HARMAN Professional Solutions is a leading brand in AV industry, last year it was acquired by Samsung for $8 billion. Let’s chat with Ramesh Jayaraman, VP and GM of HARMAN Professional Solutions, APAC. Here he looks back over his time with the company and discusses the shift of the business to a solutions-centric approach; as well as emerging technologies and the outlook for Asia-Pacific.
Q: HARMAN Professional Solutions has acquired a huge number of brands in recent years. What is your strategy for bringing them all together?
A: HARMAN Professional Solutions has a great heritage, with the AV industry’s most iconic brands working together under a single division. By bringing these diverse brands together we’ve also developed a market-leading position that allows us to offer the most comprehensive range of Audio, Video, Lighting and Control tech solutions for the enterprise and entertainment sectors.
Our brands include JBL for audio; AMX for control technology; Crown Audio for amps; Martin for lighting and many more. Over the last 18 months in APAC, we have focused on streamlining our operations to offer a solution from HARMAN Professional that combines our brands and products into integrated solutions. People often ask if our brands will be replaced by the HARMAN Professional name, but we have no plans to do that. Our brands have huge loyalty among our customer base and we intend to preserve that.
Q: You are part of Samsung. How does that impact the business?
A: Samsung is very bullish on the future of Harman Professional Solutions and its AV brands. The company sees an opportunity to leverage our ability to sell into places where the addition of one of its displays would offer customers a complete solution. That represents a huge selling opportunity for both Samsung and Harman Professional Solutions.
Samsung sees real value in the brands of Harman Professional Solutions. And we’ve undertaken significant restructuring in recent years that have seen huge investments in our HARMAN Professional Solutions business. Samsung said during its acquisition of HARMAN in 2017 that we will remain a separate company with the same leadership – and that’s what’s happened. We get strong support from Samsung and there is a positive outlook for us and our AV brands.
You can already see how the synergies between Samsung and HARMAN Professional Solutions can work. For example, digital cinema screens integrated with JBL speakers, or the AMX Acendo Vibe conferencing sound bar, which is ideal for pairing with a Samsung display. We believe the future holds huge opportunities for HARMAN Professional Solutions and Samsung.
Q: How are you changing your operations in this region?
A: Our most important focus is the ‘customer first’ approach we’ve adopted. We have to solve problems for our customers, not just try and sell them what we think they need. The AMX Acendo Vibe is a good example of how we do that. A simple, plug-and-play system that enables meetings to start when they need to. No fiddling around with wires or different connections. It’s all incorporated in a single package.
For Asia Pacific, we have been optimizing our operations to give ourselves the best foundation to build our solutions-based approach. Our new regional headquarters in Singapore has been up-and-running for over 18 months and we’ve doubled our workforce, bringing in many of the industry’s brightest talents.
We’re also changing how we look at market segments, using what I call the “inch-wide, mile-deep” approach. So if we target a particular segment – say cinema – I want to be sure we have solutions for all kinds of cinemas in all kinds of markets. That’s essential to developing a market-leading position.
Finally, we’re also looking to change how we get our products to market. That means broadening our point of sale beyond musical instrument stores into other retail locations and moving further into online retail. This is something we’re doing in partnership with our distributors and we’re working on it right now.
Q: Can you give us some examples of products that have wider appeal?
A: Definitely the AMX Acendo Vibe. That’s a great product for homeworkers, small businesses and huddle spaces in larger companies. It’s affordable, stylish and easy to use so it’s going to have strong appeal across a wide customer base.
Also the JBL EON ONE, the all-in-one rechargeable PA system that is highly portable and, again, easy to use. It’s perfect for musicians, events companies, business speakers and others. As with the AMX Acendo Vibe, the affordability and ease of use of the JBL EON ONE mean this product will have a very broad appeal.
Q: What is the thinking behind the Experience Centre in Singapore?
A: Our Experience Centre in Singapore was the first in this region and we are planning to open others in collaboration with our partners. We have operational centers now in Vietnam, Malaysia, Mongolia and Thailand with plans to open in Indonesia, Korea and Myanmar this year. We want to offer customers a dedicated place where they can experience our technology. At the Experience Centre we can give customers an immersive and customized experience. We want to invite customers and industry-stakeholders to visit our Experience Centre and see for themselves.
Q: Are there any other notable trends in your business?
A: A trend that’s increasing is that businesses, governments, venues etc., don’t want to invest large amounts of capex upfront. For example, a company might not want to buy a laptop for $1,500 but they will pay $70 a month to lease one. It’s the same with AV: organizations are saying “we don’t want to pay $100,000 to upgrade our conference room, but for $500 a month I’m happy to have an always-on meeting room”. So we are structuring ourselves to be more agile in this respect. Our financing arm is developing new offerings for customers, and that’s going to help us build even stronger partnerships with them.
Q: What is your vision for HARMAN Pro?
A: Audio, video, lighting and control are now in the digital realm, but we still experience it in the analog, physical world. Our vision is that HARMAN Professional Solutions becomes the market leader in delivering an interface between our digital and physical worlds for enterprise and entertainment locations.
We’ve also invested heavily in software development, so as we progress you’ll see a stronger bond between the software and hardware we’re producing. You’ll see systems integrate intelligently together to create a seamless and simple experience for users and audiences.
Finally, we want to stay true to our ‘customer first’ approach to make it as easy as possible for our customers to do business with us. We plan to continue bringing visionary solutions to market quickly, and provide industry-leading levels of customer and tech support.