To encourage innovation and engrain it in our culture, we have a company-wide initiative called Kaizen in which employees are encouraged to post ideas of improvement on customer delight, cost savings, productivity improvement or environment
Kazutada Kobayashi, President & CEO, Canon India has worked with Canon for more than 36 years. He joined Canon in 1980 and has since worked in the company’s various overseas operations in Germany, the Netherlands, Hong Kong and India. He joined Canon India in January 2012 and under his leadership, Canon has decided to prioritize profitability while continuing to grow in India.
From a staffer who was assigned the job of a direct salesperson for photocopier machines to the CEO of Canon India. Yours has been a wonderful story. Share your journey with us.
Yes, when I first joined Canon in 1980, I was assigned the job of a direct salesperson for photocopier machines by way of cold calling. I have been with the organization 36 years now and this has given me an in-depth understanding of the brand’s DNA. In my journey from a trainee to a CEO, I have always focused on doing my best, and kept my focus on learning and improving. I have had my share of failures and flaws during the journey, but the learner in me never gave up. And I believe it holds true for everyone. One must keep the child in him alive, learn from his mistakes and continue progressing in life.
What has Canon done differently to sustain their superior performance in the context of the competitive digital imaging industry you operate in? What are the practices that drive it?
Innovation has always been core to Canon’s DNA, which is explicit from the two decades of the brand’s journey in the country. If we look back, unlike most of other companies in Asia, we started our journey with B2B and then built B2C over it.
To encourage innovation and engrain it in our culture, we have a company-wide initiative called Kaizen in which employees are encouraged to post ideas of improvement on customer delight, cost savings, productivity improvement or environment. These are taken forward by forming cross-functional teams, we implement the ideas, and the implemented Kaizens are awarded during annual meets. This creates a bottom-up momentum on ideating and creative thinking.
At our R&D center (India Systems Development Center) in Bangalore we encourage innovation by awarding employees on not only patents granted but also for patents filed. We are now introducing a category for emerging innovators.
The attrition rate at Canon Inc. (globally) has been significantly low at 0.9%. What do you think are the factors behind this?
The simple belief of making the workplace fun and making people feel a part of the Canon family makes them want to stay with the family. We nurture talent and engage them with various professional and social initiatives.
Tell us about some of the engagement activities at Canon which have had a significant impact.
We engage our employees through various programs with an objective to keep them motivated to contribute to the organization’s success along with an enhanced sense of their well-being.
Other than the initiatives such as the CEO’s address, ‘Family Chalo Office’ (where families of employees are invited to visit the Canon premises) and the annual Canon Family Day; we also engage our people by inviting them to actively participate in our CSR initiatives. We hosted a Table Tennis competition, through which our employees raised funds to provide a fully equipped sports kit for the children of Ferozepur School, one of our adopted villages under our flagship CSR campaign ‘Adopt a Village’.
Canonites also regularly engage with the children in our adopted villages as a part of ‘Each one teach one’ campaign. They are encouraged to impart knowledge among the less privileged through this campaign and the response of the employees is remarkable. To give a recent example, Canon employees from the Mumbai office visited Karanjoti Village in Thane and educated the school children about the significance of personal grooming, hygiene and sanitation through audio-visual presentations. These volunteers also distributed notebooks among the students to encourage them to write more often.
We have also included this campaign in the Corporate Orientations of all the new hires with an objective to instill a sense of Social Responsibility in them from the very beginning.
You have been with Canon for the past 3 decades. What are your thoughts on fidelity of talent? How do you see it changing now, with 91 percent of millennials expected to stay at a job less than three years. How do you cope with that?
A. If we can make a company, a people’s company, I feel the issue of fidelity of talent can easily be addressed. As seniors in business, it is our responsibility to make the job and the workplace interesting, inspiring and motivating enough for the generation next to stay attached to their jobs. What makes people stay longer is the growth that they see for themselves in an organization.
I also believe it is very important to celebrate careers. I feel proud to give away awards to employees for their 5, 10 and 15 year-long service. Starting next year, with our India presence reaching the 20-year landmark, we will have employees who have been with us for 20 years.
As a CEO, what are your top three expectations from HR?
As the head of the company, I want my employees to enjoy their workplace. Everybody should find their work worth spending such valuable time of their lives in. There should be measures to judge, acknowledge and award employees for their contribution.
Thus my top three expectations from HR team would be:
‘Know your people’,
‘Benchmark with the best’,
‘Develop leaders for tomorrow’
To make sure expectations meet delivery, I also look into the HR vertical as well.