NAME: Dr. Joseph Kramer
COMPANY: Kramer Electronics
OVERTIME: Dr. Kramer, recipient of the 2013 InfoComm Pioneer of AV Award, founded Kramer Electronics in 1981 after a headphone company he was working for went out of business, and he decided to use the existing distribution channel to sell his own video products.
SCN: You have a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical biology. How have you applied your scientific understanding to the field of AV?
I started my studies as a chemist (B.Sc.) and then continued as a biochemist (M.Sc.), which then led me to do my Ph.D. in Endocrine Pharmacology. I’ve learned electronics electively in the interim, since I liked it, and when my academic research ended in 1978 I joined an audio company as chief engineer. I stayed there for a year and a half before I started my own business. Starting as a scientist definitely taught me the basics, such as how to analyze a situation from different angels, how to use scientific deductions, and how to always double-check my assumptions, same as you do when preparing a scientific paper. Over the years I have naturally broadened my horizons on electronics, but the truth ought to be said, I never planned to use electronics as my main occupation. Still, even today I use the “scientific way of thinking” very often, and I think it goes to show you that nothing is in vain.
SCN: What led you to found Kramer Electronics in 1981?
Life has its ways, as they say, to impose its plans upon you. When I realized that in order to continue in my field of endocrine pharmacology I would have to leave my beloved country, a sacrifice I was not prepared to make, this led me to the decision of switching my main occupation to my second love, which was electronics. This, in turn, allowed me to stay in my country, and therefore it was a decision I never came to regret.
Dr. Kramer believes that offering a large collection of products, what the company calls a “Rainbow of Solutions”, is the right approach to answer varied customer needs.
SCN: Kramer initially began in Europe, and has expanded worldwide. After coming to the U.S. in 1997, what challenges did you face in adapting to the American market?
Kramer actually started selling in the United States since 1983, but this was done through local distributors. In 1997 I took the decision of opening an official Kramer office by opening Kramer U.S. Since we were already familiar with the American market, I can’t say we saw a great deal of a difference between the U.S. and the European market. I can tell you this, customers in both places like to buy good, inexpensive products, with a touch of creativity, and I believe this is exactly the Kramer spark that you can find in every product of Kramer’s. As for standard differences between Europe and U.S. (PAL vs. NTSC), these were never a problem for Kramer.
SCN: Kramer manufactures more than 1,000 products today. How have customer needs changed over the past three decades?
The world of AV changed tremendously in over three decades since I started in this business. The most substantial change, I believe can be seen in the transition from analog video to digital video (followed by the same transition in audio as well). It has always been my belief that offering a large collection of products, what we call a “Rainbow of Solutions”, is the right approach to answer our varied customer needs in the most satisfying manner. Indeed, this is our theme, which you can find in Kramer booths in shows and exhibitions. The next important change in market trends was the shift towards a one-box solution, then back to multiple boxes’ solutions, then back to single solutions again, and so on. Bottom line is, technology keeps changing, and the world of AV continues to evolve. What I am sure of is that the AV world requires both types of solutions (single AND multiple). At Kramer, we offer both types of solutions, to answer every customer need.
SCN: You recently received the InfoComm Pioneer of AV Award. What would you say is the guiding principle in developing “industry firsts”?
First of all, the award was a huge honor and a personal recognition that made me look back and appreciate the unique products I have developed throughout the years. To answer your question, I think that to constantly introduce what you call “Industry Firsts” one needs to understand current technology and trends, their uses, as well as limitations. The second step would then be to listen to the customers, something that we at Kramer always try to do, and understand what they really have to say. The third and the most difficult step in introducing great products to the market is to come up with creative solutions for our customer needs, something that I called “spark” in my previous answer. Such products would be easily operated, but more than that, they would open the windows to upcoming technologies and at the same time answer today’s current challenges, and that, I think, is the beauty in Kramer products.
Chuck Ansbacher is the managing editor of SCN.