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People-focused urban lighting: interview with Jean-Christophe Ragni

Jean-Christophe Ragni

Jean-Christophe Ragni is CEO of family-run company Ragni, one of the leading French public lighting manufacturers. His aim is establish a more coherent overall vision of lighting and develop cities that are fluid and better connected.

Jean-Christophe Ragni, Ragni has been providing innovative lighting solutions since 1927. What are your most recent research areas?

In this profession, you need to develop and integrate new technologies quickly. LED represented a major revolution in many countries. Solar energy also has an important role in our innovative approach. Let’s not forget the “Smart City”, an intelligent and connected city in which lighting is fully modular.

Is your family structure the secret to your success? What do client like about this kind of organisation?

We are a family structure with five members of the executive board are part of the Ragni family. We are very proud of our independence and values – our company and products are all about passion. We are motivated by human concerns. I like the fact that clients mention “how happy people seem to be working for you”. This is the driving force behind our company, which now has nearly 80 staff across its different structures, as well as many subcontractors. We work with partners some of whom have been with us for 25 or 30 years and are very involved in company life.

The Ragni family

The Ragni family

Is energy efficiency a determining criteria for your clients?

It is a paradoxical. Energy efficiency is seen as being very important, but in reality, this is not always the case. It requires money to be invested and this is not possible for all cities. Lighting companies that only focus on solar energy are struggling more than others. This approach was developed over 8 years ago, but still hasn’t been fully integrated.

Another problem is that there is often more at stake in aesthetic projects than in energy efficiency, because the results are more visible in the short term. The difference between city centres and more isolated areas, which don’t receive the same funding, is striking. We need to develop a more inclusive approach.

Hotel Floraled

Floraled, Hôtel Aeva, Cagnes-sur-Mer

The company exports more and more of its products. What is the secret to this success?

Depending on the year, exports represent 18 – 25% of our activity. The secret to this success (if there is one!) is personal investment without counting the hours your work. I also think that the family company model is very appealing to some of our foreign partners, the “family name” factor is important. They can have direct access to members of the executive board and, in some countries, this close relationship is essential.

To develop aboard, you need people to trust you and you need to be flexible to adapt to each to each market, especially get closer to developing markets. Once again, it’s the human dimension that plays a decisive role. For example, in the US, we were lucky enough to meet someone who was very efficient and ready to fight for us. Thanks to this encounter, we were able to open a subsidiary in Denver and today we have more than 25 shops that sell our products in the US and Canada. You can work any in the world, you just need to find the right person who understands the rules. It is also important to travel a lot – although new technologies make communication easier, exporting can’t be conduct (solely) from your desk.

dakar in daytime

More than 1,000 solar lights in Dakar

Dakar at night

Public lighting in Dakar at night

How do you imagine lighting in the future?

I imagine the city of the future (and its lighting) at my level. It is a city where nothing bothers me and everything is integrated into an urban system. It would be fluid, simple, and intuitive for everyone to understand to add comfort to our daily lives. At the moment, this is complicated as we don’t have an overall vision, sadly priorities aren’t always the same and this is reflected in the diverse choices made.

This ideal city would be accompanied by civic education to preserve the city’s capital. Today, we often damage and destroy. We also need to make people aware of a different kind of urban aesthetics because norms belonging to the past can act as strait jackets. People say that candelabra have to be huge and this notion is so engrained that if we make something smaller it isn’t well received. We need to change the way people think in order to transform the city.

Raymond Barre Bridge - day

Raymond Barre Bridge, Lyon, daytime

Raymond Barre Bridge- night

Raymond Barre Bridge, Lyon, nighttime

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