On November 15th, our Global MBA cohort headed over to Philips Lighting, now known as #Signify, for a campus engagement session. Thanks to the folks over at Signify, we had the opportunity to tour the facility, understand some of the trends in the lighting industry, and interact with company executives from different business units.
What was interesting to note was that a company with a vast history spanning generations of products and home appliances has successfully scaled and innovated to retain market share in today’s age of digital disruption where staying relevant is itself a huge challenge.
So how has this been possible? The reply we got was that Signify invested a lot of time and effort to develop a culture fueled by learning and supports its talent to take responsibility for developing their knowledge.
Once our tour began, it became more and more evident that this was true, as the Head of Signify’s Marketing Team demonstrated each lighting application with in-depth knowledge that could give any technical manager a run for their money!
Signify has established a large presence in the Greater China and Asia-Pacific regions, and its growth in these markets is strongly linked to sustainability. Being an eco-enthusiast myself, I was particularly happy to see that energy efficiency - by transitioning to a carbon neutral company by 2020 - is high on Signify’s agenda. (Fun fact: 87% of their manufacturing waste is recycled).
If you were wondering what exactly Signify does other than make lighting systems, here’s the best part: they’re connected (literally) to every industry, and nearly every enterprise that you could think of. The company’s product-driven approach has also allowed it to innovate to become an IoT (Internet of Things) market leader, which basically means that lights, as we think of them as fixtures in our homes, aren’t just lights anymore. In fact, they’re equipped with sensors that capture data (the most valuable commodity of this era) and can be automated to perform various functions. For instance, when strong haze conditions or rainy weather prevail, “smart” lights can detect when to turn on and off to illuminate the way for drivers and pedestrians.
And that’s not all! We watched a live demonstration of how athletes in stadiums need horizontal luminance to see clearly, while at the same time cameras need to be able to capture their moves on screen. Apart from the use cases of lighting automation that we saw applied to a supermarket, a hotel room and an office space, one of the most amazing innovations that the Signify team showed us was… wait for it… LiFi!
That is correct, #LiFi is internet, but through light. LiFi can transmit data through lighting panels fitted in any confined space, thereby making it a more secure option for organizations like banks that are implicated by potential data breaches. Although some of us were slightly skeptical about how fast and effective LiFi is, we actually streamed YouTube videos using a LiFi USB device connected to a laptop. Lifi speed can go up to 30 Mbps.
Being a market leader with over thirty-three million connected light points, it soon became evident that companies like Signify are racing ahead in terms of product-driven advancements in innovation. As we learned in our Entrepreneurship class, it is important that companies innovate to find the right problem to solve, and sometimes a consumer might not know the problem they have until a solution is presented to them. I thought this learning could be applied directly to Signify’s case because it is using one of the most common technologies known to mankind, to solve multiple problems at the same time, and for different sets of consumers.
In my native country, India, for example, access to electricity is an enormous challenge and kerosene lamps used for lighting emit highly toxic fumes and are extremely dangerous fire hazards. In addition to this, the absence of street lighting generates a plethora of other social and safety issues, particularly in remote off-grid areas of the country. Signify has partnered with the government of India to install solar-powered street lighting in certain states (You can read more about this initiative here) which directly helps fulfill India’s target for rural electrification by 2020.
Overall, I can say with absolute certainty that this was an enlightening session for all of us MBAs. And to the Signify team, that patiently answered all our technical and business-related questions, thanks for having us. And thank you for making a rainy afternoon in Singapore extremely memorable!