2 SPECIAL REPORT
FRIDAY APRIL 6, 2018 • THE EDGE FINANCIAL DAILY
Defying odds for a better society Below are 10 of his policies. Deemed uncon- ventional duringhis time, theyhavebeenastrong backbone for the company’s advancement till today.
T o stay strong throughout 100 years is a feat that few companies can achieve. What’s more, it has been a century browbeaten by a world war, several economic crises and twomajor tsunami earth- quakes that hit close to home (Japan) — all of which had threatened to dissolve the corpo- ration. Yet, Panasonic not only survived, but thrived, as a testament to the result of deter- mination, diligence and altruism. The company’s steadfastness can be traced to its late founder’s own grit in overcom- ing countless struggles. Born in Wakayama Prefecture in 1894, Konosuke Matsushita was forced to work away from home at the age of nine due to a reversal in family fortunes. Be- fore he was 20, Matsushita had to endure the death of seven of his 10-member family one by one, including his parents. At 20, he took on the responsibility of a household when his sister arranged his marriage to Mumeno Iue, one year his junior. At 22, when Matsushita’s invention of an upgraded electrical light socket was spurned by his employer, Matsushita started out on his own with his wife, brother-in-law and two friends.The enterprise was almost short-lived, as the device was too ahead of its time. On the brink of liquidation, it caught the attention of one company that noticed the ingenuity of the socket mould and decided to order a thousand insulator plates for electric fans from him. The profit enabled Matsushita, at 23, to rent a 2-storey home to launch Matsushita Electric Housewares Manufacturing Works. Starting with an innovative attachment plug and a two-way socket, the company began to earn a reputation for high-quality products at attainable prices. Shifting the paradigm of his times Upon Japan’s surrender in World War 2, the Allied Forces proceeded to implement their reforms in the country. Part of the restructur- ing exercise included the dismissal of senior personnel, intended to unravel the imperi- ous strongholds of public and private organ- isations then — a move that was largely wel- comed by the labour unions. In contrast, Panasonic’s own employees and affiliates fought for Matsushita to be retained. Taken by surprise, the authorities eventually exempted the injunction from Panasonic. The extraordinary support from the grass- roots attested toMatsushita’s exceptional lead- ership, whose core principle was to improve the society.
The mission of a manufacturer is to create material abundance by providing goods as plentiful and inexpensive as tap water. This is howwe can banish poverty, bring happiness to people’s lives and make this world into a paradise.
1. Unlike his contemporaries, which kept trade secrets closely guarded, Matsushita declared he would teach the company’s techniques of making insulating material to any able worker, regardless old or new. 2. To counter trade unions that grew hos- tile in the face of massive unemployment, Matsushita formed the “Hoichi Kai” (“one- step society”) in 1920, to promote company spirit through sports, cultural, recreational and other bonding activities. 3. Crippled by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, many companies in Japan collapsed. Matsushitafeltthatcommunicationwaskeyin alleviating the apprehension, and in 1927, he established twoperiodicals—one forhis em- ployees and one for his retail outlets, to share company updates and encourage feedback. 4. During the 1929 Great Depression, Matsushita’s companywas similarly impact- ed. However, he refused to lay off even a single employee. Instead, he implemented ahalf-daywork at the samewages, compen- sated with no leaves. At the same time, all employeeswere todo their best to sell inven- tory. Consequently, the company recovered full-scale production within two months. 5. In 1933, the company was the first sole proprietorship in Japan to apply the au- tonomous management system, aimed at developing capable managers. 6. Matsushita saw the importance of devel- oping people and opened an Employee Training Institute in 1934 and Factory Worker Training Institute in 1936. After WorldWar 2, theywere reopened in 1960 as the Matsushita Electric Technical College. 7. In 1935, he instituted a fair price policy to counter a haphazard system of lopsided profits in the market then. The subsequent establishment of the Matsushita Retailers Association helped to create healthy com- petition that prospered businesses and consumers mutually. 8. From 1935, Matsushita set a precedent for regular discussionmeetings open to all em- ployees. 9. In 1936, Matsushita changed the tradition- al two-day holiday per month to four days and recommended that half of it be used for self-study. 10. In1937, he established theHealth Insurance Associationand in1940, theMatsushitaHos- pital toprovidehealthcare for company staff.
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— Konosuke Matsushita
Managing Director/Editor-in-chief Au Foong Yee EDITORIAL Editor Lam Jian Wyn
Project Editor Prisca Teh Deputy Chief Copy Editor James Chong Copy Editor Geraldine Tan Art Director Sharon Khoh Design Team Jun Kit, Joanne Soo
In 1929, to ground the company’s expansion, Matsushita formulated the Management Objective (cover page) and Company Creed (page 8), adding the Seven Principles several years later. These basic tenets have remained unchanged throughout the decades. Compacted under its slogan, “A better life, a better world”, this is Panasonic’s brand promise to pursue a better life for each individual customer through its various fields, says MD of Panasonic Malaysia, Cheng Chee Chung. Seven Principles: Contribution to society Fairness and honesty Cooperation and team spirit Untiring effort for improvement Courtesy and humility Adaptability Gratitude Present-day fast facts: Head office: Kadoma City, Osaka, Japan President: Kazuhiro Tsuga Worldwide staff count: Approximately 258,000 Companies: 496 (parent company and consolidated subsidiaries)
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1927 Panasonic’s early products designed tomake lives better 1931 1951 1952 1953
The first National TV set, the 17K-531, became the pioneering model for rectangular cathode ray tubes (CRT) and TV screens, which had been round before that.
An electrical iron was a luxury item that few could afford until Matsushita determined to make it accessible to the population at large by risking a mass production scheme for similar quality.
To counter the problem of unreliable radios in those days, Panasonic laboured arduously to produce this three-tube radio (R-31) to provide uninterrupted broadcasts. Matsushita also paid for the patent of a critical radio part and offered it free to the entire market to stimulate the expansion of the industry.
Inspired by a study tour to the US, Matsushita developed the first agitator-type washing machine, the MW-101, with a 2kg capacity featuring a round enamel tank, so that housewives could perform this back-breaking chore by just a touch of a button.
National’s electric refrigerator, the NR-351, made its debut. A notch above its contemporaries, it soon became a premium household appliance.
This lightweight air conditioner made it possible for homes in Japan to enjoy a cooler environment, something that had only been available for business use due to its high cost and huge size.
The K21-10 was National’s first 21-inch diagonal colour TV set, employing breakthrough technology developed
by the company to offer superior performance.
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