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This article first appeared in Options, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on November 23, 2020 - November 29, 2020

Although cameras are what Canon started out with, the Japanese multinational corporation has since branched out into a number of other product categories, making a presence in homes and businesses all over the world. Canon Marketing Malaysia president and CEO Andrew Koh, who has racked up more than two decades with the company, talks to Anandhi Gopinath about evolution, embracing change and adapting to new challenges in the midst of the pandemic.

What Colgate is to toothpaste and Panadol is to paracetamol, Canon is to cameras. This kind of brand recognition is most enviable in the fast-paced world of consumer electronics, especially with the kind of competition that exists in this day and age, but Japanese multinational Canon has a clear advantage as a pioneer in this part of the world. In 2015, it had 54.7% of the world’s market share for DSLRs and 18% market share of the mirrorless market in Japan. So, if you’ve used a camera at least once in your life, there’s a good chance it was made by Canon.

As is often the case with global success stories, Canon’s beginnings are relatively humble. In 1933, a small laboratory dedicated to making high-quality cameras was set up in a simple apartment room in the Roppongi area of Tokyo. Back then, all high-quality cameras were European, with the majority coming from Germany. It was in this small room that three young people with a big dream — Goro Yoshida, Saburo Uchida and Takeo Maeda — earnestly began their work to produce a high-quality Japanese camera. Their first prototype was named Kwanon after the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, Kuan Yin, and in 1935, Japan’s first-ever 35mm focal-plane-shutter camera — the Hanza Canon — was born, marking the origins of the brand.

Canon was established in Malaysia in 1987 and went on to register many pivotal firsts for the local tech scene. It launched the first-ever plain paper fax machine and colour copier, bubble jet printer, colour fax machine and the smallest and slimmest DVD camcorder. Outside of the sales and marketing division, its operations included manufacturing divisions: Canon Opto, Canon Electronics, Canon Machinery and Canon Mailcom.

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