After opening its first office in Nigeria late last year, Canon is set to revolutionise the Nigerian camera industry. In this interview with Solomon Elusoji, the Japanese company’s Sales Director for the region, Somesh Adukia, says it wants to help change the face of the world’s third biggest film industry

What has been the company’s experience since establishing in Nigeria?

It has been an enriching experience. We wanted to understand the status of the Nigerian consumer, what they like, what they don’t like and what they expect from Canon as a brand. I’m happy to say that our future strategies for developing the Nigerian market is based on the feedback received from the Nigerian public. One of the things we are doing is to establish our service network, because we understood that service is very important for the Nigerian customer, unlike, say a person from Dubai – if his product is one or two years old and it’s not working, then he knows it is time for him to replace it. But for the Nigerian consumer, servicing becomes very important.

Also, to further understand the local needs, we have appointed a Nigeria Country Manager. And when we started to penetrate the channels, we felt there was a need to keep in touch with the local community, and that was why we appointed Channel Account Managers. With the kind of things we have achieved in the short term, I think we are happy; we have a long way to go, but it is much more better than what it was last year. And with each passing day, we are learning and implementing. We look forward to continue with our future strategies, so that we grow the business, have more associations and connect the Nigerian community.

What are the company’s future strategies?

We have made our strategies two-pronged, one from the product side and the other from the channel side, because both need to be complemented if we want to succeed. From the product strategy point of view, we want to grow the market of DSLRs in Nigeria, because we feel that with a strong population of over 175 million, the current penetration ratio of less than a per cent is not deserving. We want to focus on our entry range, which will target the masses; we also want to focus on the high-end range, which will target the professionals, photo clubs and Nollywood users. One important step in this direction for us is the establishment of Canon Academy, where we will teach a consumer how to operate a DSLR camera. From our photo printer point of view, we want to enhance our relationship with street photographers, because we have understood that the street photography community is very big in Nigeria and 99 per cent of them are using Canon products. So we want to thank them, as a sense of gratitude, and we want to have some dedicated events only focused on the street photography community. This is because we also understood that while there are many events and seminars for retail shops, SMEs, big businesses, the street photographers are always overlooked; and Canon as a brand will not like to do that, because we believe that they are our long term customers, and we want to take care of them by increasing our association with them.

As far as Nollywood is concerned, we have a range of products that suits the industry. So we need to inform the Nollywood users that there are good options available which promises quality, as well as ‘ease-of-use’ and affordability. We also want to cater to the affordable printing solutions market, without compromising on quality.

On the channels side, our vision is to enhance our visibility, create demand through the generation of activities like road-shows, give Nigerians the opportunity to have a feel of Canon products. And when all these is done, we want to raise our brand awareness by investing in above-the-line like billboards and sign-boards.

Why choose to come in during a recession?

It is understandable that the company is going through a recession at the moment. But again, we are not here on a short-term basis. We are looking at a long term association with this country. Firstly, we believe that Nigeria is a big market; that self-belief is very important. If you don’t believe in this country’s potential, then it becomes a half-hearted attempt, which we do not want to do. So we believe that the population is huge, and that it is composed of mostly young, tech-savvy people. So, yes, today, the economic instability is not conducive to business, but it will get better. And we do not want to enter the country when things are okay, or exit the country when it is going through challenging circumstances. We feel that we are a part of Nigeria, and we also want to make Nigerian feel that Canon is a brand to be patronised, because we are going to be here, both in good and bad times. Together, we can come up. Our new ad campaign, which will be launching very soon, will also revolve around, not Canon as a brand, but Nigeria as a country. Our message will be: capture every spirit of Nigeria, and while you are capturing it, Canon is always there.

What are some of the steps you are taking relating to the Nigerian film industry?

I think the Nigerian film industry has budding photographers and filmmakers who stand out today in the world. What we will like to do as Canon is to cement our association with existing filmmakers. But not only that; we want to create new filmmakers. What our team is doing now is getting in touch with budding filmmakers, going to filmmaking institutes and introducing them to Canon products, and sharing with them tips on photography and how to enhance their filmmaking through a Canon camera. We are confident about our strategies to penetrate the Nollywood market, because while our eyes are set on channel penetration and becoming number one, our eyes are also set on becoming a major pillar in Nollywood.

How does Canon view the Camera-Smartphone debate?

From our side, we do not have any debate when it comes to photography which is taken by a smart-phone camera, because we have accepted the fact that with the advent of smart-phone cameras, the entry-level camera customer has shifted to the smart-phone. So now there are less and less people who use a compact range of cameras, because their needs have been fulfilled by a smart-phone camera. However, we, being pioneers in imaging, want to offer consumers with the right kind of solution and services, so that they can make their moments even better. There are many things which a smart-phone cannot capture. For example, moments such as the birth of your baby or the first time when he or she walks, or the marriage of your daughter; those kind of moments require the kind of quality which only a DSLR can provide. So, the entry-level has shifted to the smart-phone camera, which we have accepted. But from mid-high, as well as the DSLR range, there are moments which you need to  capture with quality, and here Canon will come up with its innovation, so we can afford consumers the right kind of solutions and services.