By: Jeremy Goldstone
Monoprice may be the best worst-kept secret in tech. If you have put together a home theater system or a computer network and someone didn’t point you towards Monoprice, let’s just say you need to find yourself some geekier friends. Although not as well known as some other retailers, the company has become known as the place to purchase quality cables, home theater equipment, and other tech accessories for pennies on the dollar compared to big box stores, mostly through word of mouth.
The company was thrust into the tech mainstream when CNET said to purchase cables from Monoprice instead of from pricier, name brand sources. Since then, the web retailer has spread into more diverse areas, from wireless routers to Monoprice-branded speaker systems. But who is Monoprice? How do they sell HDMI cables that cost $20 or more at electronics stores for less than the price of a cup of coffee at Starbucks? And most puzzling of all, why is the website called Monoprice, when every product has discount prices for purchasing in bulk?
Monoprice CEO Ajay Kumar
“The website domain came before the concept for the site was finished,” explained Ajay Kumar, Monoprice’s CEO. “Originally, it was going to be more like a dollar store, but it was a good, catchy domain name.”
Kumar attributes the website’s low prices to having a solid business plan and, as he put it, “Not being too greedy.” While most electronics retailers purchase their merchandise from different vendors, Monoprice manufactures all its own products. Cutting out the middle-man may sound cliche, but it apparently works.
As inexpensive as Monoprice’s prices are, you’d expect them to be a fly-by-night operation shipping out of a foreign country. It turns out that most of the company functions out of a massive complex in the Southern California city of Rancho Cucamonga. Everything from product development to shipping is based out of this one warehouse. Even services most people would assume are outsources overseas, such as customer service reps, are all done locally. While most of the product is manufactured in Asia, much of it is still developed in the United States.
Walking through their product warehouse feels something like the ending of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” if you replaced ancient artifacts of unimaginable power with USB adapters. It’s an impressive setup, with a newly-installed robotic conveyor system speeding along the delivery process.
Product warehouse or resting place for the Ark of the Covenant?
Recently, Monoprice has been widening its product line, going from items that are mostly hidden from view, like cables and television mounts, to items more visibly labeled with the Monoprice logo. The company recently started selling 5.1 sound systems, including subwoofers, for under $85, earning solid review scores from various media outlets. Monoprice is getting into other areas as well, such as carrying cases and backpacks, and higher-end items like gaming keyboards and mice.
“We make sure our product managers are experts in the products they work with,” Kumar said. “I’ve worked for a lot of companies where product managers may not even understand the products they’re managing. We’re not going to get into a category where we don’t have any expertise — we always make sure we have the expertise so we have the right portfolio of products for our customers.”
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