Four years ago, VoodooPC was making a modest profit, but it was a rather rudderless company, ambling on an avenue of anonymity. Suddenly, VoodooPC's revenue grew 40 percent per year; the computer industry garnished the company with awards; and now, when PC publications rate computers, VoodooPC is compared to giants like Dell and Gateway. Given the company's name and success, one wonders if the founders have been sticking needles into dolls resembling the interns in the Dell commercials.
Ravi Sood, CEO of VoodooPC, laughs. But instead of poking holes in that theory, he admits their boardroom is home to some voodoo dolls. And just as you start to worry that you haven't seen that "Dude, you're getting a Dell!" guy in some time, Ravi, 33, says the dolls, bongo drums and other items foster creativity during brainstorming sessions and are a nod to their company's namesake.
OK, sure, we'll buy that.
People have been buying VoodooPC's PCs ever since Ravi joined the company his brother, Rahul, started in 1991. When Rahul began VoodooPC-named for artifacts their mother had brought home after a visit to Africa-it designed Web sites, sold hardware, developed software and even set up computer networks. But by the late 1990s, the company seemed directionless, so Rahul sought the counsel of his business-minded brother, Ravi, who was working in real estate development at the time. Ravi joined VoodooPC as its CEO and helped refocus the business, which today has sales of $20 million. (Rahul, 31, is now president and CTO.) Today, the company boasts a staff of 30 in its Calgary, Alberta, headquarters; a roster of three in New York City; and an IT staff of seven in Bangalore, India. It also outsources to an R&D team in London.
The best public relations has been the slew of awards that VoodooPC has collected from magazines like PC Gamer. Ravi made sure the company competed for every award available, understanding that each would bring better recognition than any self-serving prose they could slap on an ad. He also shed most of VoodooPC's markets to focus on developing Web sites for big-name companies. In particular, the company also wanted to develop high-end computers, usually aimed at gamers, that carry an average price tag of $5,800. And these computers have personality-painted with an automotive finish, in colors chosen by the customer.
"A lot of computer companies brag about efficiency, that you'll get your computer in three or five days," says Ravi. "We brag about how much time it takes." Which could be two weeks to 30 days, averaging 100 hours spent on each computer. Ravi explains that they put computers together not unlike the way the Japanese revolutionized the auto industry in the 1960s, when they showed that a good car wasn't just about horsepower, but also about factors like the chassis and suspension.
"Ninety-eight percent of people still gauge the quality of a computer by its processor," laments Ravi, who says VoodooPC specializes in making the entire computer special. "We've never made the same computer twice." Maybe they are using voodoo.
Geoff Williams is a writer in Loveland, Ohio. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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