Indian market has huge potential moving forward: Eric Rondolat

  • In a first, the global leadership team of Philips Lighting met in India last week as part of its biannual “key market visit” exercise. Eric Rondolat, the Dutch company’s chief executive officer, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the trip, where the two discussed smart cities, solar lighting and Make in India initiatives of the government. In an interview, Rondolat, a regular visitor to the country, spoke of the LED (light-emitting diode) revolution, India’s importance for Philips and improving access to electricity in the world. Edited excerpts:

  • Q-The last big thing in lighting was LED. What is the next big thing?

  • A-LED connected. This industry is undergoing two major transformations. Not at the same time but one after another... the first major transformation was to move from conventional technologies to digital light, which is basically LED. That’s a huge transformation that started a decade ago and is now really picking up in all the countries in the world. In LED, you are saving 50% energy compared to conventional.

  • Next to this is another revolution—since the light is digital, it can be connected. So it is not about technology of the light source itself. It’s what that new technology enables in terms of additional value and benefits. To give you a hint, when you have conventional technology you can switch on and off locally. If you want to do that remotely, it is complicated. But in LED connected, you will be able to change the light colour, switch it on and off, dim it or adapt to the moment of the day to ensure that maximum productivity of the place where it is operating. So that is the next transformation.

  • We are launching Hue lamps in India in a few days from now. They are LED lamps and are wirelessly connected. You plug them into your Internet router, it connects wirelessly to the lamp via an app and you are able to fully control it, change the colours remotely and make things happen. It becomes limitless.If you are welcoming your boss at home, you can put a white lamp which will give the impression of a very formal dinner. For Diwali, it could be a lot of colours for celebrations and if you have a party, your light can be according to your music. It’s the same light.

  • Q-Will this connected concept work with street lighting given the kind of infrastructure we have?

  • A-Absolutely. In cases on the street when there is no pedestrian, car or a bike, the light is dimmed down, and when there is activity the light goes up and that generates fantastic levels of energy efficiency.

  • In street lights, we put LEDs, so we make the first transformation happen and on that you plug an equivalent of a GSM (global system for mobile communication) enabling node which will immediately send information to our software. Earlier, in a city when you wanted to commission your street lights, it took months. Now it takes a day because when the pole is energized and connected, immediately it recognizes its geoposition and information is sent back to the backbone. And that works for India. I could go on about the different segments we have.

  • In retail spaces, you put your phone under a light, and you will have on your phone something which shows where you are in the shop and where you can buy your preferred stuff. It will also guide you to available promotions without using any other infrastructure other than light which already exists. So basically, the technology we patented where the light sends a code to your smart device which replies and then geopositions you in the shop. There is a sensor on the phone which helps in capturing the information. It is the most accurate geopositioning but only when you allow it. It is not like other systems where you are tracked. This one is only when you decide to be seen, you are seen.

  • Q-You have transformed your business and introduced an information aspect to lighting. You can deliver hyperlocal news if you want. It becomes a medium.

  • A-You are very right. It is a channel. We believe this business will develop into a business of content. We fully believe in that. And we are guiding the organization towards that objective.

  • Q-How important is the India market for you and how much does it contribute to your overall sales?

  • A-The India operations are today among the top five. There is a direct interest because it is a big market with a huge potential moving forward. It is also a market in which we have done different types of investments. We have invested from an industrial standpoint so we have factories that produce beyond the boundaries of India, we have moved in those factories towards the new LED technology. But we have also invested heavily in India when it comes to R&D. We have two global R&D centres here.

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