Sunday 20 August 2017 News Updated at 01:08 PM IST
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Canon India clicks at a picture-perfect journey - Deccan Herald
Canon India clicks at a picture-perfect journey
Hrithik Kiran Bagade, DHNews Service,
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A picture is worth a thousand words! Legendary Japanese camera manufacturer, which has diversified itself as an IT and IT interface company today, has scripted a 20-year journey in India, while presenting people with the means to capture moments from their own journeys.

Having established operations in the country way back in 1997 with a turnover of Rs 15.3 crore, Canon is looking at celebrating these 20 years with a bang as it looks to lap up over Rs 2,500 crore in turnover this year, growing at 10% year-on-year.

Canon Asia Marketing Group President Hideki Ozawa, who was a general manager at the company’s Singapore office in 1997, relates to DH about the company’s foray into India. "I was one of the eyewitnesses when Canon India was established 20 years ago. I saw the development of our business within the Indian market, which has been growing in double digits, even as in some markets like the US, Europe, Japan, and China, growth has been slow.”

Capturing the Indian experience

Think Canon, think cameras! With a 1.2 billion population in India, Canon has been able to successfully capture its predominant forte that is selling cameras, with a wide variety to choose from. "Be it a family occasion like a baby shower, birthday, and wedding, or passions such as travelling, fashion, sports, and wildlife photography, cameras help everyday scenes to be captured for a lifetime. Today, we are targeting a wide range of customer bases in India, including women executives with an interest in travel, for whom we even offer workshops to understand the nuances of photography better,” states Canon India President and Chief Executive Officer Kazutada Kobayashi.

Besides, with India’s landscape, topography and cultural heritage beautifully beyond words, there is scope for a lot of photography, and interest among the youth is also generating.

"We have prepared a strong product portfolio. From the top line of EOS 1 and EOS 5D Mark IV, for instance, which are for serious photographers - we are talking of Rs 5 lakh and above just for the body. Coming down, we recently announced the 6D Mark II costing Rs 2 lakh, and the 80D costing Rs 1 lakh. Further down, we have some lower-costing DSLRs (digital single lens reflex cameras) like EOS 1300D at Rs 30,000 (including interchangeable lenses). Variation depends upon the layer of the product, based on which we tap target groups. For instance, the lower-end range is largely for family photographers,” Kobayashi says.

Meanwhile, Canon’s camera range also includes the point-and-shoot PowerShot series, which today faces some competition from smartphones converging impressive cameras as part of an overall feature-rich package.

Reflecting the threat that smartphones pose to point-and-shoot cameras, Kobayashi says that the introduction of the former in the Indian market has to a large degree expanded the photography market.

"In the world, almost six trillion clicks happen each year, through smartphones and different types of cameras. Now, smartphone-users have started recognising good photography as a pastime, and a lot of people have upgraded to full-swing professional cameras to partake in the art of photography. This way, even our business is growing,” he says. Meanwhile, the PowerShot range also boasts of Wi-Fi, among other features, which aids one in being in sync with social media, with platforms like Instagram and Facebook adding relevance to high-quality photography. In terms of Canon’s India unit sales, however, DSLR cameras hold 80% of the entire camera business, while point-and-shoot cameras are growing slowly, owing to competition with smartphones.

Domain focus

While Canon is neck-to-neck with compatriot rival Nikon (with both together holding 90% of the Indian camera market), its vision zooms beyond cameras. Over the last 20 years, Canon’s growth in India has been equitable across its two primary domains, B2C and B2B. While the major domain of the B2C business belongs to cameras and photography at 45%, the category of home printers has also played a role in its growth story, especially in tapping nuclear families.

"Households are increasing. Cameras and printers are normally calculated in terms of household penetration ratio. If the number of households grows 2.5 times, the market accordingly grows. Middle-income groups also offer us huge opportunities. The challenge then is to catch up with the speed of emerging markets, without dropping quality, and with timely aftersales service,” Ozawa says.

In terms of its B2B range, the company is largely focused on business document production devices, such as copy machines, laser-beam printers, and ink-jet printers.

Driving down this path, Canon is looking farther towards digitisation, participating in initiatives such as Digital India and Smart Cities. "We wanted to be a part of such movements, by supplying devices, solutions and services. Many high courts in India, for instance, have adopted our laser-beam printers and software to print out legal documents,” Kobayashi says, adding that the company would be introducing a range of scanners soon.

"India uses massive amounts of paper, which require autograph, which in turn need to be kept in stock for at least seven years. In the end, both at the government level and in private setups, one would need a lot space to stock them. Our mission is to digitise those documents into files, archive them, and make them accessible any time, through software,” he adds.

As part of what the company refers to as 'Make in India software’, with regard to its larger digitisation push, the 50 engineers at Canon’s R&D centre in Bengaluru are engaged in production of software which gets shipped to factories abroad to get installed onto machines, for export around the world. For now, Canon does not manufacture hardware in India.

Finding new ground

With eyes set on a third pillar, over and above B2C and B2B, Canon is now gearing itself towards industrial businesses, including medical products and security surveillance systems, for which its headquarters in Tokyo has acquired several companies. The acquisition of Toshiba Medical Systems will help Canon in expanding into the diagnostics aspect of medical devices. Also, the company took over Axis Communications of Sweden and Danish startup Milestone to make surveillance camera systems. Within the next year, market research for the said plans would commence post which, a call would be taken on the way ahead. There are plans to push this pillar in India as well.

However, a number of challenges do persist, such as unpredictability of certain product as well as financial regulations, apart from e-waste generation, and the company’s constant effort remains to overcome these tides.

"It’s important to be in India, to develop and grow ourselves and the market here. Over the next 10 to 20 years, India will be a top country for Canon’s global business, across all our pillars,” concludes Ozawa.