Zia Eftekhar and Rick Leaman

From left to right: moderator Fred Naimer of Union Lighting, Zia Eftekhar of Philips, and Rick Leaman of Osram Sylvania

During the annual American Lighting Association (ALA) Conference in Palm Beach, Fla., September 11-13, Zia Eftekhar, CEO of Philips Professional Luminaires, and Rick Leaman, CEO of OSRAM SYLVANIA, sat down to publicly discuss where the lighting industry is headed.
“We are going through challenging times, but I believe our industry is healthy,” Eftekhar explained. “It isn’t a trend or fad; lighting is part of everyday function. There are opportunities right now in energy efficiency and awareness of environmental [issues]. We believe the industry will grow two to three percent of the GPD because of the need for renovation and energy efficiency,” he stated.
Leaman was in agreement. “The lighting industry is having a positive transformation. We’re seeing more [development] in technology ahead of the phase-out, seeing a technical transition toward solid state and away from metal halide, and a stronger comprehension of sustainability,” he said. OSRAM SYLVANIA will be investing 60 percent of its R&D funds into solid-state technology for commercial and residential applications.
“We are focusing more on partnering,” Eftekhar added. “We believe LED is the technology that is going to move the industry forward. It has permeated into the residential market, but we have to be on top of it because the residential sector is different from commercial. In residential, it is more of a component change, while commercial is more about systems change. Technology has to be embraced. The ability to communicate this technology to our customers is going to move us forward. LEDs should not be sold as a commodity; you must sell the value that goes with it,” he stated.
The key to success lies in education and differentiation, according to Leaman. “Train your employees. There are many resources out there. Take advantage of every bit of training you can,” he advised. Doing so will help differentiate your company from the competition.
“We have a light source in LED that can do things differently,” Eftekhar remarked. “The capabilities are broad and there is tremendous opportunity in decorative lighting. We believe LED will comprise 50 percent of all lighting by 2015 and 75 percent of the market by 2020.”
Leaman said that the residential market is ripe for LED. “We’re going to see increased demand,” he observed. “LEDs are right for the market today based on energy savings. It’s already used in table lamps and undercabinet lighting.” Eftekhar added that how well the residential market accepts LED will also depend on how the lighting industry sells the product. “It’s hard to compete with the low cost of incandescents; we have to sell the long-term benefits of LEDs and talk about the total cost versus the initial cost.”