Epson’s a household name in the printers and projectors category. We sat down with the company’s president, Mr. Minoru Usui, on his recent India visit to get a sense of where the industry’s heading in the near future. Excerpts from our interview:
Digit: Is India an important player, as far as Epson’s global markets go?
Usui: Yes of course, India is a very important market for Epson now, and it will continue to grow in importance. It’s essential for Epson to listen carefully to the requirements of Indian customers, and to develop products that meet these needs. Part of my reason for visiting India this month and in the past has to speak to our local staff, visit customers and therefore directly obtain information about the Indian market and customers.
Digit: Traditional print industries are declining in growth, digital publishing is steadily increasing. As a printer manufacturer, how is this trend affecting you and the industry?
Usui: The volume of output from commercial digital printing will grow by 400% from 2010 to 2015. Epson’s Micro Piezo technology provides high speed, high reliability, and is kind to the environment. We have already started to leverage these advantages by creating printers for applications such as outdoor signage, commercial photo printing and packaging labels. We therefore believe we are well placed to take advantage of the shift to digital printing.
Printers using Micro Piezo technology are ideal for on-demand – printing exactly the right amount at the right time - printing, which we believe will continue to expand.
Digit: Is there an increased pressure demanding printer manufacturers to produce greener printers with minimal environmental impact? How are they different from a normal printer?
Usui: Yes, over the years we have taken a variety of measures to make our products greener including removing potentially harmful substances, making them easier to recycle and reducing their energy use.
In recent years environmental concerns have become especially become important in the office, and we have launched a range of business inkjet printers that have considerable environmental advantages over laser printers, including using around 90% less electricity. In commerce too, for example, our SureLab product is aimed at high street commercial photo shops. This product eliminates the harmful chemicals used in conventional analog photo printing processes.
Digit: How do you manage to come out with interesting printer technologies, such as water-proof and smudge-proof Durabrite ink? Could you tell us something about the kind of research that goes behind selecting the right kind of ink for a particular category of printers?
Usui: The start point always has to be the market. There’s no point in making great products and technologies that nobody wants. It’s essential that we research carefully what our customers want, and create a product that meets – or hopefully exceeds – their expectations.
One of Epson’s advantages is its ability to create new products and technologies from the ground up. Once we have determined what the market needs it is up to our engineers and scientists to create it.
Digit: How will the printer industry shape up in the next decade? Any forecasts or predictions?
Usui: First, I believe we will see the steady expansion of inkjet printing in the office. Inkjet offers advantages over lasers in terms of running costs, first print out speed, and energy consumption, and it is Epson’s task to make customers aware of the fantastic business inkjet printers we offer.
Second, as on-demand printing expands, we will see an acceleration of the shift to digital printing in commerce and industry. As mentioned above, Epson will step up its efforts to provide products that address actual needs in these areas.
Digit: What is your view on 3D Printing? When will we see a consumer-grade affordable 3D printer in the market?
Usui: Epson is looking closely at the possibilities for 3D printing. Our original Micro Piezo inkjet technology is extremely versatile and certainly has potential for 3D and a wide range of other printing applications.
It’s difficult to say exactly when such a printer will become readily available, but we will continue to review the market carefully and work hard to create products that meet the needs of our customers.
Digit: Some of your 3D projectors are priced at similar price points as 3D Smart TVs. Is it fair to compare projectors with HDTVs? Which one is the better option for users and why?
Usui: It’s not a straight comparison because projectors and TVs have different roles in home entertainment.
Large screen TVs may not be practical for some customers who have smaller living rooms, and are not cost effective at 80 inches and above. Certainly projectors are the better option when people want to enjoy entertainment at 100 inches and above.
Projectors are easy to set up and use, and can readily bring big screen entertainment to customers wanting to enjoy movies, sports and games.
Digit: Are projector sales according to your expectations?
Usui: While I am pleased with how customers have accepted our innovative projectors, I am never fully satisfied. We are always looking to improve sales by providing products with functions and features that address specific customer needs. Epson has been the world leading projector manufacturer for 11 years, and we are looking to build on the expertise and advantages we have gained to strengthen this position.
Digit: How do you plan to educate the Indian buyer, who views a projector as just a device which is used in corporate offices and not as a home entertainment gadget?
Usui: According to a recent industry report, India is on its way to becoming the second largest market to spend on lifestyle products & high tech gadgets. Urban Indian middle class families are exploring new options for comfortable living as also for entertainment. Against this backdrop we find the adoption of projectors for use as a home theatre beginning to increase rapidly in India. Our objective is to continuously introduce products to excite and entice this consumer.
We’ve recently introduced a fantastic 3D HD ready home theatre projectors, an Apple docking projector and an All in One Projector (Projector, Speakers, DVD Player). Our objective is also to continuously make these products more accessible to consumers. This means more affordable pricing and better availability. And finally our objective is also to constantly demonstrate in reality the incredible experience of viewing entertainment on a home theatre projector. Ultimately the viewing experience is what wins the day and drives consumers to invest in our projectors for use at home.
Digit: What are your specific plans for India in the next 5 years?
Usui: Epson has been growing in stature and presence in India over the years. Today Epson enjoys strong equity and is the No. 1 or 2 brand in almost every category it operates in. A lot of hard work has gone into building the brand to the position in which it is today. A strong dealer network with loyal partners, products that are industry benchmarks in most categories, a service network that rates above the competition on all parameters and innovative marketing activities have all helped to build the brand to its current position. With an increased focus from Epson Japan on developing products that are specially created for the Indian consumer we will continue to launch new products specifically for the Indian market. In India we are aiming to touch Rs. 750 crores in turnover this year and be the market leader in all the categories we operate in. By 2014 we hope to be a Rs. 1200 crore company. Apart from printers and projectors we also plan to enter new segments with new products. Portable label printing, robotics and factory automation, wearable imaging devices, short run label printing and textile printing are just some of the exciting areas we will be getting into. Our aim is to become a company that is indispensable for its customers. We want to deliver products and services that are useful and add value to our customers and society. In short, we want to fulfill the promise contained in our "Exceed Your Vision" global tagline.
Digit: We seldom see tech brands sponsoring football teams. Why then did you decide to partner with Manchester United?
Usui: We want to raise our brand profile through an association with another like-minded global brand and bring ourselves closer to customers in our core markets.
We believe we have much in common with the club. As global brands, we both share a vision to excite and inspire fans and customers, dedicated to seeking success and to exceeding expectations. We both believe in giving something back to society and have a strong sense of community and social conscience. We are also both global brands that transcend national and linguistic boundaries, and want to bring people together.