Philips Lighting recently announced their intention to change their name to Signify. We chose this name because we realised that lighting has become an intelligent language which connects and conveys meaning.
The company will continue to use the Philips brand in store under the existing licensing agreement with Royal Philips but the name change signals a new approach to lighting in South Africa for our business.
Signify wants to change the way South Africans illuminate their homes, offices and roads.
While the rest of the world has made the move to new technology and Light-emitting diode (LED) lighting South Africans continue to use 20 year old technology, losing out on the energy saving, environmentally friendly and cost saving benefits of LEDs.
Globally, especially in Europe the US and Asia, more than 70% of the industry has moved towards LED lighting. In South Africa less than 30% of the lighting being used is LED with South Africans still mostly using compact fluorescent light (CFL) technology.
While the rest of the world adopted LED two years ago we are still seeing Halogen lighting being sold here. In 2016 the European Union banned the sale of Halogen lights which are even more damaging to the environment than CFL lighting.
Even in Africa our neighbours are outstripping us when it comes to adopting safer and newer technology. Countries like Ghana, which started the shift away from CFL lighting in 2015, have invested billions in LED lighting and reaped the rewards within months of setting up infrastructure.
It is widely accepted that LED lighting is more cost effective but of equal importance is the fact that it helps reduce global warming because it does not emit any heat or harmful gasses. LED bulbs also use 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than CFL bulbs.
LED lighting has revolutionised lighting across the world and in 2014 Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, and Shuji Nakamura were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for their development of blue LEDs.
At Signify it is important to become the custodians of LED lighting and to work in partnership with other stakeholders in the industry, who have a similar stance on the importance of LED lighting as we do, to educate the market about the key benefits of LED lighting.
The more we educate retailers and consumers the faster the industry as a whole will catch up to global norms and standards.
We are taking a three tier approach to transforming the industry.
It starts with convincing key stakeholders – those who are making policy and drafting industry norms, including government and the other stakeholders such as architects and specifiers in construction and design.
We are interacting with them at one on one and global level, educating them and supporting them in kick-starting any initiative where LED lighting can play a role.
The second tier is looking at the different mediums of distribution – the networks through which the goods reach the consumers. More than 70% of the lighting purchases made by South African consumers occur at the more than 3000 retail stores in the country.
I am personally meeting light buyers and educating them about the fact that it is also their social responsibility to start selling LED and make it more visible.
The third and final tier is selling directly to consumers, which will remain the most difficult. Many consumers are stuck in old buying habits and it is only through education and highlighting to them that using LED lighting is the best thing to do from an environmental and social impact point of view that we will be able to start influencing their behaviour.
Success at a tier one and two level however will go a long way in achieving this.
Our aim is to move the market to a 50% LED, 50% CFL split by the end of this year and move that up to 80% LED products by the end of next year.
Once we have more products on the shelf we are hoping to see adoption rates increase and LED become top of mind for the consumer.
Signify also believes that LED lighting is not just about the home or businesses.
South Africa has close to one million street light points and they are all conventional. Many of our highways however remain unlit because of either a lack of infrastructure or a failure of the infrastructure which does exist.
Converting highway lighting to LED lighting will cut costs, increase safety on our highways as LED lights last longer and, if they form part of intelligent system which activates lighting with the use of motion sensors, could end up saving the government millions of rand in electricity costs.
LED lighting could not only serve as a more efficient way to light highways it could also be a way to light them more smartly.
South Africa needs to transform how we light our lives. I have already highlighted how important it is from a cost saving and environmental impact point of view but what is also important is that it will help consumers save money and light their homes for longer periods.
The rest of the world already knows what the future of lighting is it; truly is time for South Africa to come out of the dark and into the light which is LED technology.
By Raja Moudgil Signify, Country Manager, Southern African