Toshiba launched its New Lighting Division at Light+Building in April – marking its entry into the European lighting market with LED lamps and fixtures. Paddy Baker spoke to François Séguineau, the chief operating officer of the new division, about his plans for the market
You’ve said that you intend to have a 20% market share by 2020. How do you intend to compete in the marketplace? Is it on innovation? Quality? Price? Service? Or does it vary from product to product?
It’s a combination of many things – it’s not one thing. The first thing is to have the best balanced products – which means a good price for a good product and the right technology. We will not be cheaper, we want to be in the market, but good for value.
The second point is that we want to work with both existing and new channel partners. Existing channel partners because we need their knowledge in B2B and B2C. In B2B, they know architects and installers, they have people visiting [them], so we need them to develop our business. So definitively we will have key partners. We have already appointed a partner in the UK, and that kind of high-level company is key for us.
The third point is that we will have some emerging channels – and it’s quite B2C. I am thinking of channel partners that already sell digital products. These companies are open to taking our products also. Here you see the advantage of our brand – because we are well known for PCS and TVs, people will say why not expand the brand, because our customers already know Toshiba, and the lighting business is a technology business. So we hope to capitalise on these channel partners to develop ourselves.
In B2B, will you be appointing exclusive channel partners in each country, or multiple ones?
It will be multiple channel partners, but our vision is that when you start business with a channel partner you want a good long-term relationship. We don’t want to have all the channel competing with each other.
We will anticipate the future and work with them to develop the business. It’s a kind of win-win partnership that we want to develop.
Many partners in B2C open up their doors to us because they want a newcomer – they want a new company with new technology and new ways of working. They have a long history with another vendor and they want to renew that.
What are your main product lines in the B2B sector?
We have two main products in B2B. One is the E-Core downlight series, for applications such as hotels, hospitals, railways stations. The other one is an outdoor range which will arrive during the [summer] vacation and we will start to sell in September. Here we will target municipalities and local authorities; and the product is also suitable for parking areas and for residential use. They have an extreme density of LED for a good [quality of] light.
Before this interview, you mentioned that Toshiba is very concerned with the processes you put in place when you put together this new division.
This is linked to the Japanese way of looking at life and business. In a Japanese company, for sure you have to make your objectives, but the way you do it is also important; it is the foundation of what you do. We have set up a team for Europe and it’s a mix of people from Toshiba and from outside and from the lighting company —it’s a good combination.
We have also set up a European group to try to predict what products we will need for the future at a European level.
We will also capitalise on the facility we have in Dieppe in Normandy, which will be our central warehouse. Products are coming by boat from Japan; we plan to pack them and send them to other countries. This facility also will assemble product: we have some products coming from designers and we will assemble them with our lamps and make a finished solution.
It is important for the Japanese to see that in Europe we have not only started [this new division] but have also put all these elements in place to have a strong foundation, and to be prepared to achieve the goal in 2020 or before – and that is important.
For the Japanese, coming from Tokyo, when they see the European team working together in a good atmosphere, and this booth here at Light + Building – all of this means that we have a good foundation to prepare everything. The journey is more important than the goal.
Do you think that there will be other companies doing what you’re doing and joining the European lighting market? With the ban on incandescents, it’s a good time…
I’m sure other competitors will come – although there is a question of timing. But there are very few companies that have the knowledge of lighting that we have – 120 years in the Japanese domestic market. On the opposite side we also know how to manage electronic components, and make high-level products like PCs or TVs. So it’s a combination of these two things; Toshiba is very lucky to have both.
There are few companies that have the experience of both lighting and electronic devices. So yes, we will have competitors – and why not, it will be a good market with competition – but it will be more difficult for some other newcomers than for Toshiba.