Hideki Ozawa, Canon China's president and CEO, says the company will make customized products for Chinese consumers. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY
Hideki Ozawa keen to help Canon's surveillance, medical and imaging products succeed locally
For 12 years, Canon China's president and CEO, Hideki Ozawa, 67, pursued a dream. He wanted to make Canon, which entered the China market in 1997, a brand to reckon with in the mainland.
Having led Canon China since 2005, Ozawa was rewarded with an additional global role－executive vice-president－on April 1.
He is excited that he is close to realizing his dream. "My elevation could help Canon in China and Asia as it might be easier now to get the approval of headquarters for some of our proposals and requirements."
Canon, he said, would make customized products for Chinese consumers. "I feel more pressure, but also feel more motivated to work."
That would mean he would continue to swear by his "China first" policy. The Japanese multinational corporation's imaging and optical products have been making steady inroads into the China market.
Ozawa said he is determined to make a success of Canon's diversification into surveillance products and medical devices.
"I attach importance to the realization of a dream. As president, I've always dreamt about developing the Canon brand in China. I've been here for 12 years now. All along, I felt I was getting closer to my dream. I hope our company will continue to be dynamic and lively here. Toward that end, I've designed many activities."
Some of them are business related, of course. He is keen that Canon should hire more skilled employees, invest more and launch more new products in China.
"China is playing an increasingly vital role in our global market. The revenue from the Asian market has accounted for nearly 20 percent of our global revenue. Camera sales in this region contributed more than 30 percent of our camera sales globally."
Seeking growth points
Ozawa said China has become the fastest-growing market with the most outstanding performance in camera sales, coasting on the ever-increasing spending power of Chinese consumers and their demand for high-quality imaging products.
"We've been devoted to imaging products, office appliances and industrial equipment for quite a long time. These are also main sources of profit, but they are unable to support our sustainable growth, considering the constantly changing environment."
So, globally, Canon has been seeking new business growth points. Last year, it agreed to buy Toshiba Corp's medical equipment unit for nearly $6 billion to enter the high-margin medical devices sector.
In 2015, it spent $2.83 billion to buy out Swedish network video solutions provider Axis Communications AB, to expand into video surveillance.
"The prospects in these sectors are very promising in China," he said, adding Canon will intensify efforts to develop the emerging businesses, including medical equipment and security monitoring.
Social welfare is another focus area. "We've made contributions to the Chinese society in our own ways in the past 20 years or more, in the aftermath of earthquakes, great fires or serious environmental problems."
In other areas, millennials consume differently and their preferences, like online shopping, are different－and satisfying their demands is a challenge for Canon, Ozawa said.
But the challenge also presents many opportunities, he said. Canon expects to boost its Asia revenue to $10 billion by 2020, riding the booming tourism industry as well as growing demand from consumer segments like women, senior citizens and tourists.
"Cameras with mirrorless, interchangeable lenses are favored by female consumers. It's amazing! Their segment witnessed 300 percent growth in revenue. We'll provide solutions targeted at their growing demands."
Compared to single-lens reflex cameras, mirrorless cameras can be simpler, smaller and lighter because they do not have an optical viewfinder.
Difficulties and optimism
Just as such opportunities, difficulties arose in China for Canon. The biggest of them were in 2013 and last year, when the yuan depreciated, inflating costs of imported components.
The popularity of smartphones with built-in cameras has eaten into some of the market share of traditional camera manufacturers such as Canon.
On the other hand, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics will attract a large number of professional photographers and tourists, and are expected to bring new business opportunities for Canon, he said.
Such optimism may well be linked to his long stint in China. He likes working in China, he said. "Sometimes, my ideas aren't exactly traditional Japanese. A typical Japanese company seeking to launch a new business or try something new may have executives worrying－what if the attempt fails?
"However, Chinese people would do it first and think it doesn't matter even if you fail. How do you know you won't be successful if you don't do it?"
China, he said, offers thrills and excitement for businesspeople. Which is why, Canon is keen to explore more potential in China.