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How About This Idea For A New Business?


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My wife and I have a good little hotel business in Phuket, but I always prefer to have 2 income streams. Previously, I relied upon income from writing application software for SMS mobile phone services in the Uk. This has provided me with a good, (but wildly fluctuating) income for the past 10 years or so. However, with the increased mobile phone regulations in the UK (and other territories), my income has been gradually reducing from this source. I think it's time for me to think of another business venture!

So, I've been considering all sorts of ideas. Many of these fail the 'defensible' test, (ie - the business idea can easily be copied, or is at risk of 'legal' means to close it, or is at risk of 'upsetting' an existing Thai business etc etc). The typical bar/restaurant/hotel is not usually a defensible business. (My own hotel is reasonably defensible because it addresses the niche market of single night stays from the nearby airport).

Anyway, here is my idea! (I'm happy to discuss this on an open forum because I believe that it is an idea which cannot easily be copied - see below)

I'm a radio amateur and there are about 3 million radio 'hams' worldwide. Most of these hams are men, with a good disposable income to purchase their expensive amateur radio equipment and antennas. The antennas are typically similar to TV aerials, but physically much larger. A large ham antenna sells in the USA for maybe $500.

My idea is to manufufacture ham antennas here in Phuket and sell them to overseas radio hams.

Why is this idea defensible?

- You need a good technical skill to design and test these antennas. I have a relevant First and Master's degree in this skill area and some 15 years of industry experience. Somchai (or Pete) down the road cannot simply copy what I'm doing.

- My background means that my business would also be 'credible' in the eyes of my potential customers.

- The manufacturing cost is quite low, so the product can be sold at a competitive price. (I imagine that the existing products sold in the USA, UK etc are probably manufactured in the Far East anyway. But the companies sell them at a high mark-up to cover the costs of their overseas offices/staff etc.

- These items are not subject to any export restriction from Thailand, or import restriction into the USA, UK, australia etc.

- The items are quite sturdy, and can be easily shipped, (although I need to check maximum package size allowed by the Thai shippers.

- This is a 'real' business that can be slowly built up and then could be sold at a later stage, if that was something that I wanted to do.

There is a large number of potential customers who regualry upgrade their existing antennas.

As an export-only business, I think that Thai employment rules allow me to own this business 100% as a foreigner. (Need to check this, but it's not a problem if my wife has to own the business - she is not very good at making complex radio antennas...)

Anyway, that's my idea. Can anyone shoot my idea down in flames or punch a thousand holes in it?? Please do give your comments.

Simon

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I think you have a lot of bases covered.

Just some notions.

Could you have your designs manufactured cheaper elsewhere - ie China and order sent direct from the manufacturer to the buyer?

Where would you advertise - print and WWW?

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Prakanong, I would initially start by just manufacturing existing, proven, open-source designs, but selling at a competitive rate. I could progress to producing my own designs, but that would require some time for me to design and test these original designs. Of course, someone could also copy my designs, but they would have difficulties in matching my selling price.

Yes, I suppose that I could outsource the manufacture. But that would be at a later date after the business was running successfully. If I outsourced from the start, then I would have issues of quality control, factory visit costs etc. I intend to start slowly, manufacture a few antennas and test the market for them.

Re advertising, this would be by both online and print-media in specialist ham magazines/websites. Then word of mouth/customer satisfaction spreads the word. So the product needs to be of quality construction, good technical performance and good value for money, plus my good customer service etc.

Simon

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For this market - i reckon E-Bay would be a good starting point on the sales & marketing side.

Open an account - put one on sale - even if you don't have one & test the waters. I think if you withdraw the item from sale some penalties will apply - but so what?

My experience from sending product to sell in Australia is that the retail price is nearly always a three to four fold increase on the FOB price.

Cheers,

Soundman.

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Simon

A good idea. You can custom manufacture for your customers for added value. Extra reflectors for direction ..... I am sure you know more about this than I do.

Standard air parcels from Au had to be less than 1.4 or 1.5m long and under a certain weight, I think this is an international standard, depending on the antenna design the length could be your downfall.

For me this meant that a pool cleaner scraped in by about 2cm :o , thus giving me the cheapest rate for the package. I then registered and insured the parcel for replacement (at retail) plus shipping and insurance, so if the thing went missing I would not lose out, even make 2 sales. :D I then sent a scanned copy of the postal notice to the customer.

You will also save time and effort for all concerned if you find the universal customs code for antennas, and put this on the customs declaration. There is a link to it some place here, give me a day or so and I'll post it for you.

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...universal customs code for antennas...

CN code 8529 10: Aerials and aerial reflectors of all kinds; parts suitable for use therewith

Each country adds another one or two digits to the CN code for that country's import duty.

For Thailand’s tariff number, if needed for the export declaration, see here.

--

Maestro

P.S. Correction. I believe only the first 4 digits of the tariff number reflect the harmonised system (CN number); all additional digits are country-specific and identify subcategories that can be, and often are, different from one country to another. Realised this after looking at the Thai and Swiss tables side by side.

Edited by Maestro
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Yes, I suppose that I could outsource the manufacture. But that would be at a later date after the business was running successfully. If I outsourced from the start, then I would have issues of quality control, factory visit costs etc. I intend to start slowly, manufacture a few antennas and test the market for them.

Simon

The only problem here, as I see it not knowing the product, is that if you decide to initially manufacture by yourself, you have enormous initial investment in plant, tooling, training & machinery costs that might just go down the drain if cost competativeness cannot be achieved.

Soundman.

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Actually, the manufacture is the easiest part. These antennas are basically like a large TV aerial, so a number of aluminium rods of a certain length, attached at a specificed spacong on a supporting aluminium boom, and then a matching/connector section.

The 'skill' area is in the design of such antennas and the technical measurement/testing of them. If I start with an open-source design, then add some 'value-add', such as good wind/storm resistance, then manufacture a test unit, measure the performance and 'tweak' as required. The skill is in measuring and understanding the performance, and knowing what/how to tweak it to obtain a superior technical performance.

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the idea as such is not new :

Japs copied from Germany, Chinese copied from Japs etc etc

Your venture is, on a small scale, feasable. Guess you know yourself to design, quality control and manufacture.

The salespart might be easy as some poster mentioned.

Can it be copied ? Yes and for sure (see above). However if you don't wanna be a millionaire and are content with a regular good income , then go for it.

Keep your wife as far away from the business as possible LOL guess you know that already

Good luck

Seppl :o

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I agree to start small and not to invest too much, in case the idea is not a good un! And I'm under no illusions about this business. It will not be a fast-buck earner! But I am more interested in a niche business that I can slowly build up.

I will need to buy some antenna test equipment. But most can be controlled via computer and thus the investment costs is not so high since I can also use my existing computers and amateur radio equipments.

Simon

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Check out this company on the web:

ccrane dot com

They have some cool stuff, not exactly what you are talking about but maybe it will give you some ideas. I believe they do sell a few AM and FM antennas of their own design and also from other companies.

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This sounds like a pretty good business to me. It has substance. Samart got rich selling TV antennas, and they are easier to build .. and to fake .. than antennas in your customer range. Hams tend to be pretty savvy .. I knew lots of them from my time as a research tech back in the analogue/vacuum tube days.

I also know a little about metals manufacturing. I owned and operated a precision metal fab job shop for almost 20 years. I'm not sure what your maximum tubing sizes are, but unless they get gianormous, it sounds like a nice operation for women workers.

One major issue will probably be finding reliable suppliers of tubing. You will likely need to buy tubing to your specs (wall thickness, alloy and temper) than what is available(= in stock today) at your local supplier. If the business takes off, so to speak, you will probably want to consider finding your own extruder. Aluminum extrusion dies for small diameter tubing are quite reasonable. You just need to make sure that you have sufficent minimum order quantities.

As for ownership, you could take a shot at BOI promotion. They actually don't have a minimum investment threshold, and the total projected investment level does not necessarily need to be made initially. IOW, you can go in with a 5 year plan .. and the way I understand it, if you fail to achieve what you projected, you just lose the BOI promotional advantages and have to sell xx% of the company to a Thai .. or take some similar action. That's the best shot at a 100% foreign owned enterprise. There are some other perks that can come along rith BOI promotion.

I believe the success is in the marketing .. and early stage delivery. When you get larger, you might want to ship out of Thailand in containers and have local shipping fulfilment in target countries.

Feel free to PM me if you want to hash the manufacturing side around a bit more.

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Hi - PMed you re your other question...

The main material is aircraft grade aluminium tubing, of various diameters up to about 2.5 inch OD. Also, some need to be tapered, such as for a telescopic mast etc.

Early days, but getting some good ideas!

Yes, marketing and customer support is key!

Simon

Edited by simon43
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Hi - PMed you re your other question...

The main material is aircraft grade aluminium tubing, of various diameters up to about 2.5 inch OD. Also, some need to be tapered, such as for a telescopic mast etc.

Early days, but getting some good ideas!

Yes, marketing and customer support is key!

Simon

Got the PM .. thanks. :D

Do you mean "tapered" or with "joggle" offsets? For telescoping or for joining 2 sections? Joggled down for fitting one end inside another like the old TV antenna masts? If it's for joining sections that are never going to move, you can always do a stepped down tube .. a bit of machining to get a snug fit, but you postpone the tooling and press costs.

If it's actually for telescoping, sometimes a better short run solution would be split ends and clamp collars and pins. A bit more material and more labor intensive, but no tooling required.

And you might want to consider galvanized steel tube for the masts unless weight is a major factor. Maybe offer it as an option. As I recall the old TV antennas we used to install, I believe they were 1.25 steel tubing, mabe .06 wall .. maybe even .032 wall .. been a long time ago. :o

True aircraft grade aluminum ala 2024 is super strong but very expensive. Most commercial extrusion alloys (used to be) 5000 or 6000 series .. not sure about today's designations. It could make a major difference in price as well as availability. Using larger diameter for greater strength over higher tensile material could be a better option is strength is required. How much of the mast load is handled by structure brackets and guy wires?

2.5" OD of say, .090 wall, would still be plenty light enough for women to handle during fabrication.

Just try to stay away from a design that requires welding .. especially spot welding .. on aluminum. Riveting is good (stainless pop rivets) .. bending of tubing needs to be thought out carefully and should be avoided if possible. Sometimes, stainless steel fittings at mechanical attachment points are better and cheaper than aluminum. Stainless forms great, welds better than mild steel, springier, strong, corrosion resistant.

Do you have to do any anodizing or chemical film (alodine)?

Edited by klikster
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OK, the type of material depends on what type of antenna I'm manufacturing:

If I am making an amateur antenna 'beam', (like a TV antenna), then the element rods need to be lightweight, constant diameter, just like on a TV Yagi antenna buit larger OD because they are much longer in length. Stainless steel sleeves are typically used to join 2 aluminium rod sections together. (And usually these connections are the failure areas due to high wind shear)

If I'm making a vertical antenna, then this is essentially a telescopic aluminium tube, typically self-supporting without guys, (so hence the need for a larger OD of the tube), and clamped to a 2 inch OD scaffolding pole that is set into a concrete base. The clamping arrangement usually allows for the whole antenna to be tilded over if high winds are expected. Stepping each (typically 1.4 metre) aluminium tube would enable a permanent and structurally strong connection.

A typical antenna of this type consists of about 10 sections, of gradually smaller diameter...The material used is aircraft grade aluminium. All-in retail price (before shipping costs) is about $500 US.

Simon

ps - Right now I'm trying to think of my 'uniqueness' factor. Copying an existing design and selling at a lower price than competitors is fine, but the company will have a longer life if I can incorporate some unique and useful feature into the products.

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