Toshikazu Koike, Brother Dhanya Thakkar, Trend Micro
TOSHIKAZU KOIKE PRESIDENT, BROTHER INDUSTRIES
Brother is celebrating its 25th year anniversary in Singapore this year, what has the journey been like?
25 years ago, when we started (in Singapore), our mission was basically to operate as procurement for mechanical typewriter parts produced in our factory in Malaysia and as a distribution point for our sewing machines. In 1995, as we saw more opportunities for computer printer products, our mission changed with an emphasis towards sales and distribution focusing on printer and fax products, along with sewing machines. Naturally, we hope to continue to grow and provide unique product ranges that we hope will meet and exceed our customer expectations.
What are the challenges faced by the printer industry and how does Brother plan to stay ahead of the curve?
Currently, the printer business isn’t growing so much anymore. This is because most people have switched to using smartphones and tablets; (they’re) printing less and less in recent years. Our goals of course are to ensure that customers continue using our products. To do this, we have had to innovate to enable our multifunction products to connect and interface with smartphones – to allow wireless connectivity, printing and scanning. But the future of printers isn’t just connectivity (with physical devices). I think the challenge also lies in the functionality and services, to facilitate digital printing and scanning of data through our networks to and from emerging cloud services such as Google Docs.
But, paper isn’t really going to go away.
Of course. We (still) want to make sure our current business remains and the majority of small office home office (SOHO) and small medium businesses (SMB) require a lot more print volume. The focus therefore is to continue providing products that are even more robust and durable for heavy print volume users. Compact portable printers are also becoming more popular, for field service people and the growing mobile workforce that may have to produce documents on-site.
Can you share of Brother’s strategy in Asia and emerging markets?
Brother has been quite successful in North America and Western Europe. We have about 35% to 40% market share for A4, compact, and multifunction products in developed markets. In emerging countries, I can say we’re quite successful in a majority of places we’re established. We cannot reveal specifics, but we’d love to attain the same kind of market share as US and Europe.
To achieve this, we are emphasizing towards growth of our workforce and ensuring their skills match that of developed countries. Our strategy is also in developing products exclusively for the emerging market. In the past, we developed products for US/Europe, then customize for emerging markets. But that wasn’t enough. Today, we send our engineers to the customers-in India, in Thailand, Indonesia-and listen to their needs and right at the beginning develop products that meet those needs. Those are the biggest changes.
Brother is probably more wellknown today as a printer brand, how do sewing machines factor in today’s trends?
As you know, sewing machines were our original business. Today, our of our 6 billion dollar business, probably 11-12% still comes from our sewing machine business. We have the largest market share in home sewing machines and second in industrial sewing machines. We are currently targeting the hobbyist and craft market, therefore, we developed new products with specialized functions to this target market.
Speaking of ScanNCut, does your sewing machine and printer departments share technologies?
Of course, if they didn’t have access to our multifunction products, we wouldn’t have access to things like scanner technologies or how to handle imaging and networking. Products are increasingly being integrated and we’re looking at a lot of shared technological roots.
Can you tell us about Brother’s environmental efforts?
Outside of products, we have Brother Earth, which is actually a global initiative based around environmental conservation activities that have various goals in many different countries such as protecting wildlife and tree planting. In Thailand for example, we are undertaking efforts in mangrove reforestation.
(Editor: You can visit the Brother Earth website at www.brotherearth.com, under “Click for the Earth”, choose and click on an effort that you want to support. For each click, Brother will donate 1 Yen towards that cause.)