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Philips betting on Asian middle class

Publication Date : 15-06-2012


Asia's growing middle class and ageing population will make the region an increasingly significant growth driver for electronics giant Philips, said one of its top executives.

The region's importance is growing not just as a market for the firm's health-care, lighting and consumer electronics products, but also as an innovation hub.

Its chief market leader, Ronald de Jong, told The Straits Times: "Around 34 per cent of our business is in growth economies, and Asia is by far the largest part of these growth economies, and we have grown rapidly in that part of the world."

With innovation hubs in places such as Singapore, China and India, Asia is also a region where his company's presence in research and development (R&D) is growing.

de Jong, also a member of the Philips executive committee, noted: "Increasingly, Asia is not just a market where we sell to; it's also a place where a lot of things happen that will cause repercussions in the rest of the world."

Philips has a significant presence in the Asean and Pacific regions, with about 10,000 employees across sales and marketing offices, manufacturing, and R&D facilities in 10 markets.

Its regional headquarters is located here.

Philips has been in Indonesia, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand for more than 60 years, and in the Philippines and Malaysia for more than 50 years.

It also has a presence in South Korea and Vietnam.

De Jong added: "There's a big shift in the world, where the epicentre is moving rapidly to the East... we know this part of the world pretty well."

In July last year, the electronics giant celebrated its 60th anniversary here, having started out with just four people in a small office in Battery Road selling lightbulbs to merchants and shop owners.

Now it has about 2,300 staff in a sprawling regional hub in Toa Payoh, engaged in research, product development, marketing and sales.

Singapore plays a key role in its training and R&D.

In 2006, Philips set up its health-care sector's first and largest dedicated facility for advanced medical equipment training in the Asia-Pacific here.

Five years later, it opened a centre which shows how its range of LED lighting can enhance and create ambience in different scenarios - its first such facility in Asia.

Philips is also working with the Nanyang Technological University and JTC Corporation to upgrade a newly developed LED smart grid lighting system.

De Jong noted: "Singapore is important for more than one reason, not only for the market opportunity it represents but also as a source of talent."

Asked how the current European crisis will affect Philips' business, he noted: "In our 120 years of existence, we have gone through many crises... we'll live through this again, applying prudence and caution."

Last year, the Dutch firm derived about 28 per cent of its €22.6 billion (US$28 billion) in total sales from Western Europe.

De Jong added: "We'll continue to put as top priority taking care of our customers - that's the best way to navigate through the uncertain times."


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