a single question asked after a month.

For the failure, I, well, credit owners of the company: inexperienced, they simply not made the math before starting the business. Their expectation was that somebody big will "jump" at their product, and that they would be able to live of that big order. That did not happen. There was nothing unique about the product except for Internet linkup over GSM modem, and the idea that owners/leasors will be billed per-use. That was supposed to make it more affordable at the start, but also went against the grain with the idea of getting "somebody big and well moneyed" on board.
Do you think IP rights can sustain in Shenzen?
No, never expect that in China :) You only chance is to move faster that the competitor. Moreover, if your only one "success factor" is to rely on not being copied, you already doing something wrong — all successful businesses get copied non stop.
 

QasimTraveler

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I just realized that Punjab Saaf Pani Company also had plans to launch a water vending machine (they called the Water ATMs).

Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience. Many moons ago I ventured into developing a controller for a micro-grid for a rural area in Southern Pakistan but it was bulldozed by a rival group that had superior design that was cheaper to mass produce.

To be fair, 97% ventures fail so I think you learned some amazing lessons which will be invaluable in your career!

What are you doing nowadays?

Again really thank you for sharing your experiences, I am indebted.

For the failure, I, well, credit owners of the company: inexperienced, they simply not made the math before starting the business. Their expectation was that somebody big will "jump" at their product, and that they would be able to live of that big order. That did not happen. There was nothing unique about the product except for Internet linkup over GSM modem, and the idea that owners/leasors will be billed per-use. That was supposed to make it more affordable at the start, but also went against the grain with the idea of getting "somebody big and well moneyed" on board.
This notion is very tempting but also leads to delusions. I agree that in real life not every product is an iPhone yet some products stay under the radar and make it big in the long run

[
No, never expect that in China :) You only chance is to move faster that the competitor. Moreover, if your only one "success factor" is to rely on not being copied, you already doing something wrong — all successful businesses get copied non stop.
I personally find this very fascinating and can see how China is moving ahead in implementing AI/ML. Silicon Valley is infested with patent trolls, and I abhor them.

But I do think that credit should be given where it is due. Patent filers have often spent a life time in developing their products. I recently came across this post and knowing some of the people involved made me quite unsure of what to think on this matter.

Pakistan really needs to watch out how her subjects consume resources, especially water. It is a shame the product did not catch on. Hopefully newer entrants will learn and peruse a better business model.
 

Paul2

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What are you doing nowadays?
Still working in the same managed manufacturing and electronics engineering company I joined after that failed venture. That is being threatened too now as the company ran into a surreal run of delinquent clients... Despite us being a substantial business, I'm still not sure if we can pull out of that. I fared rather well there, it will be a shame to loose it.
This notion is very tempting but also leads to delusions. I agree that in real life not every product is an iPhone yet some products stay under the radar and make it big in the long run
Totally, anybody hoping to make money... needs to set up his business to earn money and not hope some stupid thing people read in "big business" journals...

What I wanted to raise in this AMA was an idea that electronics industry is nothing magical, and totally within reach of a capable industrialist.

Simplest electronic factories are basically just things called "SMT lines" — an automated assembly line where machines put components onto PCB and solder them. Then whatever was made is put into simplest plastic casings, and voila, you got a $20-$30 gadget.

Things of course get more complicated higher up, but really a lot of things are certainly withing reach of somebody ready to commit $1m capital and some minimum technical mindset for the business. Making something nowadays is nowhere as big as an issue as finding what to manufacture these days.

10 Years ago, just having access to an electronics factory by itself was like getting free money. Virtually anything was making money: mp3 players, camera, cheap phones, everything. It was harder to screw up, than to make money. Nowadays, not every gadget is an object of desire anymore even in piss poor countries (sorry for the vulgarity there.)

Much more in sales to customer market now comes to having sense and tactfulness. Most of dumb electronic goods are like "senseless pleasures" — smartphones with 9 cameras, fridges with Internet access, cleaning robots needing 1 hour to clean them, watches that can watch youtube, but can't simply show you the time, smart TVs that can show ads from Internet, but not actual television, and so on...

People even in very poor countries are not complete idiots, and got much, much choosier over the last decade to the disdain of "Big American Brands." It's not rare now to have much more technically informed buyers in places outside of Western world than in it. People now question "do I actually need this piece of hardware?" much more, and in more sense than simply if that piece of hardware solves an immediate need.
 
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blueazure

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May 29, 2015
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Hi people,

It has been close to 12 years since I first begin working in electronics industry. I'm kinda bored this days without much work coming, so I decided to share my life experience in a format of AMA.

Before we start, I'll tell you how I first got my interest in Pakistani industry. During 2017, I've been working along few other people on a new business, selling water vending machines, and pay per use water filters. That business has long since flopped, and I joined my current job in a company doing managed manufacturing and electronics engineering in Shenzhen.

In Pakistan, we gave 4 machines to shop owners around big housing societies like DHA and Bahria. Two machines survived their first days and ran well for 2 more months before the company ran out of money. I also went to have talks with housing society owners about doing "pay per use" drinking tap water, but those talks also went nowhere. That's how my first venture to Pakistan ended.

Along the way, I went on to explore the country, and talk with local industry people. I met people running business for Talats (Orient Electronics) and Saigols (PEL). I was quite surprised when I found that Pakistan had a non insubstantial electronics industry on its own.

During my talks with local industry people, I noticed just how well versed were their engineers, and product people in their subject matter, but their businesses were all "stuck" with the model of "knock-down kit" assemblers.

The talk went on to discussing "what stops them from doing things properly," and that went for a few hour: talented engineers moving to the West, unreliable logistics, parts availability, exports being hampered by things well known.

Even after that, I told them that it's nothing unreal, and I would've told them more, but it was already my time to leave the country.

So buddies, ask me anything you wanted to know how the electronic industry works.



hello,

im interested to start my own manufacturing line here in Pakistan.

i want to start from basics. a simple mobile fone charging cable .

can i make it in Pakistan ? cost effectively ? or do i have to move to Shenzhen ?

i have a partner who has a small manufacturing facility and he makes plastic mugs . i think we can transition to data cables

need you advice
 

Paul2

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can i make it in Pakistan ?
Yes, the basic machinery for cable making is rather simple. Inputs are soldering supplies, bulk cable, and connectors.

There are 3 main pieces of machinery you will need:
  1. A machine to prepare cable ends (cut, strip isolation, trim, etc)
  2. A machine or a rig for soldering cable to the connector
  3. A machine to pour plastic over connection (overmolding machine)
cost effectively ?
Not sure, there is a very big productivity difference in between top of the line fully automated machinery, and manually operated one. Take a look if you can afford the one with at least some automation. Most people still running manual cabling shops specialise in more "fancier" cabling.
or do i have to move to Shenzhen ?
Certainly no need to fly there, cabling is something that it totally can done in Pakistan.

Check if you can make money with local labour prices. Take a look in youtube of how cabling shops work to get an idea.
 

blueazure

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Check if you can make money with local labour prices. Take a look in youtube of how cabling shops work to get an idea.
my question is, for someone trying to get into manufacturing, is this a good idea ? ( charging cable) .

or do u suggest moving to even more basic stuff like mobile fone cover etc.

as u said above, making something is not a problem, having a good idea is

secondly, do u mind sharing your QQ or whatsapp ?
 

Paul2

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is this a good idea ? ( charging cable) .
I think it is a good starter business. My biggest concern if you will be able to compete with companies having expensive machines popping 1000 cables per hour, and what you can do to avoid direct competition with them, like avoiding making the most cheap, generic cables (simple black, polyurethane coated ones)

I believe you will have an edge if you can make some fancier cabling at cost matching Chinese (sans shipping etc).
or do u suggest moving to even more basic stuff like mobile fone cover etc.
If you will be making cabling, you will certainly have spare plastic for injection moulding. What about trying both?

I'll give you my contacts in a profile post
 

QasimTraveler

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Dec 24, 2018
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Still working in the same managed manufacturing and electronics engineering company I joined after that failed venture. That is being threatened too now as the company ran into a surreal run of delinquent clients... Despite us being a substantial business, I'm still not sure if we can pull out of that. I fared rather well there, it will be a shame to loose it.

Totally, anybody hoping to make money... needs to set up his business to earn money and not hope some stupid thing people read in "big business" journals...

What I wanted to raise in this AMA was an idea that electronics industry is nothing magical, and totally within reach of a capable industrialist.

Simplest electronic factories are basically just things called "SMT lines" — an automated assembly line where machines put components onto PCB and solder them. Then whatever was made is put into simplest plastic casings, and voila, you got a $20-$30 gadget.

Things of course get more complicated higher up, but really a lot of things are certainly withing reach of somebody ready to commit $1m capital and some minimum technical mindset for the business. Making something nowadays is nowhere as big as an issue as finding what to manufacture these days.

10 Years ago, just having access to an electronics factory by itself was like getting free money. Virtually anything was making money: mp3 players, camera, cheap phones, everything. It was harder to screw up, than to make money. Nowadays, not every gadget is an object of desire anymore even in piss poor countries (sorry for the vulgarity there.)

Much more in sales to customer market now comes to having sense and tactfulness. Most of dumb electronic goods are like "senseless pleasures" — smartphones with 9 cameras, fridges with Internet access, cleaning robots needing 1 hour to clean them, watches that can watch youtube, but can't simply show you the time, smart TVs that can show ads from Internet, but not actual television, and so on...

People even in very poor countries are not complete idiots, and got much, much choosier over the last decade to the disdain of "Big American Brands." It's not rare now to have much more technically informed buyers in places outside of Western world than in it. People now question "do I actually need this piece of hardware?" much more, and in more sense than simply if that piece of hardware solves an immediate need.
Thanks for these insights again. Best of luck with your career and endeavors.

I found the electronics industry insights, that you mentioned, quite fascinating TBH. I initially started out in power electronics designing and really wanted to pursue my own venture but it did not pan out and I rolled over to energy industry analysis/research.

I now believe that business development is a complex field in itself and equally interesting for the right minds. How corporations manage to capture public imagination is what I am focused on nowadays. A decade ago it was iPhone for example and nowadays how esports are becoming the next battle ground. Really fascinating stuff.

The reason I mentioned the above is that electronics industry is codependent on the stuff public in consuming. Internet is nothing but 1s and 0s being executed on a bunch of electronic hardware.

Lastly, Shenzen model is difficult to replicate here but those who are able to build and sustain a cost effective supply chain can match the Chinese manufacturing cost. Not sure how will be done but lets see.

Again thank you for this AMA and Best of luck.

my question is, for someone trying to get into manufacturing, is this a good idea ? ( charging cable) .

or do u suggest moving to even more basic stuff like mobile fone cover etc.

as u said above, making something is not a problem, having a good idea is

secondly, do u mind sharing your QQ or whatsapp ?
If I may suggest, manufacturing is great and as OP suggested if you have the means to manufacture plastic products than at least in Pakistan you can compete in some arenas. May I suggest looking towards manufacturing plastic ware in addition to just cable manufacturing?

Raw materials are the same usually and easily importable. Best of luck to you as well.
 

Paul2

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Lastly, Shenzen model is difficult to replicate here but those who are able to build and sustain a cost effective supply chain can match the Chinese manufacturing cost. Not sure how will be done but lets see.
Yes, supply chain being firmly anchored around Shenzhen is a very big reason why mid-tier manufacturing is not going anywhere from Shenzhen any times soon. But things are not so bright on two extremes of the market:

Big manufacturers can easily manage their supply chain across the border, and not so dependent on subcontractors as they can do a lot of things on their own.

And for small scale ones, they simply don't have same demands for simple products they make. Simple things like cables, computer peripherals like keyboards, mices, etc, don't require a lot of components.
 

nahtanbob

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Hi people,

It has been close to 12 years since I first begin working in electronics industry. I'm kinda bored this days without much work coming, so I decided to share my life experience in a format of AMA.

Before we start, I'll tell you how I first got my interest in Pakistani industry. During 2017, I've been working along few other people on a new business, selling water vending machines, and pay per use water filters. That business has long since flopped, and I joined my current job in a company doing managed manufacturing and electronics engineering in Shenzhen.

In Pakistan, we gave 4 machines to shop owners around big housing societies like DHA and Bahria. Two machines survived their first days and ran well for 2 more months before the company ran out of money. I also went to have talks with housing society owners about doing "pay per use" drinking tap water, but those talks also went nowhere. That's how my first venture to Pakistan ended.

Along the way, I went on to explore the country, and talk with local industry people. I met people running business for Talats (Orient Electronics) and Saigols (PEL). I was quite surprised when I found that Pakistan had a non insubstantial electronics industry on its own.

During my talks with local industry people, I noticed just how well versed were their engineers, and product people in their subject matter, but their businesses were all "stuck" with the model of "knock-down kit" assemblers.

The talk went on to discussing "what stops them from doing things properly," and that went for a few hour: talented engineers moving to the West, unreliable logistics, parts availability, exports being hampered by things well known.

Even after that, I told them that it's nothing unreal, and I would've told them more, but it was already my time to leave the country.

So buddies, ask me anything you wanted to know how the electronic industry works.
I liked the phrase "non insubstantial electronics industry"
 

Paul2

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I liked the phrase "non insubstantial electronics industry"
Well, nothing less than that. Once I worked in Canada, we tried to make a small electric moped final assembly facility in either BC, Canada, or Oregon or Washington. It was genuinely hard, there were not a single contract manufacturer there with that profile of work. They either do some super duper expensive defence electronic, one piece a month product, or they don't...

Then we tried it ourselves, finding a single errands boy to tender pick and place machines turned a 3 month long adventure. Finding people who would not miswire a simplest circuit, and satisfy the minimal requirement for work diligence was equally hard. In the end, the company dropped the idea.
 

nahtanbob

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Well, nothing less than that. Once I worked in Canada, we tried to make a small electric moped final assembly facility in either BC, Canada, or Oregon or Washington. It was genuinely hard, there were not a single contract manufacturer there with that profile of work. They either do some super duper expensive defence electronic, one piece a month product, or they don't...

Then we tried it ourselves, finding a single errands boy to tender pick and place machines turned a 3 month long adventure. Finding people who would not miswire a simplest circuit, and satisfy the minimal requirement for work diligence was equally hard. In the end, the company dropped the idea.
I understand the frustration
 

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