Taking a chance on tech

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Above: Vasha Mano, Idris and Meera Raja (centre, in yellow) confer on the floor of the first Tech Expo on Sunday. All photography by Mark Lyndersay.

BitDepth#1054 for August 16, 2016

Idris and Meera Raja were sweating and walking briskly back and forth on a quiet Sunday morning as tables are being covered with crisp cloth, and goods are carefully unpacked from dozens of cardboard boxes.

It’s the first of four Tech-Expo events that the couple, working with sleeping partner Vasha Mano, are introducing to the local market and with steady rain and competition from the Olympics, the couple are visibly nervous about their first event in Trinidad.

The four events began at the Woodbrook Youth Facility on Sunday, and the others are scheduled at various key cardinal points in Trinidad over the next three weeks.

They’ve walked a long road to the popular community centre from their participation at weekly Sunday fairs in the UK and their positive experiences there informed the decision to take a huge gamble on the success of the Tech-Expo series.

Idris Raja is a computer technician and in England, he bought insurance salvage computers by the thousands, repairing the systems that could be returned to service and stripping the others for parts.

When he came to Trinidad, he found none of the support systems that made that business possible and had to import many critical parts.

“In Trinidad there needed to be a marketplace for technology,” he said. 

“There should be a weekly event happening somewhere in the country where people can try out new products and vendors can see where there’s interest and plan their purchasing accordingly.”

It seemed a sensible idea, and the team began planning in April, first cobbling a name together out of their initials, those of one son and a pet.

“Things aren’t as easy as they seem,” Meera Raja said, more than a bit ruefully, “and I take my hat off to people who do this kind of thing.”

“The vendors though, are such wonderful people to deal with.”

“Advertising was the biggest cost. We did electronic billboards, two weeks of ads. We aren’t going to make money off the first four or even the first eight, but we do plan to make money. The first thing, though, is to build a community.”

“There’s no way we’re making our money back,” her husband agrees, “but it’s a chicken and egg thing. You have to do it so people see that you’re serious and that you deliver what you promise.”

“It was meant to be just one little show,” Meera Raja explains, “but when we looked at the costs, it made more sense to just work on doing the four as a series.”

The event on Sunday offered hard driving music from key sponsor Slam 100.5FM and a range of products, many only tangentially techy, like comics and genre toys and books and some completely unrelated, like costume jewelry and Trini rocks, stones painted with witty sayings.

“I’m the wife of a techie,” Meera Raja admits, “and I can’t swoon over a graphics card for half an hour, so I wanted stuff that would appeal to everyone.”

“When people come, especially on a Sunday, they come with their families and we wanted it to be a complete experience.”

The next Tech Expo event is on August 28 in Chaguanas. Next week’s event in San Fernando has been rescheduled to a date and venue to be announced. Visit the project’s website for up-to-date information.

Photographs from the Tech Expo setup last Sunday morning…