Signify, previously known as Philips Lighting, has been at the forefront of the lighting industry worldwide, with the largest connected lights network in the world. Amidst the pandemic, Signify Malaysia welcomes a new CEO, Sukanto Aich, to lead its operations. With a career spanning over 28 years, Sukanto has been involved in a wide spectrum of industries, including Information Technology, Telecom, Office Automation and Lighting, making him the right choice for the job. He spares time out of his busy schedule to speak to The Peak about the evolution of new market opportunities and his plans to transform the business in these trying times.
As the new CEO of Signify Malaysia what excites you the most and what are you looking to achieve?
“It’s a new role, as you rightly said. I’m really excited to come to Malaysia and be there. My appointment was effective in September 2021 and I have been interacting with the team and working with them closely since then. It’s a really exciting and youthful team that’s looking at redefining the lighting market in Malaysia and I’m really excited to be part of that and see how we could do that together. Signify Malaysia is part of the global Signify setup and we have been making a lot of investments to create a more sustainable world, especially during the pandemic. I am hoping that as part of the Malaysia team, we are able to take that initiative further in the Malaysian market. Last but not the least, on a personal level, I’m definitely looking at coming into a country which has a very rich history, and also has created its own space in the modern world.”
What are some challenges you faced in different regions throughout your career?
“As you said, I have been in different parts of the world and in different roles and I think the world today is getting more and more connected, right? I think the biggest challenge that we are facing today is to create a world that can nurture diversity and create an inclusive culture. In Signify, we have a clear Diversity and Inclusion Policy where we are trying to nurture leaders and talent across people from various backgrounds and create an inclusive environment. I think as we go forward, working with colleagues and teams across different markets, we need to understand the background that they’re coming from and respect the diversity that they bring in. It has been seen that if people are empowered, they bring their best selves to work every day.”
How is sustainability present in Signify Malaysia? Can you share more about some of the initiatives implemented?
“Sustainability is one of our key pillars of strategy and we have been leading the industry by example. Since September 2020, we have achieved carbon neutrality across all our operations globally. We have been investing in various technologies, for example, 3-D printed luminaires, which is aimed towards creating a circular economy. So what does a 3-D printed luminaire do, you ask? Let’s say today you buy a luminaire and two years down the line, you want to change the light fixture. In today’s scenario, 100% of that material has to be discarded and new material has to be used for creating the new light fixtures that you wanted to buy. Now if you give me back a 3-D printed luminaire after two years, almost 80-85% of the material I can reuse and recycle to create the next lighting fixture for you. This is how we are creating a more circular economy and reducing wastage.
“One of the other areas, which will require investments, not only from lighting but for any other industry is in the area of food, right?. So, as the population grows, there is an enhanced need for food availability and security. We have invested in LED lighting recipes, as we call them, in the areas of horticulture and aquaculture, which helps us grow food with much lesser resources such as soil, water etc, as well as ensure less wastage. A lot of ripened food gets wasted when we are moving them from the place of production to the place of consumption or the retail outlet. The lighting recipes allows you to preserve the quality of fresh produce and keep food fresh longer, ensuring that there will be a lot less wastage.”
“Even in basic lighting, we are developing solutions for what we call bio-adaptive human-centric lighting. Our bodies have a certain DNA, right? So, for generations, we have gotten used to the cycle of the sun; we get up with the sun and we go to sleep with the sun down and our body has gotten in tune with that. Now, if we can use tunable lighting technologies that can be controlled to these kinds of lighting levels, then we can also create an environment that doesn’t only give us the right lighting, but also create the kind of lighting that’s is in sync with the human circadian rhythm, and as a result, keep us more productive during the day.”
What is the biggest challenge in sustainable lighting?
“I think the challenge is to raise the awareness of customers, consumers or even individuals and institutions about the investment we need to make today for a more sustainable future for all of us. Because these sustainable products and solutions are maybe priced at a little bit of a premium versus other products that are more easily available in the market. That slight premium will of course go down as more and more people adopt it and the economies of scale kick in. I think the biggest challenge in creating a more sustainable world tomorrow is to ensure that there are more and more people aware so that they choose the right products and the right solutions. That small premium that we pay today for these sustainable products will cost us much less in the long term. In a way, the pandemic has shown what could be the cost of not having a sustainable world.”
What will be the next disruptive technical development in lighting?
“We are getting more and more into the connected world, right? With the Internet of Things, everything at home is connected. For instance, today, we are able to control the air conditioning at home remotely, using, let’s say a mobile phone that you have in your hand. Your lights can be switched on. There are IP cameras, which can help you monitor things from wherever you are. So everything today is connected over the internet and deliver a different kind of value to our customers and to us as individuals.”
“So the first area is where we will see a lot of investment and technology development in lighting would be for the smart lighting technologies, which is part of this connected ecosystem and is able to work with multiple systems that create a much better world for us to live in. Let me give you an example: you might be aware that sometimes when you walk out of a room, there is a sensor, which senses that nobody is occupying the room and the lights get switched off. At the same time, while the light got switched off, the air conditioning did not and still continued to consume a lot of energy.”
“Now that information that said that you are no longer in the room could also be used to connect to many more devices. With the right technology, the input could have helped save a lot more on the air conditioning and the energy consumption that was happening. Similarly, that availability of information could also help save a lot of real estate money, because a lot of times people block workspaces for a longer time than the actual meeting and once the meeting is over, nobody knows if that room is being used or not used. So we will see a lot of lighting technology that is smarter and more connected.”
“One other this is that we have always used lighting of different colours in our spaces for decorative purposes. How about that lighting, being the right colour and intensity for the different things that we do at home like working eating, exercising, or when we’re just relaxing? There is a lot of research that proves that the right lighting level can increase our effectiveness in any of these activities. For example, imagine waking up in the morning with the lighting level gradually increasing just like the sun at the time of sunrise, brightening the world around us. With this kind of lighting, your body is able to respond much more naturally, and in line with the circadian rhythm of your body. So, these are the kinds of technologies that will come under the smarter lighting solution.”
What are your plans for Signify Malaysia in the long run?
“We are obviously part of the larger global Signify organisations and our strategies in the country are aligned with the growth strategies of the organisation globally. So we are going to continue to invest and grow in a sustainable manner to create better lives and a better world. One thing that we are still driving in Signify Malaysia is to move to more energy-efficient LED lighting systems. We still see many agencies and consumers who are yet to adopt these energy-efficient LED lighting solutions, and we are continuing to work with them to see how they can reap its benefit. Finally, coming back to sustainability, we will continue to focus and drive initiatives for more consumer and customer adoption of these sustainable products of 3-D printed luminaires of horticulture and aquaculture.”