Sparks Electrical News

Raja Moudgil, Philips Lighting Country Leader for southern Africa and Ghana, joined the company just before the turn of the millennium, and after almost two decades growing the company in his native India, he has now embarked on a new challenge in South Africa where he is aiming to ensure that LEDs become a standard across the region.

Sparks personality of the month Raja Moudgil PhilipsSparks: Where were you educated?

RM: I grew up in India where I did my Bachelor of Commerce and then an MBA in Marketing and Finance. I joined Philips in the December of 1999 and have carried out various roles in the company; in sales, marketing, product development and commercial leadership roles. I was heading up consumer sales in India before taking this role.

Sparks: What has your impression been of South Africa so far?

RM: It is an amazing country with a very rich culture and a lot of diversity. There has been a huge amount of learning interacting with different types of customers from the different, diverse cultures. There are huge growth opportunities in the region.

Sparks: What drew you to the electrical industry?

RM: There were two reasons. Firstly, it touches everyone’s lives on a daily basis, and secondly, it is an industry where you see new innovations every couple of years. One thing which is constant in the electrical industry is change, and when there is change there is a lot of learning that has to take place, which keeps you fresh. It’s a very exciting place to be.

Sparks: What are the greatest changes you have seen over the last two decades since you entered the industry?

RM: Major changes have been from a commercial side where it has gone from commodity-selling to solution-selling. Our aim is to make the lives better of every human being. Lighting impacts your health, affects your moods and impacts your business. For a restaurant, for example, if they use good lighting, it can attract more customers to the restaurant and improve business. In your home, the type of lighting you use in the evenings is important as it can help you sleep better.

Sparks: What major projects are you currently working on?

RM: We are currently working on a number of LED street light products where we are trying to change street lights from conventional lamps to LEDs so that they give a better quality of light at night. The light pillars come with sensors so they only turn on when needed, and when there is no traffic, the lights dim by 30%. When a light goes off or needs some repair, it automatically notifies the hub that the light has gone off. We are now in a very interesting space where we are trying to provide these solutions to the government bodies who are the key decision makers.

We are also working on a couple of projects using connected lighting in various buildings using smart lighting which works through Iot (internet of things), where through an app or controller you can control the lights for an entire building; you can change colours, you can change levels, switch on and switch off lights at the touch of a button. There are a few important buildings which we are working on currently.

Sparks: Who has been your inspiration or have you had a mentor who has influenced your career?

RM: There have been various people for whom I have worked throughout the organisation, and with the help of them I have been able to develop myself to reach this level. I can’t name one person but there have been a lot of people who have played a key role in my learnings. Philips is known to nurture a lot of talent and we have produced a number of people who have been key pillars in the lighting industry.

Sparks: With your experience, do you now find yourself mentoring others in the company?

RM: One of my key objectives is to groom my successor and also build a strong succession pipeline at all the levels. So that is part of my job; to create more leaders for Philips.

Sparks: What, to your mind, is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry at this time?

RM: Particularly in South Africa, it is for people to upgrade to the newest technology, which is LED. In the consumer segment, we find that people are still buying the old technology such as halogen and CFLs, so that’s our biggest challenge; how quickly we can upgrade because the world has already moved on two years ago.

Sparks: How do you change people’s perceptions?

RM: The first objective is to get the key stakeholders on board, who are the opinion makers or people who specify lighting, including government bodies like Eskom. Secondly, we are engaging architects, specifiers and consultants to educate them in terms of the benefits of LEDs. Finally, we need to target the end consumer who goes into the retailer to buy the products, which is a tough ask as there are more than 3 000 stores across South Africa. We are trying to educate the retailers and work with them very closely to give more space on their shelves to LEDs. When a consumer walks into a store, they will see the LEDs, read about the benefits, and in that way we can convert them. I am very happy to share that we have made very good inroads recently. At one retailer, their contribution of LEDs on shelves is 10-20%, and after working closely with them over the last three months, a thousand stores have agreed to give us more than 60% space for LED products only.

Sparks: What do you enjoy most about your job?

RM: Giving the best to the consumers by offering them something new. It is exciting. As new technology comes around every few years, we have to change the way in which we approach the consumer and the customer in terms of the marketing blitz. That really keeps me going and we are in a position to make a huge change in consumer’s lives in terms of their buying patterns.

Secondly, I love working with people. In a leadership role, that is where we are very lucky as 70% of our time is people management.

Sparks: How do you motivate your staff?

RM: To keep staff motivated, it is very important that they have a career, not just a job, and that you can show them a future. A job and money will keep them motivated for only a short period of time, but what is important is that the people are properly trained. If you groom and promote somebody, that is something permanent which stays with them forever.

Sparks: What do you do in your spare time to recharge for the challenges which come with your job?

RM: To be honest, I haven’t had much spare time since I started this position! But I am passionate about hitting the gym and playing squash, so now if I am not travelling I try to get to the gym three or four times a week.

Sparks: If you could "do it all again", would you change anything?

RM: I would probably have come to this country five years earlier.

Sparks: Would you advise a person leaving school to enter the electrical industry? And why?

RM: There are many reasons! Firstly, it is an industry which brings many innovations. Changes happen every few years which I feel very few industries experience. And when it happens, there’s a huge amount of learning needed and a huge amount of scope to move forward. If you look at our continent, there are still a lot of parts which are not properly lit, which means that there is a huge scope for growth.

Sparks: What is your favourite quote?

RM: “There’s only one thing constant in the world and that is change.” I always tell my team this; we should always be ready for change, in both our professional and our personal lives.

Sparks: Do you have anything on your ‘bucket list’?

RM: In terms of my professional life, my immediate goal is to turn things around in South Africa. We want to achieve double digit growth, quickly gain market share, and have strong employee motivation. This is something which I dream about every day. In my private life, I’d love to go on a road trip with my family through New Zealand.



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