When Chin Jiun How was in college, he was an avid gamer. Like many other gamers, he wanted the “ultimate machine” to suit his specific needs.
But back then, he felt that all the mainstream laptops were often underpowered and unsuitable for gaming. Furthermore, the majority of laptops were ready-made and mass-produced, and thus lacked customisability.
Sure, custom desktop builders had already been quite popular at the time. But according to Jiun How, custom laptops were still missing from the scene.
“So, I saw the gap and decided to fill it,” Jiun How said, “And ILLEGEAR was established in 2011.”
Since no one else was making custom laptops, he stepped up
Although Jiun How had an idea, and a good one at that, he didn’t have any experience with entrepreneurship.
But in fulfilling his own specific laptop needs, Jiun How naturally began to provide a wide array of options for high-performance laptop components such as processors, GPUS, RAMs, SSDs, and more.
“I would say that ILLEGEAR was something that first started as a hobby [then] turned into a business,” he explained. “The passion for laptop customisations that stemmed from the passion for gaming and its community really drove and inspired what ILLEGEAR is today.”
With Jiun How building its foundation, the custom laptop company was shaped by like-minded people—hardware junkies, computer geeks, hardcore gamers, and everything in between.
Nowadays, the brand also does custom PC building options, though its focus still lies in laptop customisation.
Navgating a specialised, but not a niche, field
If you’re just looking for a laptop to type up some documents and send some emails, ILLEGEAR’s products are probably not for you.
According to the founder, ILLEGEAR’s target demographic is mainly users who want high-performance systems. But this doesn’t just refer to gamers like Jiun How himself.
ILLEGEAR’s laptops are also supposed to be great for multimedia content creators, designers, and professionals, in general.
If you look at ILLEGEAR’s website, there is quite a wide selection of laptops separated by categories. There are options for moderate gaming, extreme gaming and esports, ultra slim powerhouses, for productivity, and for creators.
“These systems are generally equipped with the latest and most powerful parts for those who require its immense power to meet their heavy-duty demands,” Jiun How reasons. “Therefore, it can’t be considered niche, as many non-gamers also require high-performance systems to perform their tasks.”
On top of this, ILLEGEAR has started to launch more products that target the mainstream market. Their latest product, ILLEGEAR ATOMIC, is an example of such a product.
According to Jiun How, it’s affordable at a price of RM3,299 while still powerful enough for users, plus like the brand’s other products, the ATOMIC laptop can be further customised in terms of its processor, graphics card, RAM, and more.
Competing against big names
While ILLEGEAR claims to be the first laptop customisation brand in Malaysia, there are now bigger, more well-known brands that have ventured into the laptop customisation business.
To him though, the thing that sets the homegrown brand apart is that other brands focus on the general need of the public, whilst ILLEGEAR offers high performance and a wider and more extreme range of customisation options.
But there are also a lot of brands out there that deal with high-performance laptops. Take global names like ASUS’ Republic of Gamers and Dell’s Alienware, for example.
Regardless, Jiun How proudly considers ILLEGEAR to be a worthy competitor of theirs. He takes great pride in ILLEGEAR’s after-sales service too, which he believes is also what makes it stand out from other custom laptop brands.
Based on his own observations, typical after-sale services of other laptop brands aren’t common in Malaysia, even within their premises, meaning you’d have to go to a third party.
With ILLEGEAR, all aspects of customer service and repair can be handled locally by the staff members within the company’s facilities.
“Due to that, ILLEGEAR customers can always check in on the status and progress of their devices,” he explained.
Gearing up for the future
What started as a one-man operation has now become a company with three showrooms and service centres across Malaysia.
However, it hasn’t been easy. Jiun How constantly has to navigate challenges such as issues with the supply chain of computer components.
To circumvent that, the company uses an approach it calls “One-Streaming”, which involves unifying both upstream and downstream business activities.
An example of this in play is when, in a situation where they can’t get stock from their usual suppliers, they will source the specific components locally and assemble them into their systems, speeding up the delivery of the product.
With these strategies in place, ILLEGEAR has grown tremendously since its start, and may potentially be the first local laptop and PC brand to go international.
“We are looking to expand before 2024, but for the time being, we are focusing on the red tapes and logistics for both sales and after-sales,” Jiun How said.
Down the road, though, ILLEGEAR hopes to set up showrooms abroad and grow the brand into a renowned one that Malaysians can be proud of.
Featured Image Credit: ILLEGEAR