Like all technology driven industries, the Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) sector is highly dynamic and responsive to changes in technology, consumer tastes and other variables that dictate what manufacturers offer to the market. Constant research to produce innovative products suitable for different environments therefore forms an integral part of HVAC manufacturers’ operations.
In the past, demand for air conditioning especially in developing countries was mainly felt in areas that typically experienced hot and humid weather. And even then, consumers were perfectly content with fans or anything that blew some amount of cold air during these periods.
Today, the situation has changed. Consumer awareness has increased tremendously. Demand for air conditioning is now virtually universal. Tastes and preferences are constantly changing. For example, many employees working in modern offices are increasingly aware of the correlation between air quality and overall health. There is therefore a demand for systems that not only keep the working environment conducive but also ones that simultaneously supply clean air. A similar situation is being witnessed in residential buildings.
In addition, consumers are looking for HVAC systems that are energy efficient, easy to operate and aesthetically appealing. No longer are they comfortable with huge, expensive to run equipment protruding from walls of their living and working spaces. These changing tastes have seen manufacturers of air conditioners redouble their efforts at innovation. And nowhere is this innovation more evident than at Samsung Electronics.
A global leader in technology, the giant Korean company has continued to churn creative products from its HVAC division in response to market demands. In Africa, the company has developed special products specifically suitable for the continent under its Built for Africa (BFA) initiative. This means that the products developed for the market take into account special challenges facing many parts of the continent such as unstable electricity supply and environmental concerns. For example, BFA systems such as the ultra modern DVMS air conditioner currently on offer on the commercial market come with voltage fluctuation protection, corrosion resistance, peak power demand control and long-life heat exchanger fin.
Samsung Electronics has established major operational centers on the continent. One of these is Nairobi, Kenya.
George Kebaso is Manager, Air Conditioning Division based at the Nairobi office. The Nairobi office, which operates as Samsung Electronics East Africa Ltd., serves 17 countries throughout East and Central Africa. With seven years’ experience in the industry, Mr. Kebaso has seen the sector grow in leaps and bounds. “Previously, demand for air conditioning was mainly in the residential category but this has now changed such that we have a 50:50 scenario for commercial and residential units”, he says. Mr.Kebaso is spearheading an ambitious market penetration strategy to capture the lion’s share of the HVAC market in his region. Already, the company enjoys market leadership in the commercial segment in theEast African market according to the division leader. In this segment, the company has seen growth of more than 100 percent compared to the previous year and intends to maintain this momentum.
“We have been very precise in targeting this specific market and have therefore introduced units specifically suited for it”, says Mr.Kebaso. “As you know, air conditioners operate differently in different environments.” He says part of his company’s strategy is value addition through such overtures as extended warranties and free design to developers intending to install air conditioning systems. Although design can be quite expensive, taking up approximately two percent of an entire project cost, Mr. Kebaso is confident that this value added service will pay off in terms of more uptake of their units. “My team and I have received immense support for this initiative from the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Samsung in East and Central Africa, Mr. Robert Ngeru,” he says.
A common perception is that air conditioning is expensive and untenable. But says Kebaso to those who hold this view: “It’s true that in the past, it was expensive to purchase and to maintain. However, today we have, for example, inverter systems that save over 30 percent of energy costs.”
Samsung is working with key stakeholders in the construction industry to provide air conditioning solutions in new and existing developments. In Nairobi, some developments are already enjoying Samsung’s superior technology. The Oval, a high end office development in Nairobi’s exclusive Westlands suburb, has been fitted with an air conditioning system that offers individual consumption billing so that tenants pay for only what they consume.
Another major development in Samsung air conditioning technology is smart systems that can be operated through apps on smartphones. It is now possible to switch on the system in a desired room well ahead of the room’s occupation or use. In addition, if one accidentally forgets to power down the system when leaving the premises, one can send shut-down instructions online. New air conditioners in medium to premium segments also come with Remote Management operability. Mr. Kebaso reveals that this feature enables technicians located far from the air conditioners to work on those units online. (At the time of this interview he had been working on a system installed in Tanzania the previous day). “The units are also intelligent in that they are able to precisely diagnose a malfunction”, explains Mr. Kebaso.
So why would someone choose Samsung air conditioners over other brands in the market?
“There are several reasons”, says the youthful manager. “Our units are energy efficient and are designed for comfort. They are silent and unobtrusive. Besides, we not only cool or heat air but also purify it”. In addition, he says, Samsung air conditioners have proven reliability.
“You can always count on the Samsung team for professional services”, he adds. “Over 80 percent of air conditioner problems occur through faulty installation. So we have a highly skilled and trained technical team that undertakes installations and maintenance”. Mr. Kebaso explains that Samsung has been at the forefront of training personnel through Samsung Academies, an initiative that began when the company realized there was a severe shortage of qualified air conditioning engineers in the region.
Looking into the future, Mr. Kebaso is optimistic that Samsung is strengthening its leadership position in the air conditioning industry. “We are a company that fundamentally rethinks ways of doing business. We do not do it the conventional way. We have managed to venture into new markets or introduce revolutionary products through calculated risk taking resulting in major success.” – Francis Makari