How Asian Brands Undid Panasonic, Now We are Ready to Take over the Market – Wakita
Shinichi Wakita – Managing Director, Panasonic Marketing Middle East & Africa (PMMAF) was Nigeria recently, he disclosed how the Panasonic brand suffered hard times no thanks to unfair competition from Chinese and Asian brands. The Panasonic marketing boss, in this interview reveals strategies to combat and subdue the competition in a bid to get Panasonic back on track. Excerpts.
How will you describe the Nigerian electronic market?
The Nigeria electronic market is a vast and highly competitive market with very huge potential for players. For this reason we have our eyes on the market and we have set a target for our brand in Nigeria and indeed in other markets in the world. We are doing everything to achieve our goals in all the markets. We are determined to make a comeback especially in Nigeria with renewed strength and winning brands.
Panasonic used to be very popular in the market, why the break or lull in its operation in Nigeria?
The break was not only in Nigeria but all over the world. In the last 10 years, it was noticed that all Japanese brands were suffering in the competition against the Chinese and Korean brands especially in the electronic and home appliances category. However, after a very tough time, Japanese brands have recovered having put in enormous hard work and strategies to compete against other brands in the market. As Panasonic, we are fully recovered and ready to compete against others players and brands as we stage our come-back into Africa and indeed globally.
What are those strategies put in place to overcome the unfair competition?
Before, Japanese companies were trying to increase quantities, we wanted to sell to everybody and competed on price with Korean and Chinese companies. The competitions were stronger on prices, so Japanese companies lost huge funds in the competition. We were therefore compelled to change our marketing strategies. Now we are focused on selling to the middle and upper sections of the consumers. At the low end, we are not competing with these Chinese and Korean companies by price anymore.
Having decided to not to compete on price for the very vast low end of the market, how do you make your brand register its presence in this segment of the market considering the harsh economic reality?
The fact is that the potential of the Nigerian market is huge. However, the current low price of oil may be a draw-back because it slows down the economy. However, we are very optimistic that in a short time the economy will recover fully because the country has the population and its growing.
As part of your come-back bid, Panasonic announced a partnership with SIMS Nigeria, what is this meant to achieve for the brand?
We are glad to be associated with SIMS, as it has carved a niche for itself in a highly dynamic and competitive electronics/home appliance marketing environment. To grow in this market, local production is key. Chinese and Korean brands are already doing local production here. Panasonic wants to come and do same, however, we need local partner, we considered many potential partners and we decided to partner with SIMS. Panasonic has always delighted itself in working with the Nigerian market. We are a customer-loving brand and this market motivates us to keep growing with our business philosophy hence the concept of producing ‘locally-fit’ products. We choose SIMS because they are the leaders in their sector, highly experienced and their business philosophy and customer service ideas align with Panasonic. They are not only into manufacturing, they have a very strong and vast distribution network. This will enhance our distribution and customer service to our consumers.
The consumer will surely benefit. Through the local production, we can rationalize the cost of the products, our price will be more competitive and consumers can enjoy better quality for good price. According to our business philosophy, we are not just working for the money, we want to contribute to the people’s lives through our products, we are very confident of the quality and the technology. By providing good quality products, we contribute to the better life for the people. This is our basic business philosophy.
What differentiate the Panasonic brand from others manufacturers?
Only Panasonic among all electronics product manufacturers can provide all product range from small (domestic) to big (industrial) appliances, from brown to white and not only on consumer basis but also industrial or business2business range. We have a wide range of products. The brand is durable although it may cost a bit more but it serves longer and very dependable to the consumer. This makes our economic value to out-class all other brands in our sector.
What is the mode of the local assembly for Panasonic?
First, it is intended to boasts the Panasonic mission to increase the focus on Africa market with localization and customer satisfaction as the key agenda. With the partnership, sales figure is expected to go up hence assembling the products locally will help to meet demand. Therefore, in collaboration with “SIMS” we have initiated the setting -up of CKD Operations with its prime focus on Japanese Quality Systems Establishment. We will be taking off with the assembling of two products – Television and Air-Conditioners. The reason for this is that our TV and Air-conditioners have huge demand in this market. Our partner has the facility to assemble TVs and Air-conditioners with very good quality control. We are starting small with 60TV sets and 100 air-conditioners, the figures can then grow bigger as the demand improves. Gradually from next year we will increase the quantities and range of products covered.
Compared to competition, how expensive or cheap is your product?
Panasonic is not cheap, may be expensive. We use good materials and good components while other players may use cheap materials and components, naturally their prices will be cheaper. When we compared the quality, competition’s product may last five years but Panasonic may last 15-20 years providing better cost of value. The situation really is that completion offers cheaper prices but short life span of products while Panasonic may be a bit expensive at the beginning but a longer life span for the product, which of course, is better.