Even without studying architecture or science, but working as a distributor importing and selling lamps to lighting projects with foreign lighting designers, Mr. Sakchai Manawongsakul, a young 23-year-old man, had gained experience and saw the opportunity to own his own business.
The Forbes Thailand team interviewed Mr.Sakchai Manawongsakul, CEO of LIGMAN Group, in the Experience Center, a seminar room for lighting education, on the 4th floor of the LANTERN Building, 9 Rama Road.
LIGMAN Lighting Co. Ltd. was founded by Mr. Sakchai Manawongsakul to manufacture and sell Thai lamps under the brand name LIGMAN. The first year concentrated on the local Thai market. From the year following and until today the focus is international with an average growth rate of 7-10%. The main HQ and factory are located in the Chachoengsao province, with branches in 10 countries.
Design Plus Innovation
LIGMAN Lighting Co. Ltd. operates a business of designing, manufacturing and distributing Outdoor and Indoor LED luminaires under the brand name LIGMAN. Their target clientele are premium B2B customers, with 95% of products in outdoor lighting and the remaining 5% indoor luminaires, all of which are certified to US and EU standards.
They have strict guidelines for product development that adhere to the standards and are based on client demand, which is to have a contemporary architectural design with precision lighting optics. This premium level of quality is necessary in order to compete in the global marketplace.
The average consumer purchasing a light fixture for their home or office may consider the shape and brightness of the fitting. However LIGMAN products are classified by application, with over 1,500 fittings to select from including underwater luminaires, post top luminaires, urban lighting furniture, and security bollards.
Not to mention their made to order options such as vertical solar luminaires, turtle-friendly lighting, service station lighting, street & area lighting with motion sensor control, perforated aluminium lighting poles with illuminated decorative graphics, and more.
In addition to their lighting portfolio, there is the integration of IoT (Internet of Things), the innovative technology which enables various electronic devices, or in this case Light Columns LIGHTCONNECT, to communicate via the internet. Though resembling a post-top luminaire, the poles can be equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity, CCTV cameras, speakers, EV charging units, and intercoms for safety or communication. Which in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic and requirement to limit the number of people in public, allows areas to be monitored in real time.
At 50 years of age, Mr Sakchai, in a soft tone, recounts the events of 30 years ago, after the opportunity to work with American, European and Australian lighting designers.
“I worked as a turnkey supplier, staying until the end of the project. After doing this for two to three years I realised that I wanted to go further. I was happy to see that clients were always pleased with our products, and their satisfaction brought me a lot of joy. So understanding that it was the light that made a place or home beautiful, I decided to change direction. Instead of importing products from abroad, I wanted to develop products of our own and bring income into Thailand as well.”
LIGMAN can manufacture luminaires of the same high quality and state of the art technology as international brands but at a lower cost. Initially selling in Thailand and going international the following year. It was difficult finding customers in the beginning. Taking the opportunity to attend a Lighting Trade Fair in Taiwan, and gaining an Australian client, answered the question of how to access the world market.
Especially Light+Building, the world’s largest trade fair for lighting. Held every two years in Frankfurt, Germany, it is where lighting professionals, experts, designers, manufacturers, and distributors from around the world meet.
“Back then fairs really helped us build our business and boosted our brand recognition. We met and fostered relationships with customers around the world, resulting in a surge of income to the company. Although the fairs were important, a major turning point in our company’s development, that laid the foundation for the LIGMAN of today, was expanding abroad and establishing overseas sales offices, technical support teams and factories. Wherever we sell our products, if the market is large enough, then we should have a base there. When customers know we have regional factories and teams to assist and support them locally, they become confident of our services and not afraid to use our products. Making us gain market share and continuously develop our company.
LIGMAN Lighting specialises in and focuses on outdoor lighting. Their products are unique, durable, waterproof to a high ingress protection, provide quality light, and can be implemented as designed with referenced standards. There are only a few lighting manufacturers specialising in outdoor lighting, for this reason we focus on providing premium products with an emphasis on quality. Servicing clients who understand that projects require attention to detail, energy conservation and concern for the environment. 15 years ago we established a presence in the UAE to support our customers in the Middle East.”
Presently LIGMAN has branches across 10 countries and three factories (not including the HQ in Thailand) selling to 80 countries around the globe.
The second largest factory is located in Oregon, USA and has been in operation for over 8 years. In addition to establishing a factory and product distribution centre in the Czech Republic to service our client base across Europe.
Most recently LIGMAN set up a factory in India to provide direct support to customers throughout India, South Asia and locations such as Bangladesh. Worldwide LIGMAN has a total of 450 employees, including an IT team of 20 people in Thailand, 5 in the USA, 5 in Europe and an additional 20 technical support in Thailand to assist customers all around the world.
“We are well known for our designs, the high calibre of our products, and the quality of light that is on par with top players from the USA and Europe – as we design our products according to the standards of each region. In Europe we design to the European Standard, in Canada and the USA we follow the North American Standards. Our products can be designed and modified to the standards of each regional market, enabling our products to stand out as modern outdoor lighting.”
Make a name in the global market
When it comes to outdoor lighting, the aesthetic characteristics of the product must evoke harmonious design and enhance the beauty of the surrounding environment, like a piece of furniture. At the same time, it must also be durable.
Although the function of a luminaire is to provide light, the circumstances of the space or use of the building ultimately determines the nature of the light. The Thai Parliament, for example, the challenge was to provide beautiful light to illuminate the building, supporting the architects vision of Thai identity; designing luminaires to meet this specific brief. The area around the street and garden “Samyan Mitrtown” is a shopping mall, the design emphasizes safety for people walking around the shopping mall for uninterrupted pedestrian lighting.
CEO of LIGMAN Group discusses how to build customer confidence in the first place: The company has a marketing team to bring the products for presentation directly to the customers. Having offices, factories and overseas teams is an important factor for customers and designers to decide to use our services on their next project.
Additionally, the company has all kinds of product information on its website. From product specification sheets, to installation manuals, technical drawings in CAD format, and photometric data for use in lighting calculation software such as DIALux, Relux and AGI32. Not only can LIGMAN quickly deliver information to lighting designers to facilitate their work, the website is available in 12 languages and supported by all major social media channels.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Mr. Sakchai’s working schedule involved travel abroad once a month to manage and monitor the LIGMAN offices in 10 countries, with an average of three months abroad each year.
“Our slogan is ‘Living Lighting’ which means lighting for living. Whether indoor or outdoor, if you want a good quality of life, a good atmosphere in a project, then light is the most crucial factor to keep people happy and healthy in their spaces.”
“The company desires to educate and provide students studying architecture
with an understanding of lighting. Since lighting and design should go hand in hand,
we provide seminars, training, and workshops at universities, or invite them
to our dedicated studio where they can receive hands-on experience working
with the products.”
In the end, Mr. Sakchai talks about the company’s intentions:
“We focus on the fundamental aspects of what Thailand has never had, we want to diversify our knowledge and grow our expertise.
We want to bring a high quality of light to the lives of Thai people and make our cities beautiful at night. We need a place where people can go to see and understand proper lighting. From now on our focus is education and giving something back to society.
We cannot make the city beautiful on our own, but bringing people together we can help one another with this.”