As Malaysia celebrates Independence Day on 31 August, we look at the history and future of the building where the Merdeka Agreem...
Gliding Along, Hoverboard Style
Entertainment and transportation with a technological twist: hoverboards
Back to the Future II is perhaps the most referenced source when discussing hoverboards, but today’s technology is some distance away from allowing users to glide down streets inches off the ground like Marty McFly. It’s come decently close though, with several global brands investing heavily into the necessary R&D that will make levitating autonomously powered vehicles commercially possible in the future. In fact, in May, inventor Catalin Alexandru Duru set a new Guinness World Record for traveling continuously as a controlling pilot on an autonomously powered hoverboard for 275.9m at heights up to 5m over Lake Quareau in Canada’s Quebec province, ending in a controlled splash-down.
While that gives hope to aspiring hoverboarders, the machines currently on the market are better described as two-wheeled self-balancing rollerboards. Their growing popularity has been greeted by some controversy however, Britain banned their use on public streets, supposedly due to an archaic Highway Act 1835 in England and Wales. While Wiz Khalifa was arrested at the Los Angeles International Airport for reportedly insisting on riding one after being warned it wasn’t allowed.
They aren’t as common a sight in Malaysia but that might be changing soon with reliable supply from the likes of CK Naga. “I have many hobbies and love collecting everything from junk to cool, unique things,” says the entrepreneur. “I noticed few people in Malaysia had them so I bought one, a Smart Wheel Balance, for myself and enjoyed it thoroughly. It occurred to me that since accessibility is limited here, I could allow others to experience the same fun. I decided to bring them in, not with the intention of making a profit, but rather growing the community of hoverboarders – the more, the merrier, after all. Interest was unexpectedly high and all of a sudden, I had ten agents supplying hoverboards.”
Customers range from a six-year-old to a 67-year-old man from Brunei, he says. “I think part of the appeal is that they’re fun and easy to ride, though caution is advised as accidents can – and do – happen. People fall off, which is why we recommend going for a supervised test drive before going out on alone on the board.”
Among his customers, is the family of actress and model Emma Maembong. Her sister discovered CK’s business first and soon most of the family members were dropping by to purchase one for themselves. Zainal Abidin, Dollah Salleh and some players from the Pahang football team, Azhair Sulaiman, Fiz Fairuz, as well as Julie Dahlan and daughter Hanny Harmy are also part of his celebrity clientele.
His earliest stock of 600 pieces sold rapidly so CK brought in another 300. Consistent demand assured him of a stable market so he expanded his imports and diversified the versions available. Today he brings in four variants, priced from RM1,600 for Version 1 to RM2,600 for the latest Version 4. The online business model grants him flexibility in operations and sales pour in from around the country, with customers able to pay via online banking, Western Union or PayPal as well as opt for cash on delivery transactions where available.
“I honestly didn’t expect it to take off the way it did, nor was I ever in it for the money,” he iterates. “I’m a genuine fan of the product myself. I own a Smart Wheel Balance Version 1 in black. I’m a judge for international classic car shows and events in Indonesia and Brunei and frequently attend relevant events there. That’s when I usually bring out the hoverboard, to travel around airports and at the car shows to check out and judge the cars. It’s convenient and fun – it’s no surprise people enjoying riding them.”
By: Rowena Jo Fernandez
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