Interview with Ricoh Imaging president Noboru Akahane

DC.Watch published an interview with Ricoh Imaging president Noboru Akahane – here is the Google translation:

“Rebuilding” Ricoh’s camera business

The camera industry has been greatly affected not only by the shrinking digital camera market but also by the decrease in the number of people due to the Korona-ka. Nowadays, there is a shortage of semiconductors, and there is no doubt that the situation is severe.

However, President Akabane is aware that there are voices of such anxiety, and is there a possibility of withdrawing from the business? I dismissed the author’s question.

President Akabane is from a bank, and after taking over the management of Ricoh Imaging in 2012, he left Ricoh Imaging and re-pitched last year. When human resources are sent from financial institutions to rebuild their businesses, it tends to be a “storm of truncation”, especially in business areas with high hobbies.

However, while trying to streamline the organization, Mr. Akabane allocates management resources in the direction of strengthening the ties between brands and users supported by deep-rooted fans, and by clarifying his position in the camera industry, Ricoh Imaging’s Strengthened the business foundation.

The decision to close Ricoh Imaging Square after re-climbing is not a negative decision, he said.

“Since the shrinking market size is due to changes in the business environment, we cannot control it by ourselves. It is certain that Ricoh’s camera business is at a major turning point, but we are not looking to withdraw from the business. What we are trying to do is change the “shape of the camera business” in order to sustain the camera brand in the new market environment (Mr. Akabane). ”

However, among the camera brands handled by Ricoh Imaging, the needs for businesses are deep-rooted for THETA, and the decision has already been made to change the direction of the camera mainly as a professional camera.

On the other hand, with regard to PENTAX and GR, we will promote aggressive reforms with the aim of fostering brand value. To put it in simple terms, it would be DX (digital transformation) in the consumer camera business.

Seeking a new form of fan community

President Akabane is aiming to recreate a community where PENTAX and GR fans will grow the culture of photography and cameras together with the manufacturer Ricoh Imaging, based on the modern market environment, the Internet, and the smartphone environment. That is.

For example, it can be said that the place that doubles as a gallery, showroom, repair reception, etc. such as Ricoh Imaging Square was a place where manufacturers and users, or photographers who create works gather and interact.

However, as the market as a whole shrinks, it becomes difficult to secure a large space in a convenient location. In terms of location, there may be some debate as to whether only one location in the country is sufficient.

In that case, it is better to create a community through the Internet by the manufacturer itself in line with the modern society where smartphones have become widespread and use Internet services on a daily basis, and actively participate in it from a perspective close to the user. It stands to reason.

However, it is not a story of not creating a “base” at all.

It is said that it has begun to build a new type of base that matches the present age surrounded by digital media and network technology. At the moment, it is said that it is not possible to provide a clear location, but the name is “PENTAX Clubhouse” and the nearest station is Yotsuya Station. The opening is said to be in the summer, so details will be announced in the not too distant future.

“Ricoh Imaging Square follows the style that was born 40 years ago. When relocating, we will incorporate new ideas for renewal rather than relocation as it is. Everything from the beginning of the opening We cannot include it, but we will make the name a new place where manufacturers and users can create value together (Mr. Akabane). ”

To reform that makes use of the voice of fans

“It’s not really that difficult to grow sales as the market expands, but currently, the strategy of expanding the sales scale itself doesn’t work well. First of all, for those who purchase Ricoh Imaging products. Next time, we will make you choose PENTAX and GR. If we can strengthen the engagement with customers and increase the number of people who like our brand and like it, the photos around it. We can strengthen the user base, including those who like PENTAX. On the premise of growth, we decided to change the idea of ​​selling products to people who do not know Ricoh’s cameras (Mr. Akabane). ”

Both PENTAX and GR are brands that have been supported by small but deep-rooted fans and users who sympathize with those products. Picking up the voices of fans who are the core of such a brand and utilizing them in product development and marketing is the aim of President Akabane’s reform of Ricoh Imaging.

Then, what kind of efforts will be taken to change the entire Ricoh Imaging? The opening and renewal of the Ricoh Imaging Square PENTAX Clubhouse is only a small part of it.

“I think that those who are enthusiastic fans in the midst of the market not expanding are those who understand and share the unique value of the products we have created. Those people, that is, the same feeling. We will create products that can share values ​​with colleagues who share the same values. Although it is not possible to create individual products for each user, it should be a “workshop” that delivers products to people who understand the values. This is the basic idea (Mr. Akabane) ”

Aiming for a “co-creation environment” that integrates manufacturers, users, and distribution

Ricoh Imaging has also promoted distribution reforms at the same time.

The camera business, especially the interchangeable lens camera business, has major distribution problems. While there are camera specialty stores around the world that have close connections with users in each region, sales have recently changed to online sales.

Ricoh Imaging is also changing its business form to have direct contact with consumers through the Internet. As the market size becomes smaller, it is indispensable to actively introduce DTC (Direct to Consumer) in order to emphasize the connection with users and form a community.

“Actually, when we announced the new business plan for Ricoh Imaging, the camera distributors who took care of us asked us,” Do we not use it anymore? ” It’s difficult to interact with all distributors in the same way as before. However, camera stores play a very important role in strengthening connections with users. Not “which distributor”. , GR, PENTAX, and retailers who have close relationships with fans of each brand, I definitely want to create a market together. It is important to have a co-creation environment that integrates not only manufacturers but also users and distribution. Will be (Mr. Akabane) ”

Weaving a story that is particular about “one accessory”

At the moment, we will create a community space on the net where manufacturers themselves can participate, and while users themselves also participate, we will create a “story” where PENTAX, GR, and peripheral accessories will be born.

For example, even if it is a camera strap, it is created assuming the actual use while kneading the camera to be combined and the scene to be used. The reason for this design is that everyone around the brand is trying to create a product that makes you feel the story behind it.

“Every camera seems to be pointing in the same direction, and each product is made with a different idea. Many years of PENTAX users see PENTAX products with values ​​that only they can understand. We will dig deeper and share it to create next-generation and next-generation products with workshop-like values. ”

President Akabane admits that the trend for interchangeable-lens cameras is rapidly moving toward mirrorless cameras, but he says that it is in such an era that he is “sticking to the value of single-lens reflex cameras.” The only thing that a small manufacturer can do is up to that point, but no matter how big the mainstream becomes, there is value and a role that exists in the sidestream.

“The image you see with your own eyes. The image you see and feel the natural air and light. I think the advantage of a single-lens reflex camera is that you record that light directly. Because you can believe that feeling. I want to pursue a PENTAX camera with people who sympathize with the pursuit of SLR cameras when specializing in photography rather than convenience and video functions. ”

President Akabane, who says so, does not seem to be a financial man who came from a bank to rebuild his business. However, originally, the manager should look at the “main business” of the company, face the main business head-on more than anyone else, and concentrate on increasing the value of the main business.

In that sense, the direction of refining the main business and looking for a way to survive in it may not have the great power to renew the industry, but it can be said to be one way of life as a camera manufacturer.

“If you have a talent for painting, you can embody what you feel beautiful with your talent and technique. But if you have a tool called a camera, you can express it without artistic technique. Light and air. By sticking to the single-lens reflex that captures, anyone can participate in art. I think so. “

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