Curiosity killed the cat, as the saying goes, but for AMR Intellisys Sdn Bhd managing director Amran Sulaiman, curiosity was also the driving force that made him an entrepreneur.
His interest in entrepreneurship started when he noticed his car vibrating a little more after he started the vehicle and switched on the air conditioning.
You could say the little tremors set off something much bigger.
He founded AMR Intellisys in 2009, a company dealing in automotive electronic product design and other IT-related services.
“I wanted to know about the vibrations and information on the matter not easy available,” said Amran, a mechanical engineer.
Amran had more than a decade of experience working in Japanese companies that manufactured semiconductors, and in local R&D companies involved in biometric equipment.
He also helped to commercialise his findings for one of the companies he worked for.
“With that experience, I was inspired to start out on my own, while seeking answers to questions that puzzled me,” he said.
Amran said, generally, if someone explored the electronics of a car, they would quickly realise that a car was more than an engine, four wheels and a chassis.
After much work on finding a source for the vibrations, he says he realised the problem had to do with a phenomenon called distortion.
“This is common in vehicles that do not have electronic control components — mostly vehicles using engines with carburettors,” he said.
Depending on their strength, vibrations, he said, could damage or shorten the lifespan of other electronic components in a car.
To address this, he developed a device that he named Efas (for Energy, Effiency and Savings) that can regulate the vibrations in 2008.
He used electronic components, including resistors, that were commercially available in the local market, to make the device.
He invested about RM100,000 to produce a prototype.
“The device, when plugged to a vehicle’s ignition coil, regulates the electrical current,” he said.
Seeking further validation of his theory, he approached Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka to verify his theory.
UTeM was initially sceptical about the technical aspects of his idea, he said, adding that this could have been because many thought that everything that needed to be invented had already been invented and it was diffidult to create anything truly revolutionary.
However, in 2011, after two years of testing, Amran said, results were positive.
“The lab tests consisted of measuring the torque and power of the engine before and after plugging in the device. Not only was there a decrease in vibration, there was also an increase in the engine’s performance,” he claimed.
The tests, using dynamometer and other equipment, measured the performance with different Japanese and continental vehicles to ensure the device is suitable for different makes.
He claims the device is able to stabilise the power delivery of the electrical system, improve fuel efficiency, lower the level of vehicle emissions.
For certification and validation of product reliability, he sent the device to Sirim for electronic-products safety certification and subsequently, to Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Automotive Development Centre in 2012.
Following that he went ahead to commercialise the device.
Recalling his earlier days when he visited incubators in Taiwan, Amran said he saw large companies sourcing interesting products and exploring potential collaboration with small and medium-sized enterprises.
“The large companies would tell the SMEs to focus on their invention while they would look after the funds needed by the SMEs,” he said.
Little did he know of the challenges that lay ahead of him at that time, especially when it came to funding.
After challenges getting funding, help came from Cradle Fund’s CIP500 grant.
The money was used to develop the device, which can be easily plugged into a car’s cigarette lighter.
The company also has a variant for motorcycles, though it has to use a different installation method.
“For cars, the Efas device, also plays an audio clip of an Islamic prayer for a safe journey for about 30 seconds. Apart from calming a driver, that period of quiet is also useful to warm the engine,” he says.
The Efas unit also serves as a USB charger and a monitor of the vehicle’s battery life.
He patented the device in 2012.
The product, he said, is distributed via sales agents and over 2,000 units have been sold to date locally, and some 500 units exported in Asia.
Speaking about the invention in his office in Kompleks Otomobil Shah Alam, Shah Alam, where they do testing and some installation, Amran said the manufacturing of the device is outsourced.
To further diversify its revenue, the company also offers IT outsourcing solutions involving documentation and licensing matters for public-listed companies.