Yachting Pages spoke to Claire Mercer, managing director from iYacht Support Ltd to see how satellite communication providers survive their competitive industry and to discover what sets them out from the crowd.
Describe iYacht Support Ltd and how it all began?
I have worked in the maritime industry for several years and gained a huge amount of experience to provide my customers an ultimate professional service.
I have supplied communication services to security teams that require military grade handheld devices when working on ships, superyachts, and tankers in piracy locations, I worked with a customer and pioneered bringing to market the Citadel Communications system, which provides crew safety at sea with a complete citadel communications system when their vessel is under attack in these dangerous areas. We went on to supply the leading tanker companies in the world and supported Watkins Superyachts for several years providing communications to M/Y Triple 7 and S/Y Kestrel.
How has iYacht Support Ltd developed over the years?
Our business provides communication systems and airtime services for both the commercial and the superyacht industries. We have recently added extra services to our portfolio to provide our customers with a choice and add value to their requirements. We have included entertainment, security and navigation systems and services. This in turn has led to more customers giving us the opportunity to provide services to them.
What makes you different from your competitors and how are you unique?
I always find this question quite interesting to answer. We are different from our competitors because we don’t have large overheads, and can pass on the best prices and support available in the marketplace without the loss of technical support service. We are unique because of our expert customer support services and we have experience in both the commercial and yacht markets.
What’s new with your business? Are you working on any new developments at the moment?
We have just signed an agreement to supply Navarino satellite airtime services who are part owned (49%) by Inmarsat. We also have plans to launch a new product in 2015 and will supply the infinity solution to our customers, in turn reducing our customers communication spend and providing state of the art reports to assist with the management of yacht and ship communications.
What are the biggest challenges that you face in the superyacht industry at the moment?
Our concern is probably every business’s concern – ensuring that we continue to make enough profit to grow and develop. We like to provide our customers with the best possible price, however, in the future everyone needs to think about communication and IT support packages as systems on board a yacht are becoming extremely high tech and sophisticated. The smarter the technology, the smarter the IT and communications support that will be needed and not all satellite communication companies provide this, so the cost needs to reflect the product.
What is the most bizarre client request you’ve received?
The most bizarre client request was when we first started out, there was no money in the bank and our business credit card was on a £500 limit. A yacht management company asked me to fly out to the Antibes Yacht Show and meet with the owner to demonstrate how we can support their communication systems on board the yacht.
Our profits for the two years of this deal were swallowed up on just a flight and a few light snacks at the yacht show. They had big pockets and didn’t think about our costs - I did the obvious as it was a potential business deal and flew out to Antibes to meet the yacht owner, management and crew - they were most insistent we went, even though we could have held the meeting at their London office.
Bizarre as it sounds, I booked the flight, went to Antibes and delighted we won the business. However, they cancelled the agreement before our costs had been met due to the yacht being sold. I never told them of this situation, perhaps it is a lesson to learn by all. If you are asked a bizarre request make sure it can be financially covered!
Who would be your dream client?
Simply put we would like to supply military spec encrypted mobile phones and communication services to the largest yacht owners in the world!