Established in 1995, Scancom started from an idea, a garage, and two hard-working brothers who had a goal. Today, they are supplying airtime around the world and keeping businesses connected.
Journals of the World are pleased to confirm that we have collaborated with Scancom to provide a wider reach of communication. We sat down with both the brothers: Kal (Founder/ Sales Director) and Chen (Managing Director), to share their story and to give you an exclusive, first-ever interview…
What is the story behind Scancom?
At the age of 18 I was working for my dad in the clothing business. It had nothing to do with technology or telecoms. But I needed some extra income. At the time, mobile phones were the thing that everyone wanted. And I actually remember wanting a phone for myself but struggling to get my own. I tried various phone shops, but had no luck. It was at this point, I realised that there was a market for mobiles and money to be made.
I displayed a sign on the back of my Fiesta, advertising: ‘mobile accessories available.’ I purchased accessories from market stalls and local shops, added my margins, and sold them to friends and family. Before I knew it, it was generating substantial profit.
An advert was then placed in Micromart, a computer magazine at the time, costing £58 for an advert for 2 weeks. And to my surprise, my phone didn’t stop ringing – for cases, car chargers and accessories!
Before my brother joined the business, after work he would come home to do my invoices and accounting. It eventually got to the stage where it became too much business for just one person. So when the next mobile trade show came around, both of us attended. It was here that we managed to make contact with a supplier who agreed to supply to us directly – no longer did we need a middle man. After taking in all that we had experienced at the show, we walked outside and into the car park. My brother stopped, turned to me and said, ‘All these people in here are making money from cases and car chargers – shall I quit my job?’ I said, ‘Do it then. Quit.’ And the next day he quit his accounting job and came on board!
We both converted our double garage into a work place; I’d be on the road, selling every day, and he would do all the admin back in the office. We worked well together because we are two totally separate characters. If he’s too slow, I’ll speed him up and if I’m too fast he’ll slow me down. If I’m too loud, he’ll quieten me down and if he’s too quiet, I’ll louden him up. And that’s just the way it is.
Our first big order was in Manchester. The order actually came up to £900 (which to us, at the time, was like woah!) But the problem was, the customer requested a 30 day credit on the goods. It meant that we had to fund £900 worth of accessories, for 30 days. I was fine with it, but my brother was in a panic… ‘What if the guy doesn’t pay us!’ I said, ‘I think it will be ok, he’ll pay, he’ll pay.’
When I went to deliver the items, I realised it was a typical, trade wholesaler. I saw that the accessories were being stacked up in piles and baskets. So I asked, “Would you mind if I displayed the accessories for you, in your windows?” They were happy with it. So I took out a cabinet from the back of their warehouse, cleaned it and spent the next 2 hours displaying everything.
Selling accessories became a proper business for him, and he was calling us every other week for some more stuff. Then what happened, was another mobile phone shop opened in Manchester – right next door. They called us and asked if we could work with them, and we said ‘Sure!’ Eventually, we spread to Birmingham, to Bolton, to everywhere! People were actually calling up and saying, ‘Have you got the Scancom branded accessories?’
At the time the next big step was to get a credit card terminal. Today it’s easy to take online payments in a matter of minutes, but back then it was very difficult! Around that time online fraud was high and banks were very reluctant to offer credit card services to technology industries. The defining moment came when the guy from the banks called us to say, ‘Don’t worry, your credit card terminal has been approved!’ This meant that we could now advertise nationally and start doing mail-order.
Once we got to understand the industry better, we grew to such a level that trucks were pulling outside our house to deliver and collect items for shipping. Even the council wrote to us and told us we couldn’t trade from our garage, and hence, we had to search for another place…
We went from a garage to a small rented accommodation, on Bullhead street in Wigston, where we set up our first retail showroom. Although the building did not have retail planning permission, we continued to advertise it as a showroom and attracted queues daily! The council, again, told us that we could not trade from this premise as a retail showroom. Now we were pushed to move, but this time we decided we would buy our own building. So literally down the road, we bought our first boardroom/offices. We also opened the first One2One (later known as T-mobile) retail store, in Leicester High Street. Very quickly, Scancom became one of the most well recognised mobile phone outlets.
It then became transparent that our main focus was business. We partnered with Orange, as their business specialist at the time, and launched the first branded Blackberry centre in the country. In the UK, Salesforce won the SaaS Award which was based on how their software helped companies such as Scancom succeed. And over the next few years we became heavily involved with Salesforce.com, so much so we were asked to speak at several conferences and attend a press interview in London.
3 years ago, we expanded and moved out of our 3,500 square foot Wigston office. We moved into our purpose speced, 10,000 square foot offices at the Meridian Business Park – where we are located today.
We are now pleased to be ending 2016, by announcing our authorised partnership with BT (British Telecom) and recently being awarded the Fastest Growth Award. We aim to keep going and elevate all the Scancom family to greater heights. Looking after our customers, and always creating new and innovative products with our suppliers. This let’s us to keep pushing forward!
Where did the name Scancom come from?
Selling ladies wear in London meant that driving to London everyday became a little bit of an issue. So I went to work with our family company, Scan Computers, with my two cousins Shelly and Nelly Raja – back in my home town, Bolton. At the same time, travelling back and forth to Bolton 4 days a week (in a car that wasn’t, should I say, ‘reliable’), I bought my first mobile phone from a local shop in Leicester, where I lived.
After 18 months working with Scan Computers, selling phones and accessories became my secondary income. Over a beer and curry with Shelly, I asked if I could continue pursuing my way into the telecoms industy. Hesitantly, he agreed on the condition that I retain the name Scan, and hence, the name Scancom Distribution was registered.
Scancom began with selling accessories, that’s why we called it Scancom Distribution. We were distributing accessories around the UK. And at the time when we were a small garage, the word distribution sounded huge!
Starting up, was there anyone who particularly encouraged you and the idea?
A friend, Muno Munshi, who not only gave advice on how to start a business, but also offered the financial support if we needed it. To show encouragement he was the first official Scancom customer. He purchased an item that he probably didn’t want, simply to give me a boost.
We were also very lucky to come across a few people who put their faith in us, and gave us some of the much needed breaks to kick start things. We can’t forget these people and off course our Scancom Family who keep pushing everyday!
For Scancom, what has been the secret to success?
The secret to the success behind Scancom, is the people we have. Whether this be external or internal: family, staff, networks, or customers. Those around the company and especially the Scancom Team, all have a sense of unity and trust.
The Scancom team are not simply our employees, we are like a Scancom family with a common goal. That goal is Scancom – to make it grow.
What has been the greatest achievement?
Our customers. Old and new. To us that is an achievement. To be able to hold onto our existing customers and to continue to grow with new ones.
Being in the telecoms industry for over 2 decades, what has been the biggest challenge for you?
To be honest, we don’t think there has ever been a challenge in those terms. Know why? Because we don’t look at anythng as a challenge – instead we see the opportunity. Not saying that it’s easy. There is an uphill battle every day and things can always go wrong, but we look for ways to turn the challenges into opportunities.
What advice could you both give to young startups or entrenpeneurs?
Make sure you enjoy what you are about to embark on. Make sure you believe in it. Don’t listen to too many people and have confidence in what you are doing. Put all your commitment into it. And remember to keep persisting, because if you lose that then you can lose it all in one go. – Chen, Managing Director
Just do it and don’t look back. Take the first step. And if it doesn’t work, keep trying. Just keep doing it, because if it worked for me, it’s got to work for you.- Kal, Sales Director