... goes back to the early 2000s. In 2001, I (Gábor) came to Budapest, namely to the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, where I started to learn technical informatics. This enthusiasm did not last long, as I was re-enrolled in 2003 as a civil engineer, looking for my own way. At that time (in 2002) I met Mark, living in symbiosis since then. From our young years, we spent almost all the days together, whether talking about nice meals, university parties, girls or other events. In these years, we both looked for our own opportunities, our own way. At that time (2008), we started a joint venture in which we opened our wings, tasted the way being an SME. We've learned a lot from our own experience, and these 2-3 years when being young were great to gain experience.
Mark bought his first iPhone: an iPhone 3G. As being a needy university student, I was just gazing, and also because I didn't understand how it was possible to pay a sum of nearly 200 thousand forints for a phone. At that time, my spending-money was 30 thousand forints, not too much, so it was an incomprehensible transaction for me. But it is a fact that it was a novelty: I looked at it, I tried it, but I didn't understand. Maybe I owned a Sony Ericsson T20 then.
Of course, the big screen was vulnerable, and before Mark broke it (what he never did, by the way), he tried to keep it secure and wanted to buy an iPhone 3G case. Needless to say, at that time, the range of iPhone cases in Hungary was as large as the ability to choose between space walks. I remember that in Westend iStyle, they have offered about 3 types of cases, but only 1-2 of each. There was such lack of supply at that time that no one would ever believe it. Then finally Mark bought in iStyle the more. Classic Collection's slip-on leather case. After a few days, we looked at whether it was not possible to get an ordinary case only in Hungary or was it the case for anywhere in the world. Within short time, we reached the more-thing.com site, which also produced this case, and then we were faced with the fact that they also have 6-7 other types, which you couldn't buy anywhere in Hungary.
A couple of months have passed before anything happened, and then Mark wrote an email to them, asking on what terms could their cases be sold? Within a day, their answer was to send them the amount of each type we need, they will send us an invoice and we shall transfer the sum of the order. Let's transfer it? Just like that? We thought, they do not believe this either. Then, after all, we have compiled an order, then they have sent us the invoice. It was nearly HUF 600,000, of which there were 5 types of cases, 3 for each colour of the cheaper ones, and 5 for each colour of the more expensive ones. Of course, we didn't have the money, so we had to ask for a loan. Mark's father was our saviour. I would say, if he would not help us, we were not on this road now.
We have set up a more-thing.hu web shop quickly (in 2 months) with nice pictures. And 3 weeks after ordering, we were sitting in Mark's room carefully opening the package, being afraid, whether we were taken for a ride and whether everything has arrived safe and sound. It did.
Unfortunately, this was already in mid-December, so we started advertising our web shop at the very end of the Christmas season. We still sold 6 cases until Christmas. Our first customer - who came personally to take over the case - made me so delighted that I handed over my order and forgot to ask for the price. It was unpleasant to call him, but Mark did it for me, and our customer returned to pay the case that day. That's how we went off the road.
In about 3 months, we have sold the first package of accessories, we bought new cases from the money we earned and so on. This is how it went until we collected enough to invest into a new brand that was the US SENA CASES. 2012 was the year when we introduced more and more new brands to Hungary. This year we had so many brands (6-7) that we created a new web shop, iphonetok.hu. By translating the web shop, we sold products to Austria, Germany, Slovakia and Romania. While negotiating with the courier companies to get the best price at the beginning of the delivery, we personally took our package to their depot, sometimes after midnight. It was a period we will never forget. There was a story, when the client ordered a case at 12 o'clock in the evening, and we were still in the office. We packed it quickly, rushed to the depot so that the courier could deliver it at night. The next morning, the customer called at half past nine, wondering how we could do this, as he has barely even ordered it, but the courier had already woken him with the case. He was very surprised and also very pleased. So were we.
After the Christmas season, we had a small financial reserve, which we wanted to invest into another brand. However, this period has set us at a crossroads. We had many customers and many questions came to us on whether we could offer a good iPhone service because their device has crashed, soaked, broken. Of course we tried to help, but we could not really recommend anyone. Then we decided that we might have to try to open an Apple service for servicing issues beyond warranty, as we consider there is enough demand for it.
This year has brought a real breakthrough into our business. We have spent the first four to five months by searching for suppliers and developing the concept of the iPhone Service Buda. The Bölcső Street site was painted and renovated. We walked around our circle of acquaintances to get cheap furniture and equipment. Our idea was that people do not like to leave a service without their phones anymore, because they have more and more personal data on them. It was also a problem that at that time, old-fashioned GSM shops / service shops dominated the market, in which mostly a not trained, less appealing person took over the phone for a repair period of 1-2 weeks. Starting with our own way of thinking, we have visualised what would be the right direction instead. The notion of "open service" was formulated in us, namely, how it would be, if the repair would not be performed behind closed doors, but in front of the customer. We thought that this could give us much more confidence from the customers' side, if they are not afraid data is being stolen from their phone. If everyone sees everything, then there is no lucky bag, just the facts. Of course, this immediate repair requires a sufficient amount of inventory and excellent customer service. The expectations were high, so we decided it would be best to walk behind the counter at the beginning, so that we get first-hand feedback. Of course, the spending was also playing a role in this.
On June 3, 2013, our iPhone service was opened in Bölcső Street, which is known by many as iPhone Service Buda to this day. We started with 1 service technician colleague who has been with us since then, by now as a service manager. The concept of the "open service" was very much appreciated by our customers, this way they dared to trust us the repair and even took a peek behind the scenes. When designing the service, we also took into account that everyone could feel at home. So we moved a living room to the back part, with leather sofas, a Nespresso coffee machine, magazines, mineral water dispensers. Approx. 80% of the fixes are completed in about 20-30 minutes, so many people stay and wait the end of the repairs to this day.
In the meantime, the service palette has expanded to include the entire Apple device family, so we have started to repair iPads, iMacs, MacBooks, iPods ... etc.
The mobile phone service market has already deserved some kind of renewal, so fortunately, more and more people recognize the possibility of service providers becoming more reliable with the concept of "open servicing". At first, we were a bit shocked at seeing market players saying they were providing "real open servicing" or being "the first true open service", but never mind. In fact, everyone is winning by this copying. Both the customer, who can get better service at more and more places, and both the market, which is able to renew and leave behind the GSM shopkeeper style, which is hidden in the underpass of malls, and we are getting a strong feedback from everyone that this is a viable way.
2 years of successful operation, meanwhile, the number of employees increased from 3 to 15, our revenue has doubled, and we repair more than 10,000 devices annually. Then we dared to expand further. We have also started servicing the brands Sony, Samsung, LG, HTC, which the iPhone Service Buda brand did not cover. We were looking for ideas on how this new umbrella brand should be called, making us known throughout the country. This is when the name Smart Clinic popped into our minds. ‘Smart’ came from smartphones and ‘Clinic’ from the word clinic and healing. The perfect name was born by joining these words. From 2015, with leaving the iPhone Service Buda brand untouched (as many already know us by this name), we started to operate under the name Smart Clinic. There's no need to be afraid, the quality just got better of course.
In the same year, we dreamt big, and of course we wanted to expand, to grow, to cover larger areas, because for what else would we be launching a business than for creating something. At the beginning of November, we opened our second service at the Mammut Shopping Centre under the name Smart Clinic Mammut.
The year 2016 was very difficult for us. We could cover our investment from a loan and the rent was not famous for its cheapness either. Moreover, our biggest problem was that we have financially overstretched our opportunities and we had no money left to buy parts. Therefore, although many people came to us, we could not serve everyone, which was not a good message to our customers. What we have always been good at were fast and reliable service, which has started to fade away. We couldn't be quick or of high quality. This period was very difficult for us, and we were scared how we would finance it. If there are no parts, then no repairs, no income, no payment, no employees. It was a vicious circle, of course, upturning people did not experience much of all this. With help of family members and friends, we were able to get through this deadlock. With quite an amount of loans, we started to catch up, while we did not have the energy to develop, improve the service, or renew it. Luckily, we worked with people who stood out for us all the time and were with us in the toughest times.
This year we have partially recovered in financial terms. We had parts, we were able to accept our customers with a growing stock, so we found our way back to repair almost everything immediately. We started to breathe and enjoy the work again. Meanwhile, we won EU support for job creation, and we were well on track. We paid our debt to everyone within a year, so we were able to start working on our dream again.
In May, our 2-year contract with Mammut Shopping Center has expired, so we had to think about how to proceed. Because they didn't want to reduce the rent or even wanted to raise it, we decided not to stay any further, as we wouldn't want to work to have others prosper. We then 2 had months to decide which way to go. That's how we chose District 13, where we found a more sympathetic, more friendly location with the same features as our Bölcső Street Service. We have assessed the reasons why our customers love our Bölcső Street service, and we have created Smart Clinic Pannónia along the same features. Its accessibility is very good both by car and by public transport. There is a car park right in front of the service, so you don't even have to walk much, and you don't have to circle around for minutes to find free parking lots.
We can say that it is a year of calm for us. Finally, we can deal to 100 % with things we are really good at. Namely, maximal customer service in every field. Processes have evolved, everybody knows his job. In Hungary, the best team now works for Smart Clinic. Both in professional and human terms. Due to our inventory, repair times are as short as possible. We can continuously expand our service palette. This year, we will be talking about the proliferation of Huawei devices. Fortunately, better quality parts are available. Our suppliers are getting better and better. The average warranty coverage for all repairs in our service stations is 5.26%. For every 100 repairs, 5.26 patches are returned to us. Our customer satisfaction is above 98%. The proportion of returning clients is 44%.
Nor was this all. By the end of this year, we will reveal another surprise.