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Our Next Big Focus Area Is Li-Fi, Says Signify’s Maria Latizia Mariani

Using light wave instead of radio wave has a big potential in India from the security point of view as with a light wave, there is no way to interfere with communication, Maria Latizia Mariani, global head of strategy & chief marketing officer, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), tells Shubhomoy Sikdar.

You plan to make every device that you sell either connected or connectable by 2020. Do you think the price-conscious Indian consumer is ready for such products?

From our side, the product will be ready for connectivity. Whether the customer wants it connected or not, is purely her choice. Even now, we can make the connected devices but the reason why we have that roadmap for 2020 is precisely cost. We are taking more time because we don’t want the incremental cost to pinch the consumer. And of course, the scale matters because if we achieve it, we can leverage it to offset the costs incurred by us and offer the best product at the best price to the Indian consumer who is very value driven.

The business-to-business segment is understandably big for you but do you see scale coming from the business-to-consumer segment as well?

We see big evolution in both segments. We have significantly upgraded the items within the consumer proposition because we were the first ones to introduce it four years ago. There is a huge step to take to make people aware of what light can do for them, explain it to them in a better manner. Because what we have seen is that once the consumers buy the first set of products, they always buy additional connected products. And if you see, nowadays even other consumer electronics companies are talking about connected products. That helps the entire ecosystem.

One concern with connected devices is data safety. How are you planning to address that?

We have created systems that are responsible for safety. We follow the highest level of legislation in whichever country we are to be in a position to give the confidence to customer that data is always treated in an aggregated way. So there is no information at a single individual level but only aggregated data that gives us the information that we need.

Tell me about some recent India-specific innovations.

Globally, India is among the top five countries for Signify in terms of our business size. We have launched the T-Bulb. Then, we came out with something called as ceiling secure that doesn’t damage the ceiling. We have now introduced and are piloting in the market the Li-Fi proposition which offers you the same functionality that we can have with Wi-Fi but using light wave instead of radio wave and this offering has a big potential in India from the security point of view as with a light wave, there is no way to crack the communication. We are in the pilot phase in India in different industries — for example, banks where security is extremely critical. Another element of innovation is in the agricultural usage of light — the light helps to grow plants in a safe environment so you don’t have to use chemical elements. With the right light recipe, the growth is much faster.

Rural market is big in India. Has the overall slowdown affected business there?

We see demand improving there as well. Due to the government policies, many of these areas are electrified now. We have recently launched LED lights that are low cost, especially for those areas which have been connected to electricity for the first time. For places that are not connected to the grid, we are offering solar solutions. Our global competent centre for solar is based in India, serving the globe and also of course, the local market. Those are the two elements that drive our focus and as a part of our business model, we also have a strong focus on corporate social responsibility.

We are driving projects to support the entrepreneurial initiatives of the community and create business over time. For instance, in Rajasthan we have a school near Neemrana where in addition to provide lighting to the school, we have created a “lighting library”. When the kids are in school, they recharge a single lantern through solar panels and when they finish school, they take that back. So, at home, they have evening light.―Business Standard

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