Meck Khalf – On his most disruptive venture.
Parents are considered by many to be the best teachers; in the case of Meck Khalf an they were certainly the best examples and motivators. As members of the Chagga of Tanzania, Mr. Khalfan explains
Parents are considered by many to be the best teachers; in the case of Meck Khalf an they were certainly the best examples and motivators. As members of the Chagga of Tanzania, Mr. Khalfan explains that they were great business people. His father was a mechanic while his mother ran a clothing business. As he grew he observed both his parents and their respective approaches to work. His dad was reliable and did his work completely without cutting corners while his mother used a variety of sources to stock her clothing business.
When opportunity presented itself, Mr. Khalfan entered high school for top performing boys in Arusha, Tanzania. At the male only academy he studied the hard sciences such as chemistry and physics as well as mathematics under the tutelage of what he describes as excellent instructors.
Another opportunity presented itself in the form of an exchange student program in 1998. Upon his return from Connecticut he entered the University of Dar- Es- Salaam. He selected computer science as his course of study but his time in the USA had taught him the value of a first rate education and he felt that he would not learn sufficiently at Dar-Es-Salaam because there were not enough up to date units in the computer science department. He then applied and was accepted to University of Massachusetts at Amherst where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Mathematics.
Upon graduation Meck was in an excellent position career wise. Amherst as well as Boston were part of sizeable technology corridor in Massachusetts. He began to work for high net worth clients as a software engineer. His parents always remained in his mind as he took on complex jobs. They were his motivators.
In 2009 he moved to New York City because his wife, an investment banker, was joining a new firm. As he says, life is a team effort and his wife has been his greatest supporter. When he arrived, Mr. Khalfan moved in another direction as an investor in real estate and a bank in Tanzania. Unfortunately, he realized two things: real estate investments require extended time in country and 2009 was not a wonderful year for banks on the continent.
He then tried working on applications for cell phones which led him back to his training as a software engineer. This however did not spark him or motivate him. It was then that an act of nature that opened a new avenue for his creative energies. When Hurricane Sandy struck New York City in 2012, Meck and his family were living on the 11th floor of a residence the Madison Square area of Manhattan. His building lost power as well as heat and hot water. Many residents decamped to hotels or the residences of friends but the Khalfan family simply made do by walking up and down the eleven floors and heading to a Starbucks store on 36th Street and Fifth Avenue where they could re-group and recharge their cell phones. As the phones were their only means of communications, they were being used heavily and they was no reliable way to charge them once they left the coffee lounge.
As with most tech devices, one day nothing exists and the next day the new item has flooded the market. This was the story with portable chargers. When Sandy struck these chargers were not well known and they were certainly needed. Within a short period time a plethora of the portable stick chargers were available in in a variety of designs and colors. The problem was that many were of dubious quality.
This then was Mr. Khalfan’s new project: developing a charger that could truly be relied on. He put together a design and production team. The name puku was chosen for the new product. A puku is an antelope native to the grasslands of Tanzania. The name was selected for its simplicity as well as its unique quality. In addition to the name, a unique curved shape as well as distinctive colors were chosen to help make the product stand out. The charger works well with Apple products as well as other electronics.
What makes this product successful is the vision of its designer. Mr.Khalfan has said there are three main qualities that guide him in the process of bringing a product to market:
IMAGINATION- the product must be visualized in the mind as a successful market item
UNREASONABILITY- current products can always be improved and nothing is indispensable
EXECUTION- you must put together the best team to realize an excellent product; you are not an expert in every aspect of the project and members of your team are specialists, therefore pick the best production team.
The Puku Charger is currently available by mail order from the United States only. It is being selectively marketed at events like Fashion Week, NYC. It has been ordered by customers worldwide. The next step for the device is to place it in specific stores such as the Apple Store, Best Buy or Target.
Meck Khalfan does not know what the future holds. What he is sure of is that whatever he tackles next he will always follow those business principles he observed long ago as a young child in Tanzania.