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Articles July-August 2023

The Accidental Lighting Designer New!

Lloyd Albuquerque, in a conversation with PALM Magazine, reveals his foray and plans as the go-to "light guy" in the pro lighting industry. read more

Articles July-August 2023

The Future Of AV Is Virtual New!

This year's AV-ICN Expo introduced visitors to a reality that is equally virtual and tangible through a walkthrough with VR headsets. read more

Articles July-August 2023

Epson Captures Big Screen Mapping Projector's Demand at AV-ICN Expo New!

Yoshino San shared Epson's strategy, purpose, and exhibit display theme at AV-ICN expo with Chopra San. read more

Articles July-August 2023

Post Show Review: 11th PALM Sound and Light Awards New!

PALM Sound & Light Awards honoured deserving individuals and companies from the pro sound and lighting industry in its 11th edition. read more

Articles July-August 2023

AV-ICN Expo's AV Architect of the Year New!

In a dramatic moment at the 11th PALM Sound & Light Awards, Founder Anil Chopra announced Kelvin Ashby-King the 'AV Architect of the Year' 2023. read more

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11 Questions With Josef Valchar

Josef Valchar (l) and Rasesh Parekh (r)

Czech Republic based Robe has managed to consolidate its position as one of the leading manufacturers of entertainment events lighting in the world. The PT team met CEO Josef Valchar, the face of Robe Lighting and Rasesh Parekh of Integrated Entertainment Solutions, exclusive distributors of Robe in India, during one of Valchar’s recent visits to Mumbai. In this interview, Valchar provides insights to how the company has listened to its customers across the world and acted on to ensure that products and services are constantly kept evolving and moving forward, while also reinforcing its sales network globally. Parekh pitches in with information on the growth trajectory of Robe in India.

What was the main factor that helped Robe become a leading manufacturer in the professional lighting market and what philosophy helped Robe establishe the company as a major brand?

JF: There are a number of factors! Firstly, we have listened carefully and carried out extensive market research to establish what is being demanded and have designed products based on this ongoing process. The product ranges are geared to multiple and specific sectors of professional lighting. We are continuously investing in R&D.

We have a talented ‘international’ team of experts, which includes regional sales managers; subsidiaries have been established in some of the key markets – this is ongoing - and we have set up a solid and committed global network of distributors.

Everyone involved in this has been hand-picked for their passion and their understanding of key elements like outstanding customer service and the value of the ‘personal touch’. We have also been extremely proactive about being ‘out there’ in the industry - communicating with those in the front line of business and creativity, getting direct feedback and taking an interest in people’s work and how they see the world of show visuals developing. We also keep a keen eye on tech trends ‘chatter’. Back at base in CZ, we have a streamlined operation that is a big part of the community in the region, and our staff are also invested in the company and therefore all of our futures.

We are independently owned – me and my business partner and Robe Co-founder Ladislav Petrek – we are still are fully involved in the day-to-day running of the company, and we can make decisions quickly and nimbly.

Being independent has really assisted us in being agile in business and planning, and it also makes us accessible to end users – rather then concealed behind layers of faceless management!

What according to you are the three main milestones in terms of product development in the history of Robe?

JF: That’s difficult as there have been so many over the years, however, I’d say the real ‘game-changing’ product moments for the company are:

2010: Safe to say that the launch of the LEDWash 600 in 2010 was a ‘watershed’ moment. It wasn’t the first LED wash light, BUT, hand on heart, I can say it was the best! That really was a transitional moment for Robe. We corrected many of the issues that had been present in the first generation of moving LED wash lights released by others, we waited and were patient!

And after this product, anyone who had not yet taken Robe as a serious contender in the world of moving lights, started to do so!

Then there was the BMFL launch in 2014: This series of fixture was around three years in development, and it became our signature most powerful ‘bright multi-functional luminaire’. Launching a range of products like this was ahead of the game and a strategy that definitely put us further on the map. It also assisted in ‘cracking’ the all-important North American Market.

Then in 2017 we launched the MegaPointe, and that became our single best-selling product ever to date – so much so, we had to purchase, kit-out and open a whole new factory and production facility to keep up with the demand! It was and still is THE light that everyone wants.

Why did you rebrand Show Lighting to “Robe lighting” in 2007?

JF: This was to define Robe as a truly ‘Professional’ / commercial brand and leave behind the association with OEM manufacturing. It expressed a progression in our development – the name is shorter, memorable, it has a nicely formed logo and the distinctive red dot!

Over 600 employees work at Robe’s primary 55 000 square metre facility in Valašské Meziříčí. Do you have manufacturing units in other parts of the world too? For instance, are you also manufacturing in China? If yes, how do you maintain that quality when using manufacturing locations located outside Czech Republic?

JF: The HQ and factory – where everything is made - is in Valašské Meziříčí (Valmez) in the north eastern part of the Czech Republic.

In 2018 – in response to the incredible success of the Spiider in 2016 and the MegaPointe in 2017 as mentioned above, we opened another manufacturing plant in Karvina, near Ostrava, CZ’s third city, and around 100Km from HQ in Valmez

We have subsidiaries in the UK, North America, France, Germany, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.

There are currently around 800 employees worldwide working across all these sites

We are absolutely NOT manufacturing in China and Robe has no plans to do so. Quality control is vital to our success and the only way we can guarantee this is to manufacture at our base in Czech Republic, and everything is made there. We are even now making the LED engines at base.

However, it’s not just about that. Obviously we are a business and we need to be profitable, but we have spent many years building a working community in Valmez, and we take our responsibilities and commitments as one of the largest and most significant employers in the region very seriously.

Working for Robe is considered a good and sought-after job, we like to offer potential career development and opportunities in various different departments, and Ladislav and I are dedicated to ensuring that this continues in the future.

Tell us a little about the Research & Development process and R&D team at Robe?

JF: That is information that we don’t really divulge publicly.

What excites you about lighting technology and the lighting industry today and what do you think is going to be the next biggest innovation in lighting after LED?

JF: Well, LED technology continues to get more better and more sophisticated all the time – the light engines are getting smoother, brighter and more efficient constantly ... so I don’t think that has reached anything like a plateau yet.

We are seeing a lot of very cool things going on in the integration of video and lighting. Control protocols that enable video sources to be easily used to run through lighting fixtures and produce different effects and the potential power and stability possible through networking and networked environments is only just starting!

It’s not just the tech that excites me, I am really interested in how creative people are utilizing it. That infinitely emerging world of ideas and imagination, creative, smart and resourceful people pushing the envelope... because to a large extent, all of the manufacturers are reacting to the demands and needs generated by their art and visions.

Which is the biggest market for Robe worldwide? And in which segments do you see major growth for the lighting industry?

JF: All markets are ‘big’ for us in terms of their importance! There are many areas that are thriving, many that are developing or emerging– it is also relative to many things – economic wealth, urban development, culture, geography, population density, geo-political concerns, etc.

As for ‘Growth segments’ currently we are strong in rental / staging and concert touring, live performance venues, television and theatre productions and workspaces. I think there’s going to be more ‘architainment’ applications in the future as the general awareness of lighting environments increases.

And that’s why are are working on our Robe-Anolis range, to capitalize on that market which covers everything from buildings to retail centers, public art projects at one end of the spectrum to commercial built environments like airports and hospitals on the other and including theme parks and other built environments.

Central to the company’s philosophy is the practice of working as closely with business partners and end users as possible, listening to their needs, thoughts and wishes and understanding their markets and requirements. So, has Robe designed or manufactured anything specifically keeping in mind the Indian market dynamics?

JF: I will be honest about the fact that India is a ‘challenging’ market. There is a lot of price driven decisions made by productions and on projects, so it is intensely competitive. But on the other – and this is where we can do well – there is also a demand in certain sectors for quality.

We have a great relationship with our distributor IES – and we trust their experience and judgement in targeting the areas where we can gain traction based on quality rather than lowest pricing.

We also have a wide range of LED fixtures now – from the little LEDBeam 150s to the VIVA spot and the refined DL range and now the T1 for theatres and very precise applications. Having this wide product range gives people a lot of choice and flexibility, and more good LED products will be launched later this year all of which are of interest to the busy live, film and TV markets in India.

The entertainment industry in India is extremely vibrant and lively! There is a huge and diverse mix of spectacular and very detailed productions happening and many brilliant creative and technical individuals who are trailblazing – and we have a wide product range to cover lighting in these multiple sectors.

I would also say that personally I love the color and the flair of India – the diversity and the energy! I have visited twice in the last six months and will continue to do so as our business there builds

Is demand for lighting in entertainment more challenging in the US and Europe, than in countries like India?

JF: I think the ‘demand’ is basically the same on a creative level, wherever you are in the world!

The power that good lighting can bring to so many different environments in terms of evoking an emotional response or an experience is really intense, and the essence of this is something that exists everywhere, rather than something that is specific to regions.

So, it’s the ‘delivery’ that I think is more challenging!

Tell us about your engagement with the Indian market and the role your distributor IES has played in popularizing the brand in India

JF: IES is doing a great job – they have a great and highly enthusiastic team in place who know the market well. They appreciate the value of holding out for quality, and the last couple of years has seen some good and substantial investments in Robe fixtures by some key market players.

In India, in which segment (fixed install, rental etc.) do you see most potential for Robe lighting?

RP: All verticals, rental, installation markets are seeing a good growth in the qualitative segment. All rental companies aspire to buy a good branded product which besides delivering great quality, lasts long enough for them to account as an asset and can give them return on their investment for years to come. That is the USP of buying branded fixtures for the rental market. Every large rental company started with only branded fixtures as their major base and built it on that as those fixtures are still working!!

Installation market is maturing, they are opting for fixtures which work day in and out, night after night rather than breaking down every other day. It has seen a cycle where they did go for cheaper products but eventually come back to quality fixtures.

Indian lighting industry is maturing along with advances in technology. It is beginning to recognize the value of quality products more than ever before. Quality never goes out of style.

How do you think the stage lighting industry has changed globally in the last five years? And how do you think India fits into this global scenario?

RP: Stage lighting is evolving very rapidly world-wide, from discharge lamps to LED, a whole world in projection led and laser Projectors, LED walls etc. is changing the STAGE like never before. Globally, the change is evident as greener laws will change the fixtures used.

The Indian stage is on this path too, slowly but steadily it has seen the adoption of latest technology being used in some of the best stages. IES & ROBE has been proud to be associated with them. Indian Stage has come a long way in terms of design and we are seeing very creative designs and quality equipment being used and this upward trend will continue.


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