Applying engineering to fishing

From his travels to countries like Japan and the US, which are widely known as the ‘haven’ for anglers, Roob sees an untapped space in the local fishing sector

By AFIQ AZIZ / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

FISHING, be it for business or pleasure, will always have dividing opinions from the community.

For one, anglers think that the beauty of fishing is only in the eye of the beholder, and not of the general public. A nonangler, on the other hand, would often label fishing as a waste of time.

From his travels to countries like Japan and the US, which are widely known as the ‘haven’ for anglers, Roob sees an untapped space in the local fishing sector (Pic: DRAVE Fishing)

As for Roob Ganesan — a mechatronic engineer-turned-fishing businessman — those stereotypical mentalities are still there, to which he disagrees.

“What people see is just the action — a guy comes out with a pole and some bait. He throws them out into the water, sits down and just waits for a long time, not really doing anything,” the 34-year-old angler from Klang, Selangor, said.

Roob may hold such a strong opinion as he had taken a drastic decision, which was selling his own house for RM2.3 million, just to raise funds for his fishing venture.

Would We Even Get Fish Today?

A popular Malay proverb “kais pagi makan pagi, kais petang makan petang”, or simply translated as “living from hand to mouth”, illustrates a fisherman’s struggle of putting food on the table daily.

This has been fishermen’s struggle for many generations: A man out at sea with just one mission, but will he catch any fish today?

Even for sports, although less stressful, the purpose is the same and it is a long and hard learning process, Roob said in an hour-long interview with The Malaysian Reserve, surrounded by several rods neatly placed in his office.

“First, we must know that there are many types of fishing, such as saltwater and freshwater fishing, bait fishing, surfcasting and lure casting. Each of them uses different equipment,” he added.

“Lure cast is more like hunting. You must hunt for the fish. It is not like you go to a place randomly and wait for the catch. For example, in baitcasting, there are so many varying factors you cannot control, such as the weather, the fish type, the type of bait used, the time — day or night — and the barometric reading as well as temperature.

“This affects the fishing process, but his (the angler) experiences from the unexpected are what make him learn and start thinking strategies.

“He won’t give up today from yesterday’s failure. Instead, he would go home and think about how to improve tomorrow. He goes out the next day to try out the alternatives and find out what works,” Roob said.

“So, imagine the amount of thought that goes into fishing. And what runs through the angler’s mind when he throws in the bait — will a fish bite today?”

This, Roob said, is what makes anglers, such as himself, very patient people.

Kampung Boy With a ‘City’ Vision

Roob’s grandparents settled from an outback in Pengakalan Hulu, Perak — a town formerly known as Kroh many years ago. It was just a few kilometres away from the Malaysia-Thailand border known as Betong in northern Perak.

In 2015, Roob decided to fully commit to the fishing industry to become an entrepreneur and left a five-digit monthly salary job in the oil and gas industry.

He spent RM200,000 in the beginning, and it took just a year for him to enter the foreign market, which is South Korea.

From his travels to countries like Japan and the US, which are widely known as the “haven” for anglers, Roob saw an untapped space in the local fishing sector.

“Although Malaysia’s fishes are different from the US and Japan, the equipment used there could be applied to the local scene with some modification and upgrades,” he said.

However, modified products do not give 100% satisfaction to anglers.

“It’s like we drive a modified sedan into the jungle instead of using a proper four-wheeler. It is doable but does not really fit the purpose. This is where I see the void and the opportunity. So, I started designing,” Roob said.

His company, Drave Fishing Sdn Bhd, was inspired by the word “Brave”. Roob unveiled his first product that maiden year when he produced his own brand of handle knob. “It’s an accessory to customise your fishing equipment, just to make it unique. There were only two primary brands in Japan that offered such an accessory. They were, however, too expensive for Malaysian anglers, while I offered more than half the price offered by the overseas suppliers,” he added.

He also started networking with Malaysian providers of computer numerical control mills — a computer-controlled cutting machine related to the hand-held router used for cutting various hard materials, including aluminium, steel, plastics, glass and foams.

Engineering in Fishing Explained

Currently, Drave Fishing primarily equips freshwater fishing, under the genre of lure casting.

Still at its infancy stage, the mechatronics engineer is applying his knowledge to make a variety of fishing products.

These days, fishing equipment is high-tech. As such, quality is not a concern anymore, but anglers want to see what innovation you can offer to ease their task, says Roob (Pic by Muhd Amin Naharul/TMR)

“These days, fishing equipment is high-tech. As such, quality is not a concern anymore, but anglers want to see what innovation you can offer to ease their task. For example, to cast a lure, one must be equipped with an aerodynamics system which will not be affected by the winds. The rods must also be light enough that it does not tire you out.

“This type of rod must come with a more agronomic system, more balanced, so the angler can fish longer in a day with more focus. This will complement his skill and capability,” Roob said.

Explaining one of his latest rod designs — which has a dual function, Roob said the equipment allows the rod to extend up to six inches.

“The river mouth is a very wide area, so you need to cast further, but you could lose accuracy towards a certain extent. As you go further down the river, it gets narrower and you can’t swing the rod as much. When you need a shorter rod, just pull it back inside by six inches,” he explained.

Each model has a different length range and strength.

Roob has set a target to produce one product each year to ensure that every cent invested makes a worthy return. “So far, I’m on track.”

Giving Up a RM2m Home for Fishing

In 2016, just a year after seeing a fair take-up of his handle knob, Roob was determined to take a step up the ladder. He sold his most valuable asset — his house.

“It was sold for RM2.3 million, all of which was pumped into my business.

“I took the risk because I saw a long-term vision. I started the business from home, moved to a shop lot, and eventually to a bigger warehouse. And this is where I am right now,” Roob said, pointing at his new 7,000 sq ft shop lot in Klang, Selangor.

Soon, Roob is expected to acquire the space next to his current shop lot.

Some gear stored at Drave Fishing. There are many types of fishing, such as saltwater and freshwater fishing, bait fishing, surfcasting and lower casting. Each of them uses different equipment (Pic by Muhd Amin Naharul/TMR)

Recalling his own determination, he said: “I couldn’t believe it either, but this is also attributable to the Malaysian anglers — they believe in Malaysian products. This is what keeps me going.”

Roob now imports raw material from China before submitting the designs to a factory.

He has given himself 10 years to manufacture his own rods and fishing equipment. Roob’s resilience in the corporate world is not only derived from his engineering capability but also the character he developed through fishing — patience.

Drave Fishing’s products have penetrated South-East Asian markets like Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore, which enjoy a greater market size compared to Malaysia, with about one million anglers.

Roob managed to get a South Korean dealer to promote his product through social media.

“Words spread very fast through that channel.”

As of now, 60% of Drave Fishing’s equipment are meant for the foreign market, with Asia, the US and Australia in the expansion plan, aiming to increase the export scale to 80%.

Still the ‘Kroh’ Boy

Roob still frequents fishing havens, both locally and across borders. He also spares some time for conventional fishing in his hometown, where he started about 25 years ago. He still retains the old “Perakian” accent when he says “Kroh”.

“My first catch was not even fish, but a freshwater turtle. However, this was when I really started to learn about fish, like the snakehead.

“Until today, I still fish the conventional way, which is with a pole and aligning a hook with bait — either worm or frog — and go into the drains at plantations in the middle of the night to fish,” he said.

(Pic by DRAVE Fishing)

Roob also fishes alone in remote areas like Brazil and Papua New Guinea which give him inspiration, either for business or life in general.

He believed that Malaysian’s angling sector has what it takes to grow into a big industry as it already has a strong foundation with about five million anglers in the country.

(Pic by DRAVE Fishing)

This, plus the engineering skills that Malaysians have, could help the country become one of the main manufacturers in fishing products and equipment, Roob said.

“People always look towards Japan and the US when it comes to purchasing fishing products. I believe we should move forward to support our local products.

“I believe in the spirit of ‘Malaysia Boleh’ and I think it is high time for the angling industry to move forward with the existing support from the local market,” he concluded.