Dyson. You’ve heard that name somewhere. You’ve seen it somewhere. The name gives you that feeling that it’s always around you. Well, it is. Dyson is a British technology company known for its bagless vacuum cleaners, bladeless fans, super-powered hand dryers and many other such appliances. The company sells its products in more than 65 countries and employs over 1,000 engineers. For more than two decades, it has changed the way we look at the most mundane households items.
Sir James Dyson
This incredible company is led by Sir James Dyson. To understand why this company is where it is you need to understand the person leading it. James Dyson was frustrated with his vacuum cleaner’s diminishing performance back in 1978. He took it apart and found the issue to be with its bag, which collected dust and thus led to the reduction in suction power from the cleaner. Applying concepts from a new industrial cyclone tower built by him, he began working on changing the way vacuum cleaners function. Five years and 5,127 prototypes later, he had invented the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner.
I had the incredible opportunity to interview Sir James Dyson. Here’s his interview with #GNTECH on his career, the company and its plans for the Middle East.
1) In a long and illustrious career, everything you and your company have done is revolutionary and has changed the way we look at daily household items, whether it be a vacuum cleaner, fan or hair dryer. Would you say you have a habit of choosing products that have become mundane and banal? What is the process through which Dyson selects a product or industry that requires this revolutionising?
Seeing everyday products that don’t work properly is what motivates me to create, from wheelbarrows that get stuck in the mud and vacuum cleaners that clog to fans that create an unpleasant stream of air. My passion for inventing stems from frustration and hunger to develop something that works better.
My team of engineers and I overcome everyday frustrations by trying out new ways. Quite often we make mistakes along the way, but we get encouragement and learn from them. We also build prototypes, which help us to understand how something should work. During the development of the Dyson Pure Cool purifier fan, for example, 450 prototypes were developed. It’s a long process until you get it right, but at Dyson we have this nagging feeling that there’s still a better way to do it.
2) What are the company’s plans for the Middle East? Where do the UAE and Dubai factor into these plans?
Dyson has grown by 128 per cent over the past five years in the Middle East, and we intend to keep on this trajectory. While all Dyson products are popular with consumers, the biggest growth in that period has been in Dyson cordless vacuum cleaners and air treatment categories. In fact, we have just launched a new Purifier fan, which will eliminate the problematic pollutants in your home such as allergens and cooking fumes. And Dubai is at the centre of our expansion plans. We have just opened an office here and hope to continue expanding.
3) China proved to be a massive market for Dyson over the past year and a half, with profits soaring in 2015. To what do you attribute this success?
Our cordless technology has been a huge success in China and has changed the way people clean their homes.
4) Reports state that Dyson saw a whopping 66 per cent increase in sales for battery-driven vacuum cleaners such as the V6, which has further led you to announce plans to invest £1 billion in battery technology over the next five years. Now, battery technology has been quite stagnant over the past few years (commercially speaking). There have been theoretical breakthroughs, but none with the power to disrupt the industry. Please comment on the state of batteries as an industry and a technology. How far from the goal are we right now?
Batteries are one of the next frontiers in technology. If we are to continue to create new and disruptive products at Dyson it will be vital to have access to the latest core technologies such as batteries. We are driven by a desire for audacious leaps in technology, so we’ve decided to invest in creating the batteries of the future instead of waiting for someone else to do it first.
5) Personal robotics will play a massive role in our lives over the next few years. How do you see the future for the Dyson 360 Eye robot vacuum cleaner and other such products?
Since 2005, Dyson engineers have worked jointly with Imperial College London and world leading research scientists, investing £25m to help robots see and understand the world around them. Most robotic vacuum cleaners don’t see their environment, have little suction, and don’t clean properly. They are gimmicks. We’ve been developing a unique 360-degree vision system that lets our robot see where it is, where it has been, and where it is yet to clean. Vision, combined with our high-speed digital motor and cyclone technology, is the key to achieving a high-performing robot vacuum – a genuine labour-saving device.
6) You’ve often proposed the need for more engineers, especially in the UK. Do you say this because of a lack of quantity or quality of engineers? Have you considered tapping into countries such as India where there is a surplus of engineers and millennials who could contribute to Dyson in an immediate manner?
It is quantity, we simply don’t have enough engineers, and I firmly believe that the education system should make it a more desirable career, after all engineers have the potential of changing and creating the future! Dyson R&D has engineers from across the world and would welcome any talent no matter where they are from. All we want are budding inventors brimming with fresh ideas.