Canon Inc, the Japanese multinational, is considered to be one of the industry leaders in the manufacture of imaging and optical products, including cameras, photocopiers, printers, and recently, medical equipment.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Yuichi Ishizuka, the president and CEO of Canon Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), during his visit to Egypt, to find out more about the company’s latest plans in Egypt and the region. The transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
What is the main objective of your trip to Egypt?
I became the president of Canon EMEA last April after working at the New York headquarter, so I have been in this position for 10 months only. Last year was very busy as we were trying to know the status quo for the business situation, and in order to decide the direction of our business this year, and how as a company we will be doing business for the future.
I define it to three main regions, western countries, Eastern Europe, as well as the developing business group, which are Africa, the Middle East, and Russia. Our area of operation covers more than 130 countries, and we want to be positioned in the best way to meet the demands of our customers, and tailor our way of doing business based on different regions.
Africa is one of the areas where we are going to invest for the future, not only for our future as the company, but for the growing future of the region, that is why I wanted to start visiting African countries. As you know, I receive various reports about these countries, so I know the numbers, yet I would like to see the situation of those countries with my own eyes in order to understand the real situation. Throughout my long years of experience in business, I learned that I have to see first before making decisions, which is my responsibility.
How do you view Africa’s growth potential?
I just arrived to Cairo today, but on my way here from the airport, I can feel the energy in the place. My first impression, is yes there is potential for our business, and Cairo is a place where we would like to invest for our future, not only for Canon, but also for the mutual benefit.
I believe that if we want to be successful in our business, we cannot only care about the benefits for our side, we also need to benefit the people who live in the country as well.
What was the main objective of creating the Canon Central and North Africa (CCNA) division?
We established this regional headquarter in 2016, because we first had to establish a base in the region where we are going to operate, and not to run it from London. Since that time, the region witnessed great growth, compared to the other areas of operations.
What we are focusing on now is how we can move on from here, in terms of investments, not only in facilities, but in people, and our employees, who are very important to our business. We have to train the employees based on our culture, and the ways of doing business in order to meet the customers’ demand in these countries.
What drove your decision to enter into new areas such as health care?
As you know three years ago, we acquired Toshiba Medical Systems, which is a huge company in the medical equipment business, and we changed it into Canon Medical Systems Corporation.
Right now in Canon EMEA, we are considering the business situation and the expansion. Right now, the headquarter wants to directly communicate with customers, which means hospitals.
Health care is a very wide field, yet we are focusing only a couple of areas, which are CT, MRI, X-Ray, ultrasound and healthcare informatics.
To expand the business, we have to consider what is the best way to do so, either through a directory or through Canon EMEA, which is the discussion we are having now, because we need to modify our products to fit the demands of every region.
As a company, how did you adapt to the rise of mobile photography?
Just 20 years ago, Canon started its digital camera business, at that time I was assigned to the USA market to start this business from scratch, we had a huge business in the old analog cameras, it was a tough mission to switch to the digital.
The peak time was 2012 from the industry’s point of view, while in 2008, smartphones started to emerge, disrupting the digital cameras market. However, from my point of view, smartphones are not our enemies, they rather are a life-line for our society right now worldwide.
I believe that right now, each one has a smartphone, even little children, allowing people to take pictures, and shoot videos. Unlike the analog days, where people only had one camera and it was very expensive, and harder to access.
My point is that despite the fact that most people find the smartphone camera as good enough, yet if only a small fraction of these users, such as 10%, wanted to upgrade it for more professional cameras, this will create a new market.
I think of smartphones as the entrance for the photography world.
What is the volume of Canon’s investment and market share in the Egyptian market?
In proportion to the size of countries, Egypt is a huge country with 100 million people, and mainly young people, with over 50% of the population under 30 years old.
There is a huge growth potential here, unlike other mature European countries, or even Japan.
Currently Canon is the only brand which offers a wide product portfolio, of both input and output devices, which strongly position us in emerging business, for consumer segment which includes cameras, video cameras, and domestic printers, to professional segments.
We are enjoying a very strong position across our portfolio, being number one in terms of the camera business.
How does Egypt perform in comparison with the rest of the MENA region?
Considering the market potential, and the economic growth Egypt is going through, the country has a much higher pace compared to many other markets, because the potential is quite high, following the years of economic challenges.
Does Canon plan to launch any new products soon?
Something we have been always proud of in Canon is the fact that all of our products are designed based on the feedback that we get from our customers, so this year, we will launch new products, based on the newly launched, EOS R system, which is a revolutionary system, when it comes to the interchangeable lens camera, we also have a new pocket-sized printer called Zoemini.
Five years ago, I had a discussion with the head of the research and development for the lenses, where he suggested that we change the lens mount, which is a very big risk, because we already have 120 million people already having our EF lenses. In return, I asked him about the reason for this step, as we are already number one. He responded that this is the reason why we need to do so, we are number one, but this is a 30-year old system, we have to think about the next 30 years.
As an industry leader, we need to think about the future, 4k is now, 8k is coming, and 16k will be next, so we have to be prepared, and think about the sensor technology which will be able to handle this. In 2020, 5G will start, and 6G will follow, we will see a completely different world.
Cameras consist of three main parts, sensors, processor, and lenses, so to handle 16k, you need to have a processor, and a lens which can support that. Optical technologies are limited, only a handful of companies have it.
Do you have any expansion plans in the GCC region?
The GCC region is critical for us, we have been there for 20 years, with our regional office in Dubai, throughout our business in the UAE, we also appreciate the importance of the other GCC countries, we have also recently established our direct operations in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Dubai is a very strategic location for us, because from there, our operation focuses on both the Middle East and Africa. As for Saudi Arabia, it is a huge country, with its 2030 vision, we believe that there is a great potential there, we have now teams on the ground in three main cities in Saudi Arabia.
Before we expand further, we want to first to consolidate and learn from the experience.
Can you elaborate on the ways you work with the local community?
In Africa, we launched our sustainability programme called Miraisha, aiming to promote the country’s print and imaging sector, as well as support the creation of skilled jobs in the digital media industries, leading to the development of a vibrant and a growing audio-visual industry.
Miraisha Sustainability Programme aims at building the capacity and skills of people in African countries. The programme has already implemented several imaging workshops and seminars to support inspiring photographers and filmmakers by strengthening their knowledge of new innovations, and to build their professional capacity in order to find suitable jobs in the industry.
The Miraisha Sustainability Programme falls under Canon’s corporate philosophy of ‘Kyosei,’ meaning ‘living and working together for the common good,’ which allows the company to continue its strong growth in the region with new business initiatives while also promoting impactful CSR activities.
Moreover, Canon will continue expanding its reach for all the product ranges in the market, support its local partners in gaining a larger market share in both the business and consumer segments, and become the imaging market leader in Kenya and Africa.