Sukanto Aich

CMO, Signify Innovations India Limited (formerly known as Philips Lighting India)

As we start using IOT applications in our daily lives, we met with Sukanto Aich to understand how Phillips is leading the action on the ‘Smart Home.’

Signify is on the forefront of launching some of the most innovative products in the lighting space. Please tell us something about your recent launches.

As the global leader in lighting, Signify has always been a pioneer in introducing new technologies in the fast evolving lighting sector. We were the first company to introduce the concept of connected smart lighting solutions for homes with our Philips Hue range, five years back.

We have recently launched our Philips CeilingSecure LED downlighter in India, focused on the home lighting segment. This innovative Twist & Fit LED downlighter has a modular design featuring a separate LED cartridge that can be fastened into the outer housing installed in the false ceiling of a room. This not only enables easy installation, but also prevents ceiling damage when customers want to replace their inoperative downlighter.

As modern design sensibilities flow towards simple and clean lines, we are also witnessing the emergence of new shapes and forms in the LED bulb category, such as our Philips T Bulb, that we launched last year. This innovative T-shaped LED bulb is the first-of-its-kind in the Indian market, offering a wider light spread compared to a regular shaped LED bulb. It can be installed in an existing LED bulb socket and features a modular angular neck to adjust the light spread direction.

Phillips lighting became Signify a year back. What is the reason for this change of brand name, and how does it affect your marketing and product portfolio?

Founded as Philips in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, we’ve led the lighting industry with innovations that serve professional and consumer markets for more than 127 years. In 2016, we spun off from Philips, becoming a separate company, listed on Amsterdam’s Euronext Stock Exchange.

The renaming of our company was the next logical step in our transformation journey since we became a standalone company in 2016 and will mark another milestone in our rich history extending back more than 127 years. We had to change our company name in line with contractual requirements of the Company Name License agreement with Royal Philips, which requires that we change our company name after Royal Philips no longer has a controlling interest. Following the amendment of the company’s articles of association, the company has changed its name from Philips Lighting N.V. to Signify N.V. and this name change has also been implemented across our global operations.

Signify will continue to use the Philips brand, the most trusted lighting brand in the world, for its products, under the existing licensing agreement with Royal Philips.

The choice of our new company name originates from the way light has become an intelligent language, which connects and conveys meaning. It is a clear expression of our strategic vision and purpose to unlock the extraordinary potential of light for brighter lives and a better world.

We turn light sources into points of data to connect more devices, places and people through light, contributing to a safer, more productive and smarter world. Therefore, we believe that our new name will further shape our company’s profile as both the world leader in lighting and the lighting company for the Internet of Things.

Signify has always focused on innovation, creating new products and services for the benefit of consumers. We spot customer needs before anybody else focuses on and grow in that segment by coming up with groundbreaking and futuristic solutions. In India as well, we study consumer insights closely to design new products and services that suit our customers’ requirements.

Approximately how big is your digital portfolio in India, and what are the most efficient marketing lines for you?

We invest significantly in advertising and promotional spending every year, especially during the Diwali festive season across print, outdoor, TV and digital mediums. Being a consumer brand, we are focused on a wider target audience encompassing varied demographics. Hence our advertising mix includes both traditional (TV) and new age mediums (digital) to reach out to our audiences.

This year we have also invested heavily in media buying around the Cricket world cup. We have also partnered with Star Sports as the presenting sponsor of the Cricket Live Show for the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.

Advertising is more and more around engaging your viewers. In line with that, there is a significant growth in advertising on digital streaming platforms this year, with more and more tech-savvy viewers preferring to catch the action on digital streaming platforms on their phones/smart TV’s, compared to previous years. As a result, we have extended our association with the show Philips Hue Cricket Live across both TV (Star Sports) and the digital platform (with Hotstar).

The buying experience for lighting products is no longer the same as going to the store and picking up the storekeeper’s recommended product. How has Signify innovated on the product purchase journey and experience?

We are now witnessing the next wave of transformation in lighting with the entry of connected and intelligent lighting in homes and offices. Having a ‘Smart Home’ has become the latest urban dream, thanks to the entry of smart home assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home. With evolving urban lifestyles, people are increasingly seeking lighting solutions that can be customized to suit their lifestyle and mood.

In order to convert this growing awareness about smart lighting into a tangible demand, we have been investing significantly in growing our business across both offline and online channels, through our exclusive Philips Smart Light Hubs and with our presence on all major e-commerce portals. The smart light hub replicates actual home settings of a living room, bedroom and a dining room, enabling customers to experience first-hand different applications and recipes of light to suit their requirements.

With an aim to bring our products closer to the consumers, last year we also partnered with Amazon for their Festive Home Sale and showcased the various ways Philips Hue can revolutionize lighting for homes.

How much of your product sales happen online? How do you reconcile your consumer journey from online to offline?

The emergence of online marketplaces has transformed the consumer’s buying experience in India. More and more consumers now seek product information and make comparisons online before making a purchase decision.

The percentage of online sales varies as per industry, for e.g. for mobile phones online sales are very high, whereas for home appliances the percentage would be comparatively lower. At the moment, online sales contribute a small portion of our overall sales, however with increasing internet penetration in the country, we expect it to grow significantly over the next few years. This will be especially true for smart lighting products like Philips Hue, where the target demographic is young, upwardly mobile and already makes purchases online.

Lighting is a visual product and we still observe that a lot of consumers prefer buying lighting fixtures in offline stores. While basic lighting products like bulbs and tubelights can be bought online, consumers prefer to experience decorative and connected lighting products in actual stores before making a purchase decision. We enable this journey through our own website and all major e-commerce portals listing our products, where customers can read all about the product, and with our own exclusive stores called Philips Smart light hubs, where they can experience the product first hand.