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In the second part of our pictorial history of Panasonic founder Konosuke Matsushita, we look at how the corporation was rebuilt, essentially from scratch, after World War II, and how Matsushita began exporting to new markets and experimenting with new products. You can read the first part by clicking this link.
In 1951, determined to rebuild his company after WWII, Matsushita travelled to the United States and Europe to explore new markets. While overseas, in 1952, Matsushita signed a “tie-up” agreement with Dutch brand Philips. Here are two of the products that had just been released at that time: National’s first washing machine and a 17-inch monochrome TV priced at ¥8 million (AUD $97,000 in today’s money or around 170 times the average Japanese annual wage in 1952).
National’s first home appliance was this electric blender, released in 1952. Matsushita believed in continually expanding the product range, believing that this would lead to greater profits. He compared doing business to life and death battle.
“Doing business is like fighting a duel with real swords. Thus, there is no room for thinking that allows for winning sometimes and losing at other times, just as there is none when dueling with real swords. When you lose in a dual you will literall lose your head.”
In the late 1950s, Matsushita adopted the Panasonic brand name to avoid conflict with a pre-existing National brand in the United States. So successful was this export market, Matsushita was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1962, one year before the launch of the company’s first microwave oven, puctured above.
Pictured here are the first vacuum cleaners, tape recorder and rice cooker produced by Matsushita. When it came to introducing new products to the market, Matsushita said the anxiety was akin to meeting the in-laws for the first time.
“Selling products we have manufactured is like giving our daughters in marriage. We worry about whether the products will work well or not, whether they will be given a good reception in their new home. We are selling things that are as precious to us as our daughters. They’s why we become relatives or in-laws, as it were, of those who buy our products.”
Kicking off the now Panasonic brand’s B2B business was the Panafax2000, released in 1973. With both business products and consumer products, Matsushita instilled in his staff a pioneering spirit of customer service.
“Whether service is performed promptly and adequately or not will determine whether the customer is satisfied. A satisfied customer will become a staunch supporter of Matsushita Electric, and help us prosper as a company.”
In 1979, National/Panasonic hit big when it supported VHS in the format war with Betamax. This is the first home video tape recorder to be released. Eventially, VHS would become the global standard and Betamax would be consigned to the rubbish bin of history.
Konosuke Matsushita died in 1989, aged 94. Pictured here is the last major release he oversaw as the spiritual leader of the now publicly traded Panasonic Corporation, a portable CD player released in 1986. Next to it are Panasonic’s first modern-era camcorder and Lumix digital camera. These two ranges are now enormous profit generator for Panasonic, showing that his spirit of business lives on.