PrintWeek (PW): Tough 18 months. Your learnings from 2021...
Haruto Iwata (HI): Business environment is always unpredictable and replete with “Black Swan” events that one can never envisage. So a robust business model that is insulated in some ways and building up of “back-ups” is a key requirement for today’s business.
PW: How has your company and factory sites responded to the challenges of the Covid-19 era?
HI: We deeply focused on innovation in the healthcare business of Fujifilm. Our efforts included contract manufacturing of active ingredients in vaccine candidates, developing AI-based diagnostic imaging support software for pneumonia, and developing and supplying reagents for detecting new virus mutations.
PW: Anything on the ideas front? Any new research or innovation?
HI: From an India perspective, Fujifilm India recently joined hands with Bengaluru-based Sakra World Hospital to assist doctors in diagnosing the possibility of Covid-19 pneumonia among patients with the help of new AI-enabled software. This association was a part of Fujifilm India’s campaign Covid-19 Pneumonia Image Analysis Program, which helps in diagnosing chest CT images by offering characteristic image findings of Covid-19 pneumonia across three stages.
PW: The pandemic has impacted India’s prospects to become a USD5 trillion economy by FY25. However, has the last quarter numbers reposed faith in the Indian market?
HI: Absolutely. We are extremely bullish about the India market with a strong result coming in the first half of the year (April-September 2021). The Indian team is already past 2019 (pre-Covid) numbers. I am sure the team will continue the good work in the second half as well.
PW: Brands (FMCG and non-FMCG) are seeking more and more from print and packaging…
HI: It’s not always about speed and flexibility. Brands recognise now that the “value” of each message is more important than the “quantum” of messaging. The dynamics of brand messaging and communications have undergone rapid changes with the advent of e-Commerce, digital marketing and large format retailers (LFR’s). Companies have to align themselves quickly to these evolving needs. Hence print plays a unique role there. And print technologies are evolving accordingly.
PW: As a global manufacturing brand, how can our industry cater to the new normal of - gaining speed; more flexibility; profit-centric approach; and lower carbon footprint?
HI: Sometimes the availability of a technology itself plays a bigger role in helping a company fine-tune its mode of messaging. It’s a marriage of sorts between ideas and technology. Hence, you see rapid evolution. Moore’s law (number of transistors on a microchip doubles about every two years) and Kryder’s law (disk drive density will double every thirteen months) are still very relevant in the context of technology. As long as microprocessor’s speed accelerates, the overall technology will continue to become faster and flexible.
PW: How should print adopt marketing strategies that promote the print brand beyond the function of product or service. One school of thought is; the key is to do more than just meet consumers’ immediate needs. What is your view?
HI: Steve Jobs spoke the iconic lines that “the customer doesn’t know what he wants”. There is always a latent demand existing in the market. It’s how this demand is understood by companies.
In the beginning it’s always about “why” a specific product is required. What is the benefit it offers to the customers or what need of customer does it address? It could be a present or a future need or both? Finally, it translates to “how” those needs are addressed. It’s only when the question of “how” comes that the product features come into play.
PW: 77% of Indian consumers are actively engaging with sustainability. These consumers will invest time and money in companies that try to do good...
HI: Since the beginning, environmental conservation and maintaining the trust of our stakeholders have been the very foundations of our business activities. They are the starting point for our corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities and continue to be passed down within Fujifilm Group as our DNA.
PW: Three sustainable actions you have undertaken in the past year that you can share with us?
HI: Under our Sustainable Value Plan 2030 (SVP2030), we have defined our long-term goals targeting FY2030 in which we have set numerical global environmental targets to reduce the CO2 emissions, the introduction of renewable energies and the usage of resources effectively, not only at the manufacturing stage, but also over the entire product lifecycle.
In 2021, Fujifilm achieved a place on the “CDP’s Water Security A List,” the highest level of recognition awarded in the internationally influential corporate survey on water resource management for two consecutive years. Fujifilm Holdings is one of a small number of high-performing companies out of nearly 12,000 that were scored.
PW: We also learnt about the Fujifilm open letter to G20 Summit leaders…
HI: Fujifilm recognises the importance of right policy decisions to drive resolution of material issues such as climate change and supported the open letter to the leaders participating in the G20 Summit held on October, 2021. The letter signed by over 600 businesses and organisations urges the governments across the G20 nations to strengthen their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in order to realise the reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions of at least halving them by 2030 and achieving net-zero no later than 2050. The initiative aims to accelerate the momentum towards de-carbonisation ahead of the UN Climate Change conference 2022.
PW: Is there a Green Gap between what our industry talks about; and the rest of society? For example, the industry uses terms such “biodegradable” and “circular economy”. How can we bridge the knowledge gap?
HI: I don’t think there is a mismatch between industry and society on this aspect. I think there is a global thought alignment and consensus about the value of sustainable development. Industries have made significant strides in adhering to this requirement. There may be a knowledge gap but I guess it’s only reducing. You can find it in the steps companies have taken over the last few years towards this initiative.
PW: Any lessons you can share from a customer that have been resilient or innovative (and flourished) during the past 18 months?
HI: Some of our customers have excellent recycling and waste management systems in their factories. From a graphic communication point of view, I have seen some sophisticated automated document factories (ADF) of some of our customers, which work completely in line with a circular economy. I have been highly impressed by them.
PW: Your plans for 2022?
HI: Sustainable, competitive and long term growth.
PW: One outrageous prediction for the year to come ...
HI: In a world full of random events, it’s better not to make any prediction.
Quick fire questions
How do you unwind?
Photography and scuba diving.
One piece of music you love?
Imagine by John Lennon.
Favorite film (preferably a movie)?
Three books by your bedside?
Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger, Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami and my personal favourite Kaze ni fukarete by Hiroyuki Itsuki. Kaze ni fukarete means ‘Blowing in the wind’ named after the famous song by Bob Dylan.
One thing about print you love to utter in a public forum?
That despite all apprehensions about the world going paperless, print continues to play a significant role in messaging and communications.
Recent packaging innovation that impressed you?
Packaging is getting more sophisticated with last mile tracking of packs through QR codes and RFID embedding.
One tech-guru (past or present) you want to meet - and why?
Sony founder Masaru Ibuka. He was the greatest tech guru in Japanese history.