The news that Ecotech Marine and AquaIllumination had completed a formal merger came as quite a shock to the marine aquarium world. The reasons for AI and EM joining forces might come across as a monopolistic move to the shortsighted, but the bigger picture is much more complicated, and a lot more interesting than that.
As with any merger in business, combining forces of two companies means that different departments can become more streamlined, there’s more specialization, and of course, the costs of operating a major manufacturing company invariably become quite reduced. Whereas the two companies both had to do double duty doing mundane administrative tasks of accounting, human resources, customer support and all of the boring things that companies have to do to operate, now more energies and resources can go into research and development.
While Ecotech Marine and AquaIllumination have engaged in competition for dominance of the lighting market over the last few years, their products are actually comparably priced and most of their personal competition has been on the features; making products as cutting edge and exciting as possible. The real “threat” of competition is not between the well diversified American-made products, but from a flood of cheaply made Chinese OEM products which are of questionable value and quality, and often rebranded by other companies looking to make a quick buck.
Speaking of Made-in-America, both Ecotech Marine and AquaIllumination are major manufacturers who assemble many of their own components and go out of their way to reshore jobs throughout America. By joining forces both EM and AI will also be able to order parts in greater quantities for bigger discounts, and leveraging economies of scale. By consolidating purchasing of raw materials and manufacturing, Ecotech-Illumination can focus more on innovation to stay ahead of the import products.
Since Ecotech Marine and Aqua Illumination are both two of the most highly regarded brands in the marine aquarium hobby and industry, we wouldn’t expect either of them will ever go away. It makes more sense for the new operators to position Aqua Illumination and Ecotech Marine on different tiers of value and performance, much like Volkswagen and Audi, and in our own industry, Ecoxotic and Current USA. If we just had to guess, we could imagine Aqua Illumination gearing up to be the the high-value brand like Volkswagen and Ecotech Marine would become the higher-tier, lifestyle or performance brand like Audi.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the merger between Ecotech and AI is really back to the whole freeing up of R&D. If AI’s set of engineers could focus on the lighting side of the product ranges, that would free up Ecotech to do even more innovation on the types of products that made them successful in the first place. We’re selfishly pining for Ecotech to return their attention to the water pump side of the market, and follow up with all kinds of crazy-awesome Ecosmart enabled devices like dosing pumps, heaters, return pumps and a new generation of physical and chemical sensors. Let’s not forget that the needs of the Marine Aquarium hobby are closely paralleled by many other markets including freshwater and ponds, horticulture, and even nutritious lighting for people.
There’s a myriad of reasons for AI and Ecotech to join forces, we’ve just elucidated a whole laundry list of good examples so take your pick. Both of these venerable companies have become successful in the aquarium hobby by developing great products, and by being good corporate citizens for our reef shows, for our club meetings, and many of our pressing causes. Any alarms of reduced competition should be greatly balanced out by the prospect of great strides in innovation on their part and we for one can’t wait to see what the two companies will come up with next, together.