Eddie Udagawa, VP, Consumer Imaging and Information Centre at Canon India, sheds light on the company’s challenges, plans, and products for India in an interaction Satyam Nagwekar
In his 31-year tenure with Canon, Eddie Udagawa has witnessed first-hand the evolution in the company’s product portfolio in an increasingly complex marketplace. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Japan’s Waseda University, he has weathered many a storm. As VP, Consumer Imaging and Information Centre at Canon India, Udagawa has lined up a slew of marketing initiatives since he took office 12 months ago. The majority of activities in 2017 have been driven specifically by Canon India’s celebrations to mark the 20th year of its operations in the country.
“Our target is to achieve two-digit growth every year. We have invested efforts and strategies in tandem with the shifts in the market and technology dynamics and will carry the momentum forward in 2017,” said Udagawa. His plan is to strengthen the relationship with customers and promote the culture of photography in the country by offering an experiential purchase. The company is, therefore, sharpening the focus on its experience stores, Canon Image Squares (CIS), where customers can have a hands-on experience of imaging and printing products before they make a decision. The thinking behind this move is to let users understand what photography is about and help them ascertain which products will serve their purpose. “Our primary focus is to come up with newer ways of reaching out to consumers and solidify our presence in tier II, tier III, and tier IV cities by organising various workshops and events.” Moreover, in a bid to serve aspiring filmmakers, Canon India has associated with various alliances and associations, such as FTII, Adobe, WICA, and GraFTII.
To mark its 20th anniversary, the company has undertaken a host of innovative activities. The ‘I Click’ photography workshop was organised in March with an aim to empower woman photographers. Another campaign was the digital photo contest, Story of Kyosei, which was flagged off across the country to bring out the participants’ creative interpretation of the subject. The campaign witnessed the participation of more than 16,000.
In March this year, the company flagged off a 60-city roadshow to demonstrate clicking to printing solutions. Called Canon Consumer Connect, the initiative has been designed to create mass awareness about the technological innovation that Canon houses within its imaging solutions. “Our aim is to push the boundaries and expand our offering to tier-II and tier-III markets, to engage with customers, to understand their imaging needs and bring them the best of the technology.” Put together with interactive engagement in mind, the roadshow has provided a platform for a hands-on experience of Canon India’s products for existing and potential customers alike. So far, 16 cities, including Varanasi, Patna, Jamshedpur, and Alwar, have been covered.
Through the Lens
In a developing market like India, the demand for lenses is on the upswing. The country enjoys diverse demand and, with the constant improvement in photography equipment, there is tremendous potential for selling bigger numbers of cameras and lenses. To keep up with demand, Canon India has one of the biggest selections of prime lenses, which, along with select fast-aperture zoom lenses, are the top sellers in the professional market. In the Cinema EOS segment, the company recently launched its flagship lenses—the Compact Servo CN-E 18-80mm T4.4 L IS KASS and CN-E 70-200mm T4.4 Compact Servo Cine Zoom Lens. Udagawa added, “The Cinema EOS C700 is the latest introduction in the Cinema EOS family.”
Market share aside, environmental sustainability is high on Canon India’s agenda. Its commitment to the country and preservation has, over the years, translated into growth. The company undertakes various measures and complies with E-waste management rules in order to protect the environment.
On the occasion of World Environment Day in June, the company organised documentary workshops in Delhi and Bengaluru to provide a closer look at a 360-degree documentary workflow. At the workshop, the complete cycle of documentary filmmaking was discussed—right from camera technology by Canon, case studies, on-ground planning and execution of documentary projects, and hands-on editing and colour grading by post-production experts. The objective was to develop a platform wherein all the documentary film makers get the complete knowledge of cameras, case studies, and post production for a broadcast ready content. Targetting documentary filmmakers, production houses, and news channels, Canon India invited documentary filmmakers Ajay and Vijay Bedi and National Geographic’s Sandesh Kadur to share their experiences.
While smartphone users are driving the sales of DSLRs, compact camera sales are slowly dwindling. Udagawa is quick to acknowledge this trend. “There is a lot of clicking happening from smartphone cameras but we are happy as long as people are clicking. It is a great opportunity for us to keep innovating and add new technologies in the products that we offer.” Canon has been looking to improve its current compact camera portfolio, especially the Zoom range. “Better zoom and image quality, focus on HD video recording, low-light photography, and Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity are some of the features that we have brought in.”
Today, there is a wide ecosystem of third-party products and accessories to support core components such as cameras and lenses. These third-party products include everything from memory cards, tripods, flashes, camera bags, rigs, and underwater kits. Many of these accessories are product specific while others may be more generic. “The product-specific ones often require exact product specifications like dimensions and layout, or a specific weight or positioning of input/output ports. For such products, compatibility is everything and without exact knowledge of the camera, such third-party products cannot be developed,” he pointed out. “We have a large range of accessories for our own products but we do realise the importance of partners across the industry that innovate and develop excellent value accessories. In this regard, the industry functions as a cohesive whole to continuously provide increasingly enhanced solutions.”
Through technology and innovation, Canon India is striving to transform the world of photography in India. From the hands of only the professionals, cameras have now entered the hands of many more enthusiasts and amateurs as a greater number of people off late have been drawn to photography as a hobby as well as a career. “We see more and more young people getting interested in photography,” said Udagawa. As consumer behaviour and buying trends differed from region to region, he added that India could not be treated like a single market. “We want to increase the pie by increasing the number of aspiring photographers. We are educating more people in India about the benefits of clicking photos with proper cameras and telling them about camera techniques, video-making capabilities, and usage of 4K video recording.”
“We see lot of movie making happening in various domains including cinema, general entertainment channels, education, and weddings. Under the aegis of the information and broadcasting ministry, Canon India has tied up with the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) to nurture filmmaking talent across the country.” This association has enabled Canon India to be the technology partner for promoting short courses in film and television.
Aimed at professional videographers, the company recently launched the EOS C200 digital cinema camera with support for on-camera recording of 4K video and Cinema RAW Light1. Earlier, it had launched the XC15, a smaller recorder with video bloggers and web producers as the target audience.
Reiterating the potential of 4K content, Udagawa said, “4K video recording has become a buzzword and the relevance of 4K video is more in the professional segment. If certain groups of users are interested in making the most of the cameras’ video capabilities, then we are more than happy.”
Canon India’s target is to maintain its pole position in the DSLR segment and capture more than 50% market share by end of 2017. “We want more people to understand photography. Our mission is to educate and inform people about our products and promote excellence in photography in the country,” said Udagawa. To provide a fillip to the culture of photography, the company has executed strategically planned and integrated campaigns aimed at bloggers, amateurs, and professionals. In retail, the company has witnessed tremendous growth from its stores that span over 110 cities across India. It plans to set up around 260 CIS stores by the end of 2017, thereby strengthening its retail footprint across the country.
Udagawa’s focus this year will also be on the Professional Video and Cinema EOS businesses. “We are hoping to make big inroads in the news production, documentary shooting, and the filmmaking segments. Having already conducted five to six workshops in the first half of the year, we plan to organise 20 workshops more to create awareness of the high-end cinema cameras.” The workshops will yield an insight into the company’s camera technology in the cinema, GEC, and education domains.
For Udagawa, things look promising in India despite an uncertain economic climate. As eloquently professed by one of Canon’s famous campaigns, he surely ‘lives for the story’.