Ramesh Jayaraman is a seasoned business leader, with a deep knowledge of Asia and a long-running association with the technology industry. Currently he serves as vice president and general manager for HARMAN Professional Solutions, the world’s leading supplier of audio, video, controls and lighting solutions. Originally from India and currently based at the HARMAN headquarters in Singapore, Ramesh is a frequent visitor to Japan which remains one of the region’s most exciting and fast-moving markets for the audio-visual industry. He explains that AV technology is set to play an increasingly important role in the daily lives of Japanese people, although the extent of its full impact may not always be understood.
“Audio-visual equipment is a key part of delivering the signals to our five senses,” he explains. “What AV products do is bring our senses to life. Whether its background music in our shopping malls, or the way we communicate at work or how we enjoy times with friends, AV equipment is there. We bring sound and light to life to deliver a better overall experience.”
Let us entertain you
When you think of entertainment technology in Japan, it’s hard to find anything bigger than karaoke. While the national pastime in the country might be baseball, karaoke is the one activity the brings the whole country together. HARMAN Professional Solutions is one of the leading karaoke equipment suppliers worldwide, including in the major markets of China and Southeast Asia. When it comes to Japan, the company is continuing to grow its presence and Ramesh is quick to note a couple of differences
“As we look at the Japanese market, we are creating solutions that are tailored to the size and shape of the Japanese environment,” he explains. “As a company we focus on customer solutions not just products. That means we look at each market – including Japan – and deliver solutions that are made for them, rather than forcing something different on them.”
The technology that goes inside karaoke equipment is different to the technology the company puts into its world-class equipment for live music. Crucially, the technology in karaoke equipment is all about the user experience. Although the technology might be different, for people enjoying the karaoke experience on a night out with friends, it still maintains that live music feel for those enjoying it.
Of course, entertainment technology goes beyond karaoke and live music into a range of other areas, including cinema. In this area too, there are a couple of technological advances that look set to improve the experience for Japan’s cinema goers.
“With the advent of our Sculpted sound in our latest JBL cinema speakers, we effectively have the ability to have audience members pick up sound on a 3D basis, so they get a much more immersive experience at the movies” says Ramesh. “Similarly in live music equipment you’re seeing technology evolve so that artists can deliver rock concerts in urban areas but with much less disruption to the local community than before. For the concert goers the sound is better than ever, but surrounding communities notice it less. Traditionally our business has been around touring bands and fixed performance spaces, but the sophistication of our latest sound technology means this can be widened to cover more performance spaces than ever.”
The Japanese live music market remains one of Asia’s most lively and HARMAN is the brand of choice for many of the country’s landmark venues, such as the legendary Billboard Live space in Roppongi, Tokyo. What makes HARMAN unique is that it not only supplies the sound systems for venues, but also the video, lighting and control technology: again delivering a full solution, rather than just a product focus.
While the entertainment sector of the AV business brings advances to people enjoying their leisure time, in the business sector it’s about improving efficiency for companies, governments, schools, hospitals and more. Today’s major focus for many companies is workforce productivity, and that means better office utilization. In a market like Japan, where real estate prices remain among the highest in the world, space and work efficiency takes on added importance.
“If you look at the board room, conference room or even the office corridor, companies are increasingly using AV technology to bring more efficiency to their business,” notes Ramesh. “The technology focuses on enlightening people, especially given Japanese long work environments.”
In this sector, HARMAN has the AMX brand that facilitates room scheduling and also includes the ground-breaking new Acendo video soundbar for conference calling. This innovative unit has a ‘plug-and-play’ design and is perfect for small huddle spaces or home workers allowing small groups to quickly and easily set-up multi-zone conference calls.
“People are working more across countries and in smaller groups than ever before,” says Ramesh. “Offices are also more open in layout and board rooms are being replaced with smaller huddle spaces. The Acendo is a new technology that embodies these changes and will soon become a regular fixture in offices across Japan and the rest of Asia.”
Enhancing retail experience online and offline
Another area where AV equipment is playing a vital, yet understated role is in retail. Japan’s shopping districts are among the world’s busiest. Whether you’re looking to get decked out in Harajuku street fashion, or just picking up basic t-shirts and shorts, Japanese people still favor an enjoyable shopping experience. But in recent years, traditional stores have found it increasingly challenging to compete with online retailers. As a company that works closely with retail stores, Ramesh is quick to point out the role technology will play in shaping tomorrow’s retail experience for shoppers.
“The audio-visual effects of a store play a crucial role in reeling in customers,” he says. “It’s just as critical as the store’s design. For example, having upbeat, loud music with high bass and attractive lighting is the key to attracting young people into retail spaces.”
With growing numbers of shops around the world working towards a more interactive retail experience we’ll see more stores becoming performance spaces, with live music and entertainment shows helping move brands into a higher space. Enhancing interactive experiences depends entirely on having the right AV technology in terms of lighting, audio and video control.
Another anticipated trend will see a new balance between online and traditional stores: “What we really see is that there is a co-existence happening,” explains Ramesh. “Trying out an item of interest in store is common among Japanese people. But then they might want to order that online. This is already common with musical instrument stores and will spread to more sectors. AV technology provides the environment to turn regular stores into ‘Experience Centers’ for consumers.”
Japan: A Key Market
Japan is the largest market for audio-visual equipment in Asia, and it looks set to get even bigger in the coming years. Japan will be hosting several global sporting events and HARMAN Professional Solutions is well positioned to provide new solutions, not only into stadiums, but into the hotels, bars, restaurants and public spaces that will be equipped to welcome these major international events.© Japan Today