SMATE hit the scene in the middle of 2017, the brainchild of Founder and Chief Tech Director Sunny Bhasin. He has set out to disrupt the consumer tech scene by offering well designed, well made, and well-priced technology to Australians.
So, begins a very frank interview with Bhasin. Indian born, he is as Aussie as Gadget Guy Mark II (who in fact originally hails from Canada). Sunny has two engineering degrees, excellent management experience and a fascination with technology.
“SMATE lets me design products I know Australian’s will love at prices that are very competitive,” he said.
In Aussie lingo SMATE is short for Soul Mate. Bhasin says in fact, it is short for ‘Smart Mate’. “We design here and bring best of breed products to Australia offering them online via our website, an eBay store, and GraysOnline to help keep costs down. Prices include free national delivery,” he said.
Its initial range includes active noise cancelling headphones (Gadget Guy review here), on-ear headphones, gaming headphones, sports buds, Smart Android TV (4K in 49, 55 and 65”), Sound Bars and ultimately whatever Bhasin decides is a good thing.
Gadget Guy: Has it all gone according to plan?
Bhasin: Definitely not. We underestimated the difficulty in establishing a new brand. It is the right gear, at the right price, and our users confirm that. But Australians can be fearful of buying consumer electronic items online. To counter that SMATE is based in Sydney offers good warranties that meet Australian Consumer Law, and provide backup service and peace of mind that Australians want.
Gadget Guy: How have sales performed?
Bhasin: Let’s just say they are ramping up but not as fast as our original business plans anticipated. It is all about brand recognition and trust, and that takes time to earn. The media have been very good to us – they like good stories about start-ups and disruption.
Our plans are long term – we believe the start-up phase will be about two years. But that also includes taking the brand further afield as a global online consumer tech supplier.
Having said that providing value is part of our DNA, so we offer a further 10% off to students and pensioners. We live the Australian core value of being ‘fair dinkum’ and have big hearts for ‘giving back’ to the community!
Gadget Guy: Where is the gear made?
Bhasin: We design the gear here, we specify the standards, particularly compliance with relevant Australian safety standards, and use respected ODM (original design manufacturer) in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. These manufacturers assemble for many well-known brands too and have quality assurance and approved ISO manufacturing in place. We would like to see local assembly here, but the economics just don’t stack up at present.
Gadget Guy’s take: From what we have seen so far SMATE products are merchantable quality, fit-for-purpose, visually appealing, and provide a user experience above the price. They are certainly equal to many more expensive brand names.