10 April 2006
Out Of The Box(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 04,2006)
Daka Development Ltd
If you want to get ahead, employ innovative thinking techniques. This is the approach used by Pat Mah, founder and executive director of Daka Designs Ltd.
"We don't just think out of the box, but live, breathe and work out of the box," he says. "Our catch cry is: passion for innovation."
Mah refers to a transparent, battery-free torch that he shakes up and down before snapping it on.
"It's a Faraday Forever Flashlight," he smiles. "English physicist and chemist Michael Faraday discovered how to create electricity by passing a magnet through a coil of copper. It's an old idea (Faraday died in 1867), yet a new application."
According to Mah, there are endless uses for the Faraday torch. "For example, a driving accident in the dark, hikers lost in the countryside at night, housewives at home during a storm when the lights go out, yachtsmen lost at sea in the dark and so on," he says.
"A few shakes of the Faraday Forever Flashlight every five minutes and they all have a renewable light source throughout the night - and the next night ad infinitum if needed. Perpetual light without a battery from a source that is waterproof, shock-proof and virtually indestructible."
The torch won the Grand Prize for Consumer Product Design in the 2002 Hong Kong Awards for Industry, and has since become a hot seller in the US, Canada, Europe and Japan.
"As with all our products, the Faraday torch was the result of brainstorming sessions among our designers," says Mah. "I like to get together with the design team to kick around ideas and begin a creative storm that hopefully creates the sparks that can lead to thunderbolts of ingenuity."
Hong Kong-born Mah grew up in Canada and graduated from the University of Alberta with a degree in computer science. He spent 30 years in Canada before returning to Hong Kong in 1993 as a sales agent for a US company mass-producing an electronic cockroach repeller at its Dongguan factory on the Chinese mainland.
"I eventually decided to go into business for myself and set up Daka," he recalls. "My early products included clocks, one of the world's smallest radios (Earfit) and a fly-gulping electronic pest device that sold over one million units."
Today, Daka manufactures its products with the help of its outsourcing manufacturing partner in Dongguan on the Chinese mainland, and holds licensing agreements with some of the biggest companies in the US and Canada, including SEA-DOO®, HUMMERTM, and General Motors. Mah says many of its products are big sellers in the field of sports and leisure, including the SEA-DOO SEASCOOTERTM.
Daka's Hong Kong showroom holds many ingenious products, such as the shoulder bag that contains a fold-up bicycle weighing just 5.5kg that assembles in about 10 seconds.
"This bicycle enables commuters to zip from home to work," says Mah. "When refolded, it fits smoothly back into the bag and can be carried quite comfortably." It is called the A-bike because the main frame looks like a capital letter A when in use."
"It's the world's lightest and smallest folding bike that is also easy to take on a bus, train, plane or boat or simply keep in the boot of the car," says Daka's design director Tim Fletcher, who heads a Hong Kong team of four industrial and three graphic designers. He is also a vice-president of the Industrial Designers Society of America.
Fletcher also works closely with the famous inventor, Sir Clive Sinclair (designer of the A-bike), at his London research laboratory, and with local researchers at the City University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Another intriguing product is a wall clock built under licence from the National Geographic Society that sounds the time on the hour not with chimes but with authentic animal sounds - from a lion at12 o'clock and then a rhino, a camel, a bison, a polar bear, a tiger, an elephant, a sea lion, a dolphin, a giant panda, a chimpanzee and a grey wolf.
"This clock brings people that much closer to nature," says Fletcher, "plus it turns itself off at night so one's sleep isn't disturbed."
It is that kind of ahead thinking that makes Daka, today a publicly-listed company on the Singapore stock exchange, the success it is - and you can be sure the firm has its eyes firmly on the future.
WRITTEN BY GEOFFREY SOMERS
Daka Development Ltd