Installation was part of a group of industry media that were the first visitors to the newly opened Harman Experience Centre in Hemel Hempstead yesterday.
Known as Harman Experience Centre–London, the venue, which consolidates Harman Professional's UK presence, is part of a new facility that also houses the EMEA headquarters of Harman’s Professional Division. It is the fourth such Experience Centre that the company has created – the others being in Los Angeles, Shanghai and Singapore.
Erik Tarkiainen, VP of global marketing, led the visitors around the various themed areas in the centre, which span retail, connected hotel, home studio, solutions for musicians (soloists, bands and major touring acts), architectural lighting, networked AV over IP, boardrooms, huddle spaces, collaborative learning, connected audience, broadcast, and live events. Most of these solutions areas featured combinations of Harman brands, including displays from Samsung, which acquired the company about a year ago.
Mohit Parasher, president of Harman Professional Solutions, explained to us the benefit of putting the full range of Harman solutions in one place: “We noticed that with some customers who wanted to buy a particular product, we just went and just explained that particular product without really sometimes articulating what else is possible.” He gave the example of cinemas, where the company has a 45% market share for auditorium audio: “The cinema owners are also thinking about the customer journey outside the auditorium, which is when you want to buy popcorn and a Coca-Cola – the merchandising space. And we have technologies that can address these needs.”
The location, was chosen for its proximity to various London airports. Chris Smith, VP and general manager EMEA for Harman Professional Solutions, told us: Because this... [is] a facility for the whole EMEA region, the half-hour proximity to Heathrow was critical to the decision about the location.” He added that it is also 25 minutes from Luton Airport and 40 minutes from Stansted. Additionally, for UK visitors it is close to the M25 motorway and the A1.
It is expected that integrators, consultants and end-users will visit the invitation-only centre. The location is a more convenient one than the demonstration facility in the city of London, he continued: “My expectation for the EMEA region is that this becomes an extension of our partners' offering to the market too. So they have the ability to bring customers here at a limited expense for them – they don't have to worry about flying people into the city, city centre pricing, all the things that come with that."
Harman’s Experience Centres fit into a wider strategy that has seen the company consolidate its global R&D activities into a few locations around the world, rather than on a brand level. This resulted in a large number of job cuts which, said Parasher, “was an expensive, heartbreaking and, in some sense, a tough thing to do. But it was a very important thing for us to create that platform from where we can leap.”
He added, “We are right now in the highest hiring spree ever in the history of Harman Professional. We are currently hiring about 350 people across the world, many of them new engineers.”