Canon India recently launched its Cinema Excellence Suite to showcase its extensive range of cinema imaging technology to the veterans of the Indian film industry. A converted bus will be carrying the entire production and post-production workflow experience directly to cinematographers, DOPs, filmmakers, and production houses in Mumbai over three months, then moving to Pune and Hyderabad. In an interview with Forbes India, Manabu Yamazaki, president and CEO of Canon India, speaks about the effects of emerging OTT platforms, growing demand from content creators, and catering to it all despite the logistical challenges of the pandemic. Edited excerpts:
Q. When you joined Canon India a year ago, we were in the middle of the pandemic. How has the journey been through that year?
Like everyone else, it was a very rough period. We had a lot of cases within our organisation, as well as among our partners. We were observing how we can help these things. We had worked very hard to sustain the health and safety of our colleagues during that period. At the same time, to stay functional as an organisation, we implemented a lot of IT upgrades. We were able to stay functional even after our office was closed for several months. We were able to sustain our relationship with our partners and our end customers. So overall, I think the performance as a company was more than our expectation as a whole year last year. We were able to turn out the positive growth against the previous year, a lot more than last year.
Q. India noticed growth in the number of content creators during the pandemic—because a lot of people were inside the house and experimenting with their hobbies. Did Canon India's business benefit?
Yes, I think there are a lot of people who experienced may be an urge or need for an upgrade in resolutions or upgrading flexibility in the system and how they broadcast their live feed. So videography, even to the level of cinematography, has evolved so much during the pandemic. And I think we have witnessed broad popularity in people doing this down to individual level. We also launched a series of free online courses for them. Together with our partners, we conducted a series of videography tips, and we have released a few new products. So even during these challenging times, in terms of engaging people directly, and physically, we were able to keep up the pace with people's needs by engaging ourselves online. That helped us a lot and the sales. The challenge in securing our shipments amid a global pandemic affected us a lot in terms of securing the number of stock and answering the demand. Besides that, I think we've managed very well.
Q. What's the objective behind launching Cinema Excellence Suite?
This is our first trial with such a programme. Today, we are focussed on this specific area of cinematography. And in cinematography, I think the demand for the consumption of videography comes from movies, series of dramas, and talk shows. The emergence of the OTT platform is just amazing. It's rapid. There are tens of different platforms available as a service today. And they're competing with one another. So starting from the top range international platforms to local content providers with multiple languages and versatile geographies, we have decided to engage them more deeply with their individual needs, identified by providing a mobile editing studio for them. And that's what this Cinema Excellence Suite is all about. It's a converted bus. And inside the bus, we have this full-fledged editing studio available for them, as well as the entire product offerings from our cinematography, professional videography equipment, and various still camera ranges. The idea is to drive it up to their customer site. We offer them a visit instead of them coming over to see us.
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Q. You mentioned OTT, and we also talked about original content creators. They all have different needs. How is Canon India trying to fulfill them?
Well, we probably have to take this as a learning course for us. Of course, we have visualised what these verticals need in terms of hardware equipment, software, editing programmes, accessories, and peripheral pieces of equipment that they require by directly engaging these customers. There are, maybe, evolving needs coming from these industries. So, we are putting together what we can conceive today, to cover everything, including all the accessories from other vendors that we work with. We drive up there, they use the suite, and through their experience, in case some needs are not available within our system, we will immediately implement that as additional services. I think it's a progressive creative process that we would like to implement as a marketing trial. And hopefully, we'll be able to succeed in this.
Q. In my previous conversation with filmmakers, I've noticed Bollywood is slow to adapt to new techniques. Do you have any plans to overcome this challenge?
I think if that awareness comes from Bollywood itself, that means there is a huge opportunity for them to upgrade. For us, we can probably work mutually to catch up with the trend of the market. Maybe slowness comes from the traditions of how they used to work in a fixed environment. Whereas if you witness what's available as the technology, I think in the past couple of years alone the progression has taken off to an impressive scale. I guess the magnitude of how things progress these days is amazing. I think this is also in our hands, probably partially our responsibility to make sure that things are transparent for them. Then probably they will realise how much of these new things are available and accessible.
Q. Another emerging trend is of creating an entire movie on smartphones. iPhone already has movies such as Steven Soderbergh's 'Unsane' and Shawn Baker's 'Tangerine'. So how is Canon looking at this?
First of all, the rise of high-res smartphones is a welcome move in this industry. Originally it was a "smart" phone. But these days, people use a lot more functions other than calling. People probably call less, and text more. Or maybe engage themselves through videography-oriented services much more often. And they take a lot more pictures with it. It changed our lifestyle by making all these things accessible for them daily—which means a huge opportunity opened up, which was traditionally only enjoyed by the people interested in doing this. Nowadays, these things are readily available because people are fighting for new functionalities and all these new souped-up mobile phones that come with multiple lenses. As they experience, there's a constant need for how they can even refine it further. So I guess there's a synergetic effect in this availability of phones out there, especially in India, where the population is just amazing. And I think the incremental growth curve is impressive. This is the potential market and it is all happening today. So we do see this as a big opportunity for us.
Q. How is it an opportunity for Canon when a competitor is providing a full editing suite in the palm of your hand?
There are always some challenges in using the palmtop devices because the palmtop device is not necessarily dedicated to your interaction. Instead of taking notes, you just take pictures of the document or information, you snap yourself and do a selfie, you communicate with somebody on the other side of the world immediately—it consumes a lot of battery all the time. Whereas people are probably inclined to this action of registering your definitive moment in life for more lasting effects, they expect from other pieces of equipment. And what we've seen in those behaviours of people who want our equipment is that they gradually migrate to this high-end equipment to create something much nicer to enjoy as a hobby. And that's something we welcome. And that's prevalent and noticeable in the Indian market.
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Q. For India, what are the other market trends that you're seeing?
What you mentioned about the video streaming market—it's the world's largest user base, with 225 million users hooked on video streaming every day. OTT revenue is estimated at $2 billion this year alone, and in the next three years, it will be $18 billion. Moreover, there's education. Schools need to upgrade their equipment therefore, there can be demand for our compact digital video professional models. We're looking at this holistic approach this offers, because I think the awareness is still limited for this product range. So we need to enlarge their awareness.
With the entire world moving towards the hybrid workplace, I think scalable cloud print services (will be in demand). Cloud print and cloud imaging are both directly related to our equipment. So we're building IoT space, together with those service providers in both B2C B2B business. Make in India move is prompting a lot of industries to make things in India. But not a traditional way of manufacturing, there is a lot of industry IoT that requires a lot of video monitoring. So we are coming in to leverage our offer in video surveillance systems.
And then, of course, healthcare systems that require AI, virtual reality. There's a lot of scope of business because we do some medical business too. And then preaching, which is probably unique to religious communities in India. India comes with a vast fabric of religious organisations across the entire nation. People are going online for that too. As a result, they are upgrading their video equipment too. So there are quite a few cases of cinema camcorders or digital video camcorders from their direct demand. We were not aware of this sector before the pandemic. I think there's an infinite potential so we have to get in gears to catch up.