Krishnam Permalloo and his wife Sam run Computer Geeks Services in Thames, with plans to franchise the business to other towns, utilising its focus on fast service.
The business started five years ago under different owners, operating out of a laundromat in the town.
Permalloo bought the business two years ago after arriving in New Zealand in 2005 from Mauritius. The couple previously ran a similar business there, but the island offered few opportunities for expansion and they liked the look of New Zealand as a relatively safe and scenic country.
After initially working in Auckland, Permalloo saw potential in Thames and the couple bought the business.
At the time, Computer Geek Services was operating as a LAN café with gaming as a primary activity, but they stopped the gaming and focussed on ‘fast fixing’, promising same-day turnaround.
Shortly after buying the business they relocated to the current site in Thames, which provides easier parking for customers and more room for stock display.
The company has almost 4000 customers, half of whom use his services at least once or twice a year.
Permalloo says he does not want to be another Dick Smith with 20 laptops on display, saying instead he tests every model seeking value for money.
He works with most of the local distributors, with Acer, Toshiba and Lenovo his main brands, plus Microsoft. Custom-built hardware is another mainstay, with Permalloo using the “best of the best”, such as Western Digital for hard drives for which he cites performance and lower power use. AOC is used for monitors and Brother for printers.
“It’s not the brand that counts, but the support you get from the brand,” he says.
Permalloo is also a fan of and reseller for Quick Heal Anti-virus, which is sourced from Hamilton, but developed in India. He has sold around 400 copies of it, adding the software is the best AV product because of its support.
Computer Geeks Services also specialises in laptops with 18.4 inch Blu-ray-compatible screens. Such laptops, Permalloo believes, will be the big seller for Christmas as people move to replace their PCs with laptops, and Blu-ray allows high-quality viewing of movies on laptops.
Finance packages are available and these have proven to be good for business.
Permalloo says his customers are approximately half consumers and half business related. He prefers looking after smaller businesses, saying he is well versed in servicing their needs.
Farmers are a speciality, especially for accounting packages like Finda or Cash Manager, along with broadband that tends to be from the Farmside satellite service.
“It’s about word of mouth. We get 80 percent of our customers this way,” he says.
Advertorial and columns in the local newspapers have proven to be an effective way to advertise the business. He says remote-control work is becoming a big part of the business.
“We are just very good at what we do,” says Permalloo, who is a Microsoft-certified professional.
“I have been working with computers since I was eight or nine. I have seen how they evolved [and] seen the changes. Instead of reformatting the computer, I may say take the virus out [as] I know the files affected.”
Consumers simply want the problem to go away and aren’t too interested in the technology know-how behind it. Thus, he says, experience helps him diagnose and repair problems quickly.
“Fixing computers is a recipe and all the right ingredients have to be there, be well priced, [but also] profitable. Do we format this machine? Or fix the virus?” he says.
“We have tools to find passwords. There’s a bit of being a hacker to some extent, to be able to do a good job quickly. Instead of getting the customer to ring Telecom for their password, I put a tool on and find it for myself.”
Such skill only comes from experience, with Permalloo claiming those fresh out of IT courses, however qualified, lack the skills to work fast, partly as what they learn at college is already out of date. This is why the company has gone through several staff over the past year he says, and is currently in the process of bringing a family member from Mauritius to join the business.
He has plans to open a shop in Auckland to help supply more remote work, as a prelude for future outlets based on a franchise model.
Permalloo does say tough times are coming and that he is already ordering fewer units of new stock.