“At Canon India, we are committed to provide a complete 360 degree input to output experience to our customers. Our retail stores across the country, widely known as the ‘Canon Image Square’ provide a perfect amalgamation of our cutting-edge technology and customer centric service. Advancing our Imaging stores to the third version, we have stepped into the new era of retail evolution, with CIS 3.0,” avers Kazutada Kobayashi, President & CEO, Canon India Pvt Ltd. In this exclusive interview, he shares his experience, expertise and Canon’s India strategy to capture the burgeoning market…
Canon has been a brand to reckon with in the consumer electronics space. What factors have contributed to such a stupendous success?
At Canon India, we work in collaboration with our customers, partners, employees and the community at large. We consider them integral pillars of our success story. Our corporate philosophy of ‘Kyosei’ – which means, living together for the common good, is embedded in our organization’s DNA. Hence, we take pride in working towards the betterment of everyone who is associated with us, be it our customers, partners and employees or the communities we operate within. Good work attracts good results, and it is a matter of honor for us that we enjoy respect for our conscious and aware functioning in the country.
Two core ingredients of our success are ‘Innovation’ and ‘Customer Delight'. At Canon, we are at the helm of innovation, with our expansive portfolio catering to the imaging industry. We are renowned amongst the top patent holders, across the world. Innovation has always been core to our DNA, which is explicit from 21 years of our journey in the country. If we look back, unlike most of other companies in Asia, we started our journey with B2B and then built B2C over it, which now constitutes an equally significant share to our business.
We strive to establish and maintain a lifetime positive relationship with our customers. While we are equally focused at expanding our customer base and increasing sales volumes, there is no denying that what helps a company’s growth in the long run is its connect and relationship with its customers. For instance, the adoption of innovation to improve customer experience, going an additional mile to provide clients with services, are some ongoing activities that have added to our success story in India. Along with being recognized for our products & services, through our conscious efforts in our endeavors of HR and CSR, we make efforts to be recognized for our corporate practices in the country.
Your tagline says, ‘delighting you always’. What are the USPs that make it a preferred consumers’ choice?
‘Customer delight’ being the foremost objective for us, we understand our customers and provide them tailor made solutions that are in line with technological advancements in the industry.
From input of images to output, we at Canon take pride in taking care of the entire 360 degree offerings, starting with the camera, then image processing to printing of pictures. The commitment, skill and innovation to offer a complete solutions portfolio backed with a robust after sales and servicing network is what makes our offerings unique and leading in the market. We are committed to delivering delight thereby with an intention of multiplying smiles, we continue to expand and excel in our services outreach to our customers across the nation. Across our businesses, we continuously make the efforts to connect with customers across the farthest geographies in the country. Under the aegis of ‘Regional Penetration’, we aim to expand the imaging culture in the country.
What major transformations you have witnessed over the years in this space?
Technology is ever evolving with innovation and quality being key to our industry. I often get asked this question on how smartphones maybe taking away the camera market but I reiterate that innovation and quality continue to be two integral elements in this space too. With the advent of smartphones, the number of clicks has increased considerably. As more and more people are clicking, the market for the imaging industry is expanding. With imaging industry expanding, only innovative players will continue to lead the space.
With so many images being uploaded on various social networks every moment, the differentiating factor becomes the quality of the images. And this is where a DSLR camera scores heavily. With results that are unmatched, an important advantage is being offered that smartphone users cannot hope to achieve, unless they adopt a DSLR camera.
There are several areas in which we can further expect some new trends, particularly in camera technology. We lead the world with our innovative products that realize high-quality images using ground breaking technologies such as proprietary lenses, CMOS sensors and image processors. Continuing to advance the 4K technology with our EOS series, we have maintained our position of innovation and leadership. Live View focusing technology for DSLR camera models will improve, and we will see more and more cameras featuring touchscreen LCDs for easy user interface. Our ever improving lens and optics technology means slimmer cameras with wider zoom ranges. Meanwhile photo printing is becoming more portable, with Wi-Fi enabled compact printers.
How do you view Indian market in the overall business strategy?
I can proudly share that India is amongst the top performing countries in our Asia map. Last year, we recorded a double-digit growth and this year too, we are striving towards keeping that momentum. Last year, we marked our two decades of glorious journey in the country and took the pledge of ‘Vision 2020’. Our Vision 2020 is to further penetrate in the country with our offerings and service, augment the imaging culture in the country and introduce technological advancements across business and consumer products.
What are the challenges that come in the way of operating out of India vis-à-vis other countries?
India is a dynamic country and we are very proud of our journey in this nation. Every country comes with its own set of challenges and opportunities. We at Canon focus on converting our challenges into opportunities. Our partners, employees and the community, have all been an immense support in our 21 years long journey in the country. We have succeeded in being included amongst the best performing regions in Asia.
With our efforts aligned towards growth, we feel India market still has a huge potential from various point of views. Number of households are increasing more than the population and number of equipment like cameras and printers increase in proportion to the number of households rather than number of people. Groups who can afford such equipment, i.e. mid income and mid - high income families are also increasing. So the demand is definitely going to be higher, and the market is at an evolving stage.
Enhancing experience is one of the keys to win over consumers. How is Canon doing that?
At Canon India, we are committed to provide a complete 360-degree input to output experience to our customers. Our retail stores across the country, widely known as the 'Canon Image Square’ provide a perfect amalgamation of our cutting-edge technology and customer centric service. Advancing our Imaging stores to the third version, we have stepped into the new era of retail evolution, with CIS 3.0.
The idea behind launching Version 3.0 of our Canon Image Squares is to transform retail outlets into a destination, attracting customers to experience a whole new imaging revolution. The objective is to familiarize them with cameras and help them indulge in an extraordinary click-toprint experience with Canon’s new-age technologies and software.
We have also launched an added customer service called ‘hd Album EZ’, which will be available at select CIS stores. This intuitive service would enable our customers to select the best design, creative and layout options for their images, which will be printed as photo albums for them on our flagship professional printing product, DreamLabo 5000. Our CIS Version 3.0 are ‘imaging stores,’ that would allow consumers to make memories and be allured by the magic of photography and imaging at large.
How do you keep your team motivated to deliver the desired results?
In our everyday life, we spend most of our time in office. In my opinion, an efficient work culture is integral to ensure motivation of the employees. At Canon India, our vision statement states that “We will be the company that is respected by people. People who work for Canon and those related with it will take pride in their association.”
In my personal capacity, I engage with all the employees across the country, over a monthly ‘CEO Address’ session, I share the progress and vision of our organisation on a regular basis, followed by a Q&A session, where I address the queries of the employees. This regular engagement ensures clear and focused goals, for all Canonites. Through my monthly blog, ‘Frankly Speaking’, I interact with the employees, I share my thoughts on various subjects and strategies and answer all their questions. Communication methods like these enable me to share my reflections, experiences & expectations, along with helping me to connect with the last employee in the organisation.
We consider our employees our biggest assets. Our HR policies are designed to facilitate the professional and personal growth of the workforce. Various employee engagement initiatives are organized which ensure that all Canonites are motivated to contribute to the organization’s success, along with an enhanced sense of their own wellbeing. All employees at Canon India are dedicated to the commitment towards the community. Under ‘Canon Involve’, employees regularly volunteer to visit the adopted villages and serve the community. We select all our adopted villages in close proximity to our office to ensure constant engagement.
What’s your leadership style? How do you plan to prepare the next generation to take on the lead?
As leaders, we know change is unavoidable. There is a paradigm shift in the way employees were trained earlier, in comparison to the current scenario. It’s important to understand what an employee is thinking and feeling at different stages of their career, and then use that knowledge to transform any employee’s day-today work experience by showing our appreciation for their work and the career stage they are in. I have secured a belief in the importance of celebrating careers. We have a dedicated concept in this endeavor in this area, called ‘Coaching Culture’, where people grow people. At Canon, we are extremely committed to this aspect of the development of human resources. We have already concluded coaching for the Senior Management and have now rolled out coaching for Senior Managers, to help them elevate themselves professionally and personally. Soon, the process would be rolled out company wide and we hope that every employee, working at Canon India, may benefit from this initiative.
In my opinion and experience, people stay longer if they see growth for themselves in an organization and at Canon India, we ensure the same. I feel proud to give away awards to employees for their 5, 10, 15 and even 20 years of long service with Canon.
What’s your advice to fresh graduates and new age managers to gear up for the future?
My advice would be every manager should be responsible for 'leading by example'. The fundamental is to respect human resources. To secure, build and progress with your teammates, colleagues, seniors and even trainees is an art. Someone who believes in progressing and walking alone, is not really a leader. I believe in nurturing, listening and progressing with my staff.
At Canon, our guiding principle is the ‘San-ji spirit’ (San-ji is a Japanese term for three self’s), which means the spirit of self-awareness, self motivation and self-management. All our employees are encouraged to follow these this principle and ensure self-progress along with that or the organisation.
Where would we see Canon growth story heading 5 years from now?
We aim to penetrate further with our complete 360 degree portfolio, contributing to the growth of the imaging culture in the country. Regional penetration of our products & services will once again be a core pillar of our journey this year. Our retail expansion with our experiential retail stores, Canon Image Square have recently achieved a significant milestone of completing 250 stores.
Alongside our continuous innovation and growth in our B2B and B2C segments, I would like to add that we are also heading strongly towards the industrial equipment segment. Our advanced industrial equipment meets the needs of semiconductor and display panel manufacturers, helping connect IT to everyday life. Our industrial equipment will be revolutionizing the manufacturing workplace.
CSR is very close to my heart and I am looking forward to making this year a milestone year for our CSR endeavors. Over a period of five years, our endeavors like ‘Adopt a Village’and ‘Support A Life’ have succeeded in impacting several lives, this year we are furthering our endeavors with our initiative called ‘Learning Beyond Books’. As part of this, late last year we have started to take children from our adopted villages to visit places like Planetarium, Zoo and Science city along with our offices. These visits are aimed at providing them the required exposure to learn and grow in the real world. Our aim is to strengthen the aspirations of these children and inspire them to dream bigger in life. We want to handhold them into a brighter future and support them to lead more meaningful, well-developed and holistic lives ahead.
UP, CLOSE & PERSONAL
What’s your passion? In my free time, I enjoy cooking Japanese dishes for my family.
A recent book that you have read and implied its learnings in the business: Two of my favorite books include ‘Letter to a business man to his son by G. Kingsley’ and John F Kennedy’s biography.