Takao Hiramoto and Terry Kawashima unite sales with marketing | OKI | Video

World Finance interviews Takao Hiramoto, President of OKI Data Corporation, and Terry Kawashima, Managing Director of OKI Europe and OKI Systems Germany, on OKI's strategy in Europe, and its plans to unify its sales and marketing

January 16, 2014

As tablet devices become more mainstream, the office printer sector is suffering. Eighteen months ago, OKI Group announced a three-year plan to refocus its print and imaging business, and double its sales. Takao Hiramoto and Terry Kawashima discuss the impact that mobile devices are having on the office printer industry, its strategy to explore niche markets such as graphic arts, and their plan to unify sales and marketing in Europe.

World Finance: Hiramoto-san, if we could start with you, and the big picture for OKI Data Corporation. You’re halfway through this three-year plan; what position was OKI in, 18 months ago?

Takao Hiramoto: For a long time, OKI’s business domain was office printers; you know, computer printers. But we are facing some technology changes, like smartphones and mobile devices. So because of that, we are going to shift from the office printer sector, to office solutions areas; and also the professional area, those vertical areas.

Just now we are facing the challenge that the number of computers is decreasing. So that’s why, according to the IDC Report, use of SFPs – single-function printers – is going down. But on the other hand, use of MFPs – multi-function printers – is still growing. And also the office solution areas, like copier manufacturers, those areas are very flat. So we are very interested to go into the growing areas, with our LED technology.

“We are facing some technology changes, so we are going to shift from the office printer sector to office solutions and the professional area”

World Finance: Terry, if I can turn to you, tell me more about the strategy. What’s OKI’s focus now?

Terry Kawashima: We have the strategy of a, increasing our penetration in our core office print market; b, strengthening our presence in the office solutions market; and c, we have a big opportunity in what we categorise as the professional printing market.

We work very very closely with channel partners and end customers, and we have very strong feedback from customers. So we have identified those opportunities through a few channel partners that, this is a niche market, but with your machine you could probably address it, if you fine-tune here and there.

And it’s not really that we have thought about application at R&D, it’s the customer who tells us what we can do. And that is our strength.

World Finance: You’ve spoken about the need to unify your sales and marketing; is this an important part of the three-year plan?

Terry Kawashima: I think so, I think Hiramoto-san would agree to that! When I was appointed the Managing Director of OKI Europe, one of the tasks that I was given by Hiramoto-san is really to drive the business through marketing. Hiramoto-san has a very strong philosophy that marketing should be the core of driving the business around the strategy that the company establishes.

We have very capable teams across Europe, very talented people, very loyal; and they have done a lot of work on their own market. But we have been a little bit too independent from each other. So one thing that I thought we should do is to really integrate activities between us all, and benefit from each other, rather than compete.

“We should integrate activities, by working very closely together and have one face across Europe through integrated marketing”

So we have formed a channel marketing team, basically consisting of only a few staff at headquarters, but involving key marketing people of all the operating companies across Europe. And I am expecting that six months, 12 months from now, we will start to see fruit of this working together.

This is not a cost-reduction exercise: obviously that could come as an additional benefit, but I’d rather ask Hiramoto-san to allow us to make additional investment using that saving, and bring more impact to the market by working very closely together and have one face across Europe through integrated marketing.

World Finance: Back to you then, Hiramoto-san. Is this sales-marketing unity key, and how big a role does Europe play in OKI’s global plan?

Takao Hiramoto: For OKI Data and OKI, the Europe market is very important, because 40 percent of OKI’s revenue comes from Europe. So Europe is a very important market to our business. So we are directed to invest more in European areas, and also as Terry said, we have a very strong sales organisation, and also we are going to add such a marketing force to combine not only individual countries, but also collaborate with each other. And this will eliminate indirect and extra costs, and will make a very effective operation in the future. So we are very expectant for the future.