Toshikazu Koike, Brother Dhanya Thakkar, Trend Mi­cro

TOSHIKAZU KOIKE PRES­I­DENT, BROTHER IN­DUS­TRIES

HWM (Singapore) - - Contents - by Zachary Chan

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.)

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