Asad Saddique is one of those enviable entrepreneurs who admits that at the time he launched his sure-fire business idea, he knew nothing about entrepreneurship and very little about swegway boards aka hoverboards.
However, as we now know, the world is teeming with entrepreneurial 25-year-olds just like Asad, who have a hunch, go with it and end up making a packet.
When London-based Asad stumbled across hoverboards, they were quite literally going up in smoke.
In 2015, a friend of his invested in a consignment of hoverboards from China and began selling online. His venture coincided with the crash in hoverboards, however, when after several reported incidents involving them catching fire, Trading Standards seized 15,000 boards considered unsafe, eBay banned all sales of them and Amazon ceased sales and instructed customers to throw them away.
It would take a fool or a genius to see the potential in such a debacle, but as hoverboards were literally crashing and burning, Asad Saddique saw just that when his friend offered him the chance to help salvage his hoverboard empire. The deal was that, if Asad handled the online sales and marketing, his friend would handle everything else.
The resultant gentleman’s handshake signalled the birth of the company iSwegway – and Asad and his partner are now one of the UK’s largest distributors of hoverboards through their company.
Hoverboards are now part of a burgeoning family of products – which includes swegways, Segways and uniwheels – transforming how we travel. They are basically one- or two-wheel electric scooters and have the added bonus of being the coolest way to get around in the urban environment, says Asad.
As a result, iSwegway’s business has gone stratospheric – leading to the company to becoming a Shopify Build A Business Competition winner, with the once-in-a-lifetime chance to ring the bell on the New York Stock Exchange floor. Asad and his colleague were also wined and dined and taken yachting – as well as receiving world-class business mentoring from the likes of Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, Daymond John.
So how did Asad Saddique go from rags to riches on a hoverboard after simply watching the news one night in 2015? Well, it was a case of fool or genius and it turned out to be the latter.
“Every channel was talking about hoverboards blowing up” says Asad, who suddenly recognised that, as everyone was being told the chuck out their hoverboards, a window of opportunity was closing and he had to get moving – but with limited funds, limited business experience and knowing diddly squat about coding.
Undeterred and convinced he had hit upon a huge gap in the market about to happen, in September 2015, he withdrew $6000 from his savings and got to work. Soon setbacks meant his savings had dwindled – so he did what any sensible businessman would do and took time out to validate his idea before taking any more financial risks. Here is the plan the self-taught Asad Saddique came up with:
– Test And Validate Everything
Using Google’s keyword research and trend tool, Asad determined there was an unmet need in the marketplace, but there was also a healthy level of competition – although not enough to scare him away from cornering the market and taking over the rankings.
Firstly, Asad found an e-commerce platform, opting for Shopify because it was the quickest solution off the peg. Signing up for the trial, he immediately began work and hired freelancers for his website design, while also setting up a drop shipping arrangement.
– Use Common Sense Marketing and Design
Asad knew the basics were crucial and made sure the website had a working phone number, forwarding address, a trust-promoting interface and accessible customer service – something his competitors had not done. For customer service, he set up ZenDesk on the website and customised it.
“I got a lot of silly emails at first,” says Asad. “Questions like, is it safe? How do I reset my board? Stuff like that. But I took all the questions seriously.”
The feedback he got from the questions prompted him to compile a comprehensive FAQ and incorporate some of the queries into product descriptions, which helped long-term with increasing customer service resources, user time on site – a huge influence on the Google ranking algorithm – and increasing conversions.
Asad says clean, bold design is also important.
“As a savvy buyer, I switched roles and put myself in the shoes of the consumer. What would I look for to validate and determine a site’s trustworthiness?”
The result was a corporate-looking Shopify theme, consisting of bright colors and third-party logos such as credit card companies and media outlets.
Asad says speed – appropriately – has always been another big strength of the hoverboard business, as all the initial start-up work was completed in just two weeks, enabling him to capitalize on the media storm surrounding hoverboards by “newsjacking”, in which marketing ideas are inserted into breaking news, creating company credibility, awareness and sales in the process.
– Buy Out Your Competition
On the SEO side, instead of chasing high-competition keywords at first (eg “swegway”), Asad began to optimise for color variations (eg “black swegway” or “blue swegway”) – and coupled with keyword dense but customer-focused copy, the tactic saw the company climbing the rankings over time.
In January 2016, after moving to a third office, Asad decided to acquire a hoverboard blog that outranked his site – even though it was “an old looking site chock full of sloppy text”.
But, as counterintuitive as it sounds, it was left exactly as it was.
“My developer was shocked at the quality of the site,” says Asad.
“He asked me to make a million different changes, but what he didn’t realise is that Google tracks the user, not just the site. If the bounce rate is high (they visit and leave shortly after), it will negatively impact ranking.
“It was an ugly blog, but the bounce rate was low so I left it the same and just linked back to our site on it.”
In March 2016, Asad acquired another site in the niche – an affiliate site that also outranked his site; and just like the blog, he left it exactly the same. The only change was making sure competing links were removed and replaced with links back to his own site.
Asad now sells boards regularly through those two sites now as well. It is hard to believe that, given the almost immediate success of the business, he is entirely self-taught – and cannot even think of any books, blogs or resources to recommend to others. In fact, he admits he was “too lazy” to even read them, nor did he take any one text as gospel.
“A lot of people think there’s one source or magic bullet – one book or blog that will have a winning lottery ticket in it,” he says.
“It’s better to believe in your own choices and take the action instead.”
And the future looks even brighter, with plans for an electric bike – and sales of hoverboards going through the roof, as iSwegway accumulates revenues in excess of $19m.
“Eighteen to 24-year-olds are buying them for their own pleasure and leisure, then parents and grandparents are buying them as presents,” says Asad.
“We’ve even had corporate clients ordering 50-100 units at a time as end of year incentives.”
From hoverboards to infinity
Asad Saddique even believes that hoverboards could eventually change urban commuting and city life, putting paid to the suggestion that hoverboards are just toys or for leisure.
“Yes, it’s a trend and it could die down in the next 12 months, but I also think it’s catching on with something new in a way which could open the door to a new family of transport.”
Electric one-wheel devices are trickier to manoeuvre – and the most popular device sold on iSwegway is a two-wheeled Swegway with a range of 16 miles and a max speed of 6.2 mph, making it a whole lot more than a toy.
The hoverboard industry is also gaining more respectability after the original bonfire of vanities, with a hoverboard council monitoring safety and quality.
The devices start at £280 and can cost up to around £700 with extended range and speed – making them more than competitive with the annual travelcard into London every day. To travel five or six miles to work using a hoverboard would take around an hour, says Asad – with no cancellations, strap hanging or cattle truck conditions.
“It’s definitely an interesting market – really it’s the personal transportation market, especially in London, where people are spending serious money on commuting already,” he adds.
AI, Blockchain and IoT
Asad is already looking ahead to emerging tech, such as Artifcial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain and automated solutions – including the Internet of Things (IoT), which will digitalise millions of ordinary, everyday items in order to collect and process information to make daily life more connected. “I believe with the adoption rate of technology over the last ten years especially, the current generation is connected well enough that it is inevitable they’ll be susceptible to emerging tech,” says Asad.
“Most have high-speed Internet access and a smartphone – this is all that is needed for this generation to adopt tech advances such as AI and IoT.”