Enterprise
Neutralising environmental pollutants
Calyn Yap 
The pollutants in the air represent only a small percentage as the majority are trapped on surfaces, which is something that air filters cannot eliminate, says Tham
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MOST homes are rife with pollutants and contaminants that are not just airborne. In fact, they also bind to surfaces such as furniture and walls, which makes it hard for conventional air filters to clean.

It was Medklinn International Sdn Bhd co-founder and director Peter Tham’s childhood experience that led him down the path to creating technology for air and surface sterilisation.

As a child, Tham suffered from severe sinus rhinitis, which is why he describes his childhood as his “lost years”. Many years later in 2005, he – along with another co-founder – established the company capitalised at RM8 mil, with a single consumer product that provides relief for many sinus sufferers.

Over the last 11 years, it has continued to invest in research and development (R&D) while at the same time developing innovative solutions for the home, car and industry.

Today, the company also has solutions for hotels, food and beverage outlets, corporations, educational institutions and food manufacturing plants. Medklinn International was awarded R&D Innovation certificates from 1-InnoCERT in 2012 and this year.

The 1-InnoCERT certification programme, initiated by SME Corp Malaysia, is aimed at fostering innovative enterprises through harnessing and intensifying home grown innovations and R&D.

 

Understanding air sterilisation

Its core product is in air and surface sterilisers with Asens+, which is driven by Medklinn’s patented Cerafusion technology. Designed to run continuously 24 hours a day, it generates active oxygen – a combination of negative ions and controlled levels of ozone – to effectively eliminate airborne and surface-bound pollutants.

The negative ions emitted by the device bind to airborne particles removing them from the air by settling them to the ground and together with controlled levels of ozone, eliminate bacteria, viruses, mould, dust mites allergens and toxic substances.

As such, it claims it can reduce sinus and allergy symptoms, risk of infection, offensive organic odours and harmful effects of tobacco smoke.

The company has three core products providing the same function for homes, with the only difference in the area of coverage, which range from 200 sq ft to 600 sq ft.

A plus point is that the device requires minimal maintenance, as consumers would only have to change the internal Cerafusion cartridge once a year. That said, they still have to wipe it clean every few months to ensure optimal performance.

The device requires minimal maintenance, as consumers would only have to change the internal Cerafusion cartridge once a year


Building a business

As with any company, Tham faced challenges in growing the business, the biggest of which were related to people and funds.

“We found it difficult to attract good quality people as we were not well-known, so we spent a lot of time training and nurturing the people we hired. As we progressed, we became more selective in whom we hired, ensuring they possessed the necessary skills, experience and values,” he explains.

When he started Medklinn, it was only with an idea and the company had no product to sell or any customer to sell it to. This meant it had to be very careful in making decisions on what it spent on and when.

He says, “We became very resourceful and most of us had to multitask. I had to dig into my personal resources to fund the growth of the business.”

The one lesson he has learnt over the years is that finding and nurturing the right people is the key to building a successful business.

 

Gaining traction

The company has been running on internal funds and are starting to realise some profits, but is continuing to invest heavily into R&D and opening into new markets, which is why it tries to keep its operations lean.

Medklinn does not focus on manufacturing but works with suppliers and manufacturers that are professionals in their field, while it focuses on technology and product development.

Realising the importance of having good and reliable products to sustain the business and grow the company further, it is stringent in selecting suppliers or manufacturers.

“We select suppliers or manufacturers that are credible and have excellent quality practices such as ISO 9001 and our products must fulfil international standards such as the CE certification,” he adds.

In terms of exports, Medklinn has a presence in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Myanmar, as well as Hong Kong and Macau. It has just started growing its exports, which currently represent about 20% of its revenue, but Tham has hopes to increase that figure to at least 50% over the next three years.

This year, its focus is on the consumer market and it has aims to increase sales by 40% by the end of its financial year.

Moving forward, the company wants to expand its geographical footprint and to do so, it will be focusing on building a stronger online presence.

Battling negative perceptions

INDOOR air is about two to five times more polluted and may be over 100 times worse than outdoor air, says Medklinn International Sdn Bhd co-founder and director Peter Tham. The pollutants in the air represent only a “very small” percentage as the majority are trapped on surfaces.

At the same time, humans breathe approximately 2,100 and 2,400 gallons (8,000 litres and 9,000 litres respectively) of air each day, which is why he believes clean air is something they are all entitled to.

“The sterilisation process renders allergens, pathogens such as bacteria and viruses, moulds and pollutants harmless in the air, but most importantly also on the surfaces.

“Most of the harmful pollutants are actually on surfaces of your floor, tables, sofa, curtain, bedcover and so on. Filtering the air does not eliminate them,” he says.

The active oxygen generated by the company’s Cerafusion technology for Asens+ is a combination of negative ions and ozone. When it comes to talk on ozone, the public has several misconceptions that it’s something bad.

According to him, there’s a key difference between “good” and “bad” ozone. While the former is found in the upper layer of the atmosphere called the stratosphere, the latter is found in Earth’s troposphere, which is the layer closest to the ground commonly known as smog.

“‘Good’ ozone is the type produced by Medklinn’s air and surface sterilisers, at controlled levels and meets EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] guidelines.

“Have you ever noticed how fresh the air is after a thunderstorm? This is because ‘good’ ozone is being produced, which is actually Mother Nature’s way of cleaning our atmosphere,” he explains.

Educating the public on indoor pollutants and the most effective way to eliminate them remain its biggest challenges, as he says most people are familiar with air filters but have little idea what Medklinn’s air and surface sterilisers do.

To educate them, the company invests “significantly” in marketing materials including brochures, videos and through its website.



This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 259.