A Not So Average Startup: Khalid’s Computer Solutions

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A headphone jack that doesn’t work. A fan louder than a bus honking on Galle Road. A little under 6 minutes until the login screen appears. These were the issues that plagued the laptop of my colleague Mazin. In the 5 years since he bought it, he hasn’t serviced it once. As we searched on Facebook, we found a place that many swore they felt like they got brand new laptops after a service. This place hidden in the middle of Dehiwala was Khalid’s Computer Solutions.  

Opening it up to witness the horrors inside

Walking into Khalid’s Computer Solutions, my first impression was that this is just another laptop repair center. However, it was the attitude of Khalid Slamath – the founder of Khalid’s Computer Solutions that put my mind at ease. From the cheerful face of Khalid to the staggering number of laptops that crowd almost every inch of the shop, my immediate thought was, “This guy knows what he’s doing.”

Khalid’s Computer Solutions | Startup
Khalid Slamath – The man behind Khalid’s Computer Solutions

Despite the cramped space inside Khalid’s Computer Solutions, Khalid’s actual workspace is quite well organized. Tools such as precision screwdrivers, a hairdryer, headlamps, and tubes of thermal paste surround his table. But amidst this chaos, everything is in its place as Khalid attends to every laptop personally.

Khalid's Computer Solutions
Its chaotic but everything is in its rightful place

Once we gave him Mazin’s laptop, Khalid’s first course of action was to take it and smell the ventilation grills. Sniffing it, he deduced that Mazin spent a lot of time on his laptop, living near the roadside, and ate his meals while on the laptop. Surprisingly, he was right about all three points.

Khalids Computer Solutions | Startup
Khalid sniffing around Mazin’s laptop to see what the problem was

And then, he grabbed his trusty screwdriver. In a little under 5 minutes and 40 seconds, Mazin’s laptop was completely taken apart. Inside, we found 5 years of dust, gunk and other icky stuff that had collected around the motherboard, vents and even on the keyboard of the laptop.

Khalid's Computer Solutions
Some of the horrors that Khalid witnesses on a regular basis repairing laptops

As shocked as we were by the amount of dirt, Khalid merely shrugged saying, “I’ve seen worse.” His Facebook posts prove it. On average he services 8-9 laptops per day. When servicing these laptops, he has found everything from dust to cobwebs, fingernails, cockroaches, ants, and even puke after one client got a little bit too tipsy.

The chemical bath

Having taken everything apart, Khalid retreated to the chemical room behind his main work area. Here, he washed the housing of the laptop along with the heat pipes, ventilation fans, and even the motherboard. Did it work? Well, the picture below should answer your question.

Khalid's Computer Solutions | Startup
Clean fans are the first step in having a cool laptop

These are the results of a chemical wash.  In case you didn’t know what that means, a chemical wash literally washing all the components of a laptop in a mixture of chemicals. According to Khalid, the special mix he uses, which he calls his “magic potion” took quite a while to be perfected. Once he had got the ratio just right, he first tried on his own laptop and was thrilled to see it working like brand new.

Having cleaned everything, Khalid was now ready to put things back together again. Using meticulous precision and care, he deftly put Mazin’s laptop back together. He even glued back a piece that had broken off the main body.

Khalid's Computer Solutions | Startup
Putting everything together and giving the laptop a good wipedown for good measure.

Once everything was put in place, Khalid made use of a microfiber cloth to clean the keyboard and display of the laptop. In a little under an hour and a half, Mazin’s laptop was taken apart, given a thorough clean up with a chemical wash, and put back together.

And then when we turned it on, it went to the login screen in just 30 seconds. We were flabbergasted as it previously took a little under 6 minutes. While we stood, open-mouthed, Khalid just grinned and said. “Is that fast enough for you?” Indeed it was. The legends on Facebook were true.

But who is Khalid?

Khalid’s path to where he is now is filled with twists and turns. He studied at Lyceum International School Nugegoda. While waiting for his A/L results, he began working as a laptop technician to bide time. He started his own operations in laptop repairs under the name of Dimension X Computer Technologies. Even so, most people who came to him knew him primarily as Khalid.

Afterward, Khalid’s resume lists a variety of experiences. He worked at Royal Mail Pvt Ltd as a Sales Executive. He worked at Delifrance as a Steward and Barman. He was the Head of Sales & Marketing for Electronics Division at Richard Pieris. And so much more.

Khalid's Computer Solutions | Startup
The days of a young Khalid (image Credits: Khalid Slamath)

Amidst all this, Khalid was still repairing laptops. His clients were mostly his friends who told their friends and so on and so forth. There was no advertising or social media promotions. It was just word of mouth. This was the unofficial start of Khalid’s Computer Solutions. And as word spread, he soon hit the big leagues.

One day, Khalid was asked to repair the laptop of a high ranking member at the Maldivian High Commission. On her recommendation, a number of high-end clientele started approaching Khalid to repair their laptops. This list of clientele includes foreign diplomats, members of parliament, company directors, and many more that he serves to this day.

Khalid's Computer Solutions | Startup
The early day of Khalid’s employed life (image Credits: Khalid Slamath)

But in those early days, these clients approached him for a specific reason. They were wary about handing over their laptops to untrusted third parties for repairs. As this was during a time of turmoil in Sri Lanka due to the civil war. Furthermore, their devices contained sensitive information. They needed someone they could trust.

So they asked their friends and the name they got was Khalid. Once these clients saw what he could do, they were impressed and stuck with him. But while his clients paid him well, he wasn’t allowed to reach a wider customer base due to the sensitive nature of his work.

The birth of Khalid’s Computer Solutions

One day, one his clients offered Khalid a big break. He got an offer to move to Fiji and work as a Product Trainer. Khalid jumped on the offer and moved to Fiji. While working in the Pacific islands, he graduated from the Fiji National University and became a lecturer. At the same time, he also became qualified as an outboard expert for speedboats and jet skis.

Khalid's Computer Solutions
Khalid also became qualified as a speedboat technician (Image Credits: Khalid Slamath)

Khalid worked in Fiji for almost half a decade. Everything was going well. But then disaster struck. In 2013, Khalid’s father suffered a fatal heart attack. Khalid literally dropped everything and hopped on the earliest flight back to Sri Lanka. Once he came back, he was forced to make a difficult choice.

His employers back in Fiji were eager to have him back. They even offered him a month of paid leave. Thus Khalid was forced to ask himself whether to take the job he loved or stay with his family? It was a tough choice but Khalid tells us, “Family is everything.”

Khalid's Computer Solutions | Startup
The iconic name board outside his parent’s home where Khalid decided to setup shop

So after a short break, Khalid approached his old clients, messaging them personally. He asked if he could offer his services but this time to the general public. They all gave him the green light because the war was over and security was a lesser concern.

And so Khalid officially registered his company under the name of “Khalid’s Computer Solutions”. Afterward, he set up shop on the top floor of his parent’s house. This he says was a wise decision because not only did he not have to pay rent but he was also close to his family.

The journey thus far

Since it was set up in 2013, Khalid’s Computer Solutions has come a long way. This is evident by the sheer number of laptops that you see as soon as you walk into the store. Khalid describes this chaos as saying, “Most of the time all my appointments are always fully booked. So there’s always a queue in line waiting.”

Furthermore, in addition to its operations in Sri Lanka, there’s a branch of Khalid’s Computer Solutions in Bangkok as well. It wasn’t easy to register his business in Thailand, but Khalid had a purpose for this. He wanted to ensure people were able to buy laptops with original components.

Khalid's Computer Solutions | Startup
Khalid expanded to sell laptops sourced directly from the manufacturers in Thailand

Thus, after signing up a major blue chip IT Store in Bangkok he was able to directly source laptops from manufacturers. Additionally, he also maintains a stock of components obtained from Thailand for individual laptop models. Of course, he has plans of expanding the business further. But right now, he’s taking things a bit slow while waiting for the right time.

The importance of family

What might surprise many is that for Khalid the most important thing is not how much money his business makes. Instead, he focuses on building the trust and maintaining a strong relationship with his clients. Because to him, they’re not simply clients he says, but they are his family.

And this was the philosophy he adopted when Khalid’s Computer Solutions was born. Speaking to people, Khalid heard horror stories when they gave their laptops for repairs. These stories showed him that there were many cheats and liars in the market looking to make a quick buck. Thus, he decided to simply be brutally honest with his customers.

“It’s not about the money. It’s about maintaining a family. It’s about love, honesty, and respect” – Khalid Slamath

To that end, he installed glass panels in his office. It was through these panels that I witnessed every step Khalid went through to disassemble and reassemble Mazin’s laptop. Of course, he does keep his chemical room private. But as we see him walk inside with a safety mask, the reasons for this privacy are obvious.

Khalid's Computer Solutions | Startup
You can be next to him or see his work through the glass panels. Khalid keeps an open book

Through this transparency and honesty, he has built a large family of customers. And it is this family that makes him known across Facebook. Yet some have criticized him for “exposing” his work. Khalid’s reply to such comments was simply, “I like what I do. I like to expose the truth.”

“Every laptop tells me a story. I just have to listen to that story” – Khalid Slamath

As we prepare to head out of Khalid’s Computer Solutions, Khalid gets a call from a client. Despite the tiredness etched in his face, he answers the call with the great enthusiasm. We hang back just long enough and we see the client happily come and collect their recovered laptop.

This enthusiasm proved that to Khalid his family at Khalid’s Computer Solutions is everything. To quote the Disney movie Lilo and Stitch, “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind”.

An important lesson in entrepreneurship

As we left Khalid’s with Mazin having a refreshed laptop, we were reminded of the definition of entrepreneurship. Khalid had identified a problem in the community. He found that people didn’t have anyone they could trust to repair their laptops. He then set about solving it better than anybody else by simply being honest and transparent.

Even as others have attempted to imitate him, Khalid shrugged them off saying, “Let them copy me. None of them ever survive more than 2 months.”

And without wasting time hunting for funding like many startups do today, Khalid simply set out to do what he loves. And this really, is what’s known to set Khalid’s Computer Solutions apart from everyone else. In the end, there is a clear difference between someone putting their heart and soul into doing what they love, and someone trying to make a quick buck.

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