The Proformac Story: Servicing Taranaki’s technology needs for more than 30 years
Meet Seema and Suman Modgill, founders of Proformac Technologies—which celebrates its 32nd year of operation this year.
Having been part of the fabric of Taranaki’s business community for so long, we caught up with Suman and Seema to hear about the early years, the challenges and the strategies that have kept them in the game for so long and still as passionate as ever.
So, let’s get straight to the meat of it, Proformac started servicing and supplying Taranaki with computers way back in 1989, what’s been the secret for that longevity?
Suman – “Customer experience has always been the most important factor of doing business because reputation is everything. You live and die by it. It doesn’t matter if it costs you money, but it does matter if it costs you your reputation.”
Seema – “The other word is relationships. The bricks and mortar, all these things can be replaced, but relationships can’t. You treat others how you’d like to be treated and you give yourself permission to say that you got it wrong in order to save the relationship.”
Speaking of relationships, how did you both meet?
Seema – “We were both born and raised in Nairobi. In fact, we were born three weeks apart in the same hospital.”
Suman – “When I was 13, my family moved to Taranaki and I attended New Plymouth Boys’ High School. Tennis was a huge part of my life [Suman was ranked among the top juniors in the world] and this took me back to Kenya for a time as a training base.”
Seema – “Meanwhile my family had moved to the UK where I studied German and went on to work in the travel industry for Lufthansa.”
Suman – “And it was on a trip to the UK that I reconnected with Seema. And not long after we were engaged.”
You both came back to New Plymouth, with Suman working at Synfuels (now Methanex) and Seema at Shell Todd, how did Proformac get started?
Suman - “I became the go-to tech guy at Synfuels and started a side-gig of bringing in Macs in the late 80s for customers and building PCs.”
Seema – “We started out in a home office and with the arrival of our first son, Sachin, I would take orders during the day and Suman would fulfil these orders after work.”
That sounds like a bit of a handful. How busy was it in those early days?
Suman – “We often explain to people that we basically have three kids: the two boys (Sachin and Sanjay) and Proformac.”
Seema – “We’d go for hours without eating, we’d just get a Coke and chocolate bar from the dairy and keep working. It was so busy we’d often have computers stacked to the ceiling.”
Suman – “There was no Google at that time, so customers would be on the phone all the time wondering how to get things done and fixed.”
And was that personal service a big part of what you mentioned before with the customer experience?
Seema - “Yes, Suman gave every customer his phone number so they could call him anytime for support or to understand how to use something. The phones were always ringing.”
Suman – “Seema followed up every new computer sale a week after to see how they were going. We prioritised a lot of work that wasn’t paid in order to maintain that goodwill.”
Seema – “The great thing about that is that we’ve got customers who have been with us since day one. It’s very fulfilling. Suman introduced so many people in Taranaki to the benefits of computers. When a new technology like Skype came along, he would take the time to train customers so they could stay in touch with family. We never felt threatened when big retailers entered the market, because we kept our focus on looking after people in Taranaki.”
Were there some other moments that were particularly scary when you were embarking on this new venture?
Suman – “Starting a business while starting a family is pretty scary. But the day Sanjay came home from the hospital there was a huge order faxed through to us, so that actually meant we had to grow and find proper premises.”
Seema – “So we set up our first shop in Merrilands and we were worried it wouldn’t work. But that shop was so busy. At times we could have six or seven people cued up waiting for computers.”
You mentioned customer experience, but has there been anything else that has got Proformac through several iterations and generations of computer technologies and is still as strong as ever?
Suman – “Since then, with the arrival of email and Google, our work is far more streamlined. And we’ve always focused on getting the right fit for the customer. We will only get you what you need. This approach has meant we’ve been able to adapt to each new technological environment. For example, becoming Taranaki’s only Apple Authorised Service Provider in 2020 was a huge milestone for us and reflects how we’ve always aimed to stay educated, certified and on top of the latest technology.”
Suman and Seema continue to run Proformac Technologies as part of the Innovation HQ family of businesses. Ten years ago Simon Singh joined the team and is now one of the directors of Proformac, and eldest son Sachin—a qualified lawyer—has recently joined as Operations Manager.