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Philips a high-fryer in food-loving S'pore

Mr Srikanth Nott, general manager for personal health at Philips Asean Pacific, is a 15-year veteran at Philips who was formerly a consultant at PwC. He has taken different roles in Philips, managing the lighting and healthcare business for the last
Mr Srikanth Nott, general manager for personal health at Philips Asean Pacific, is a 15-year veteran at Philips who was formerly a consultant at PwC. He has taken different roles in Philips, managing the lighting and healthcare business for the last seven to eight years in China, as well as the audio business in Malaysia.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

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An appliance that deep-fries food without using oil may not seem like something for those embracing healthy living but its popularity may be a sign that Singaporeans see the need for a balanced lifestyle.

The Philips airfryer has certainly conquered kitchens here since it was launched in 2011, and this appears to validate electronics giant Philips' bet on healthcare.

Mr Srikanth Nott, general manager for personal health at Philips Asean Pacific, told The Straits Times: "When 30 per cent of Singaporean homes choose to have an airfryer..., it tells you how pro-active they are.

"They don't want to give up on their fried food but also that the recognition has come through - I can't have my cake and eat it too."

While most people know Philips for its consumer electronics products, which run the gamut from TV sets and audio equipment to household products like vacuum cleaners and electric toothbrushes, the company is putting greater emphasis on creating products that encourage the consumer to make healthier choices and prevent the onset of illness.

Mr Nott said the shift began when Philips chief executive Frans van Houten was appointed in 2011.

CASTING WIDER NET

Everyone thinks being digital is about e-commerce, Facebook, but digital can also be about customer service and supply. Digital is not just for some businesses and industries - there's a role for it everywhere.

MR SRIKANTH NOTT, general manager for personal health at Philips Asean Pacific.

Mr van Houten highlighted three trends, noted Mr Nott - "ageing populations, chronic diseases and the fact that people are more willing and empowered to do stuff on their own". He added: "The vision then became fairly clear - we need to head in the direction of healthcare innovation."

The 125-year-old Dutch company, which began life making carbon-filament lamps, has walked the talk on its new business strategy.

In April 2014, it exited its TV and audio business, and spun off its lighting division into a separate company last May.

Mr Nott said reinvention is in the company's lifeblood, as it owns 76,000 patent rights and has been responsible for some technological milestones in consumer products, such as introducing the rotary electric shaver and the compact disc.

The company is not resting on its laurels. In 2015, it was the world's largest patent applicant at the European Patent Office, up from second place in 2014.

The company here will continue its focus on "healthy eating", which is a clear priority of food-loving Singaporeans, he said.

Mr Nott also noted that compared with the rest of Asia, Singaporeans are more concerned with their dental hygiene.

To meet the demand, Philips will launch a toothbrush later this year with a smart sensor that will collect data, showing patients where they are brushing too little, or missing spots, as well as the amount of pressure to use.

"At the end of six months, you can take your brushing habits data to the dentist instead of the dentist asking you 20 questions," he said, adding that there is plenty of scientific research linking brushing practices to heart conditions.

Philips is also going digital, launching the latest airfryer model last November online first before taking it to brick-and-mortar stores.

It also launched the airfryer on Facebook's live stream, with a cooking demonstration.

"Life is turning a lot more digital," said Mr Nott.

"We want to be at the forefront of that. Why should we imagine that aunties don't do Facebook?"

The 15-year veteran at Philips, who was formerly a consultant at PwC, has constantly reinvented his career as well. He has taken different roles in the company, managing the lighting and healthcare business for the last seven to eight years in China, as well as the audio business in Malaysia. His experience in China taught him to embrace the digital innovation.

"For those in Asia-Pacific, see how far it has gone, and how quickly in China, and be prepared for everything going a lot faster than you imagine," he said.

"Everyone thinks being digital is about e-commerce, Facebook, but digital can also be about customer service and supply. Digital is not just for some businesses and industries - there's a role for it everywhere."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2017, with the headline 'Philips a high-fryer in food-loving S'pore '. Print Edition | Subscribe