Interview with Randal Wahl
To the extent that a business is able, investing in capacity building and marketing during more difficult market conditions will position that business to take advantage of an improved economy as soon as it turns. This has been the approach of Regent Lighting Solutions, a local designer, manufacturer and supplier of lighting solutions for both business and residential applications.
Over the course of the past three years, Regent Lighting Solutions has invested heavily in upgrading and extending its manufacturing and showroom facility in Johannesburg, and has opened branches in Cape Town and Durban. The company has hired additional design and electronics experts, bolstered its manufacturing capability, and increased its stock holding in order to serve its customers better. All these efforts, says MD Randal Wahl, are aimed at elevating the company’s brand in the minds of customers, and at giving corporate customers the comfort and confidence that they are dealing with experts in the industry who are reliable and well equipped to meet their needs for the long term.
Upgrades to the office and showroom component of the Johannesburg premises include making the operations and offices a user-friendly and pleasant place for staff to work, whilst equipping the showroom to showcase a broad range of the company’s products. Aside from the showroom itself, the rest of the Johannesburg premises also serves as a ‘living showroom’ for the creative and ingenious things that can be done with the many different options available today. From the outside landscaping to the entrance, office foyer and other public areas, different fittings and effects have been employed to inspire visitors and staff alike about Regent Lighting Solutions’ offering.
“We have put extensive time, design and investment into positioning our brand to appeal to large companies including international corporates says Randal. The company has already attracted the business of blue-chip clients and has been implementing lighting solutions that are both creative, functional and energy saving for a number of customers.
Part of the investment in the business has included purchasing and training staff in building information modelling (BIM) software. This is increasingly important as architects and interior designers in particular require digital information that is accurate for inserting into their drawings. Being able to produce BIMready digital models gives Regent Lighting Solutions credibility and user-friendliness amongst building professionals.
Randal points out that technology has evolved incredibly quickly in the world of lighting, necessitating that most reasonably sophisticated lighting systems these days require complicated electronic controls and control systems to operate them. This has meant employing more electronics experts as part of the team. Overall, given the many different options that one has for designing a lighting system, together with the complex technologies behind them, mean that lighting design is a highly complex and technical thing to get right. “It’s a long and complex process, often involving a lot of trial and error,” he says. What stimulates the design and sales team are ongoing new developments in our field, such as dark lighting (darkTECH). With this new technology, the actual source of the light is not immediately obvious, making it ideal for environments such as open plan offices, meeting rooms, reception areas and pause areas, one doesn’t need to have an obvious source of direct light. “What is important today is providing lighting comfort and reducing glare, both of which are critical in an office environment. Our dark lighting products are specifically designed to offer this solution. We have a multiple of technologies (bluTECH ) and (sensTECH) that complement this product range,” says Randal.
There are also a number of innovative lighting options for landscaping and outdoor areas. These, too, are showcased at Regent Lighting Solutions’ office – both in the immediately public areas at the external ‘rooftop showroom’. “Our journey in the lighting market began in this niche area of the business. It is our heritage and we continue to invest heavily in this ever evolving market segment,” he adds. In addition to there being many options to explore when it comes to coming up with a design that is both creative and suitable for the purpose, there are other important aspects to consider in outdoor lighting, such as light pollution and light control. Whilst there are some green building guidelines about this, it is not well regulated and even less well understood. It will likely take further development in the industry for the highly technical aspects of the problem to be suitably addressed, Randal believes.
Randal is passionate about the future of lighting, saying that with the versatility that currently comes with lighting systems, customers will be able to implement flexible systems which allow them to change lighting according to their needs, preventing them from having to replace entire systems every couple of years. To be able to offer what Regent Lighting Solutions does – namely an extensive range of designed lighting and control systems, some of which carry internal brands of their own – is no small feat. It has taken consistent investment in people and infrastructure over time. “We are positioning ourselves as an African lighting solutions company,” he notes, adding that thanks to the effort put into marketing the company on social media, and a comprehensive website, the company is expanding its customer base into various African countries. He is pleased with the progress that the company is making, both in securing orders from around Africa and in serving strong corporate customers in South Africa, and believes that Regent Lighting Solutions is well positioned for strong growth when the economy strengthens.