From its humble and ambitious beginning as an autogate installer, Magnet Security & Automation has grown from strength to strength to becoming a household name in gate automation and building security solutions. MalaysiaSAFE took the opportunity of interviewing Mr. Jimmy Low, General Manager and second-generation owner of the company. We carry some excerpts of the interview below.
MalaysiaSAFE: Please give a brief background to yourself and the company.
Jimmy Low (JL): Basically, I am the second generation owner of the company. Magnet Security & Automation was founded in 1980 and we have been providing automation solutions for 37 years. My father started the company as an autogate installer and operated from a small office in Jalan Sungai Besi. Then, we would get the autogates directly from the UK and install it for the expats who are living here. Over time, some companies in Malaysia started manufacturing autogates so we stopped importing them from the UK and used locally made products. The market evolved over the years as our customers started requesting for alarms, CCTVs, and intercoms so the company had to adapt; We began installing and integrating other Extra Low Voltage (ELV) products together with the autogates.
When I returned from the US after completing my studies, I wanted the company to push the distribution business of our own products. So we started designing and had our products manufactured in China. We would then conduct all product QCs and final assembly in Malaysia before distributing them under our own brand. I am proud to say that our business flourished over the years, and therefore we made the decision of moving into our new and bigger office in Pandan Jaya to accommodate our growth. This is now our new HQ for sales and services, together with an assembly plant in Pandan Indah and our warehouse in Pandan Cahaya.
MalaysiaSAFE: What sort of products or specialised solutions do you offer?
JL: We specialise in building security systems and provide total solutions. We have products for points of entry into the building right up to the respective offices on every floor. What this means is that we provide the boom gates with long range readers for entry into the car park, the building turnstiles, and access control into respective offices - as a full solution, all managed by our proprietary centralised software.
MalaysiaSAFE: What are the main brands you represent and how do choose these brands?
JL: We select our brands based on what we evaluate to be the best products in terms of having the right technology which can fill the gaps in the system. For example, I believe MAG, which is our own brand for barriers, boom gates, and long range readers is one of the leading brands in the country. It is designed to complement any access control system. Then we have DEA from Italy for gate automation, Vigilance and Soyal for biometric time attendance and access control respectively, and Paradox for alarm systems. We also have our in-house brand, MAGTEC for CCTVs. And to manage all of the security system, we developed our own central management software called Soyal Etegra. So the products and brands we choose to represent are actually derived from what the market needs.
MalaysiaSAFE: What are the challenges of growing your own brand?
JL: The first challenge for developing one’s brand is always being the new and unknown player in the market. In the beginning, people would be sceptical on whether the products are of any good quality. The price factor plays a role too because we are sandwiched between the more expensive European brands and the cheaper low end Chinese products which are vastly available in Malaysia and may come in directly through Chinese construction companies. We solve all these problems by treating the challenges as an advantage. And the best advantage is that we design our own products. Our product quality is comparable to the European ones, and we can compete on price because we manufacture our parts in China. That is the value that we push to our customers, and so far, we have been getting a positive response. In addition, we are able to provide the best after sales service compared to other brands because our service centre and spare parts warehouse are all easily accessible in Malaysia.
MalaysiaSAFE: How do your provide technical support to your clients and partners?
JL: Basically we have a support counter based in our HQ. Customers can just walk-in to these counters whereby our technicians will be ready to assist face-to-face. We will send our technicians on-site if our dealers are not able to trouble-shoot the problems. Besides having our technical support counter, we also have a warranty centre where engineers could actually explain to the dealers why certain claims may not be covered by warranty, and thus providing transparency for all warranty claims. This is our commitment towards our customers.
MalaysiaSAFE: What is your go-to-market strategy?
JL: We do not sell our products directly to end-users but instead through our partners. Even though our profit margins can be smaller compared to engaging in projects directly, our value is to assist our partners so that we have a healthy business growth. Should a potential client become interested in our solutions, we can approach and attend to all their queries. But our partners will be the ones to handle all the projects. This creates a trusting bond between us and our partners. And we will also continue to support our partners with regular trainings and warranty claims.
MalaysiaSAFE: Which verticals are you most involved in?
JL: There is no clear cut vertical for us because when you talk about building security systems, it can refer to any types of building. However from our legacy market segment, we were involved in many high rise residential projects like condominiums. Many condos and gated communities are using our system currently. That is how we started. But now there are also many office towers that are using our autogate and barrier systems.
MalaysiaSAFE: What are the challenges in executing projects within these verticals?
JL:All verticals will have a common problem. Firstly, the wiring. We would try our best to train our partners the best method for laying down proper wiring. But sometimes, the actual work is done by unskilled workers so problems can arise from there. As a brand owner like us, it is difficult to control the standard of work of all our partners and it may affect us also when a system is not functioning like how it was meant to.
Another common problem is surge protection. Systems like barriers and boom gates are installed out in the open. In a lot of cases, we would receive our readers for repairs because they are all burned from power surge overload caused by lightning strikes. We regularly remind our partners how to do proper electrical grounding to prevent power surges, and I can say that the work done by our partners have improved in the last few years.
MalaysiaSAFE: Can you name some of the prestigious projects you have undertaken?
JL: One of the most significant projects we have done through our SI is TransJakarta in Indonesia. It is an elevated bus way where were installed over 400 turnstiles and controllers at each stations. In Malaysia, during the construction period of the MRT Line, we were involved with Gamuda in providing our barriers and turnstiles system to control the labour force and the trucks transporting building materials. Then we did work on Sarawak’s most famous building, Wisma SESCO, Menara Prudential, Menara Zurich, Wisma Mah Sing, the new campus of UiTM in Dengkil, and Paragon International School in Johor, to name a few.
MalaysiaSAFE: What are the parameters to consider when you are proposing a security solution to your clients?
JL: I think the most important thing is first to secure your entrance. A lot of people usually overlook this part. Usually the first thing they would think of for a security system is surveillance.
But If you can control the entry of the right people into your building, then the security threat for your building is already significantly reduced. Although there is no system that is 100% unbreachable, it is important for the building to have capable personnel to work hand-in-hand with the systems. Just like at traffic light, if there is no regulation that people should stop during a red light, then the whole system will not work. So at the end of the day, technology on its own is not sufficient to safeguard a building. The whole ecosystem involving guards, tenants, building managers and visitors must adopt the culture of being safe and vigilant to maximise what the security system can do for you.
MalaysiaSAFE: MalaysiaSAFE: Being part of the industry, what do you hope to achieve that could influence or improve the security industry as a whole in Malaysia?
JL: What I want is for the improvement of the service and skill level of the installers and technicians within our industry. That is very important because no matter how good a device is, if it is installed badly, the device may not be able to give the full benefit to the customer. Professionalism within our work, that is key. I think during my father’s time, a system can run for at least 10 years before encountering any problems because the way wiring and conduits are installed, all are done properly. Today, too many shortcuts in the work and end-users may not be aware of it. This can happen when everyone competes with a lower pricing. So, when the system doesn’t work, the product gets the blame.
MalaysiaSAFE: What new initiatives have you charted for 2018?
JL: We are moving more aggressively into building security. For the past few years we have focused more on our barriers. So from next year onwards, we will put under the limelight other security products such as our access controls and software. All this, in response to the rising terrorism threats all over the world. We understand that not every building will have the budget to install state-of-the-art security systems, but we are always ready to provide sufficient protection. Ultimately, we want to make good security systems accessible and affordable for everyone, especially in our region.