About Mr. C. Sukumaran:
Mr. C Sukumaran is the Director of Consumer Systems Products and Imaging Communication Business at Canon India Pvt. Ltd. In his current role, he focuses on driving growth, market share, and profitability for printing and imaging products. Mr. Sukumaran works closely with the partners to escalate the business proposition. He has also immensely contributed to the overall business strategy and mentoring future leaders.
Q – What are the origins of World Photography Day?
A – I think the history of World Photography Day is way back, about 150 years ago. It all started when the photography process was invented, and later on, the then French government purchased the patent and opened it out to everyone. And what does word photography mean to us? I think it’s really about depicting all the good work, art, science, and history behind photography. That’s the whole idea of World Photography Day. Also, it’s a dedication to all the photographers who work hard day in, day out. I was telling someone that it’s like how a teenager feels about their birthday. It’s that day of celebration. That’s the enthusiasm that we have for this day.
Q – What campaign has Canon launched to celebrate World Photography Day?
A – First and foremost, we are launching a ‘behind the Shot’ campaign. As I mentioned to you, photography looks so beautiful for an audience, but there is so much work behind the scenes that is our key campaign. This time we are calling it ‘behind the shot’. Why is this important? It is more of a dedication to our photographer community, who spend hours to get that one shot. So let me take an example of a wedding. If you miss that one shot during the wedding, you’re gone. There’s such criticality in which they work behind every single shot.
If you look at wildlife, some of our photographers keep saying that they wait for hours to get that one click. Then, take a look at maternity photographers. Imagine managing a one-month-old kid and the difficulties that go behind the scene. So this time, our campaign is focused on that set of photographers, their dedication, commitment, and passion for celebrating what we call World Photography Day. They put a lot of effort into their work, and our campaign is focused on dedication to them. Also, you’ll find some videos that we will be launching that will show the type of work they do behind the one-shot.
Q – What other activity has Canon organized for the photography community on World Photography day?
A – While we are doing a lot of digital work, we also have a lot of webinars for our end consumers because we want to reach out and spread this culture of photography to them. And through this, we’ll talk more about the difference between picture taking versus photography as there’s a lot of difference there, and not everyone’s aware of it. We endeavor to ensure that our target customers are more aware of the term photography and its difference.
We’re doing a lot of webinars. If I have to give you some numbers, I think we’re doing about 50 such webinars in different categories. We have weddings as one category, wildlife, travel, and a lot more other categories. So we’re doing many of these webinars across the country, not just in one language but in multiple languages. So that’s some of the work that we’re trying to do.
Q – How do you see the company changing in the next two years? What’s your vision?
A – First, let me talk about customers because every work we do here correlates with how our customers change over time. Ten years ago, home-based and camera enthusiasts were our customers. So our communication is very specific to the home segment consumers, but we observed many professionals over a period. Today, professionals play a very important role for us. When it comes to professionals, we need to communicate in the language that they understand. For example, with wildlife professionals, we need to communicate differently, compared to food photographers, where we need to communicate in another way.
One of our challenges and our task for the next two years is to have customer-wise communication that becomes very important for us. Based on the customer needs, I should be able to reach out to them. So that’s one big shift in our communication strategy. The other aspect has been on our channel. ÅAToday, we have many youngsters picking photography, and one subset is called Vloggers and YouTubers, who create their channel. So it’s a different set, so our channel and sales also need to be aligned.
We have our objective, and the sales channel is at every touchpoint that the customers are walking into. So obviously, retail becomes one big segment. We have our retail outlet, Canon Image Square, where more and more professional customers are stepping in to purchase their next camera. So we’ll have to see how we change our approach towards that, and we’ve changed over a while. We also engage with E-commerce because our customers go to E-commerce to buy an entry-level camera.
In the next two years, the way we see it is that our customers are changing our communication, according to that we will change. Our way to reach our GTM will also change. So that’s a big shift that we see. We’ve seen the change in the last couple of years itself. We’ve already worked towards changing customer scenarios.
Q – What are the prominent trends that you would like to highlight in the photography industry?
A – One such segment that has blossomed in the last couple of years is the vloggers. We’ve observed that a lot of them use mobile to start with. They try to capture images, content around the world. We observed that over a period, they start to realize the need for a professional gadget. They need a better quality of the video. So they start to adapt from the entry camera to professional equipment like a DSLR or mirrorless camera model. So that’s one prominent change that we’re seeing, and it’s about how we adapt to that change. Weddings are one of our biggest customer segments that we see, and India is so different from the other countries. Our weddings are a week-long affair. It starts with pre-wedding functions, then wedding, then post-wedding functions. It’s an elaborate event, and photography plays a critical role here, but unfortunately, weddings have become smaller and very intimate in the last year and a half.
The photography is not gone, but the number of photographers may have come down there. Right. So we do see that post COVID weddings are going to get back. We’ve observed the other segment, which is wildlife photography. At one stage a decade ago, we could see a countable few into wildlife photography, but today, with the IT boom in the last decade and a half, we’ve seen many entrepreneurs, the IT workers, getting into this wildlife photography. We’ve observed this trend exponentially growing for us in the wildlife category. So every segment, we’ve seen strong growth. And the next big thing is OTT, while there’s still a debate about cinema halls versus OTT. But the fact of the matter is that there is so much content being created for OTT.
Several web series makers need a professional device, and Canon plays a crucial role in such situations. So these are our emerging and very large markets for us as we look forward to a very positive outlook towards photography and videography, especially in the professional category. While the home segment blossomed in the last year and a half, I think many home users were using mobile phones, no doubt about it. They had a need, but they kept pushing it forward, but with covid coming in and they’ve been stuck at home, the need for photography has blossomed. So we’ve seen our home segments suddenly having outstanding requirements coming in from these customers. Almost all our segments are doing well for us as we look forward.
Q – What are Canon’s key focus areas for the rest of the year?
A – One important area, although it may not be related to business, is caring for our people. If you look at what we’ve gone through recently, it has been the most terrible time. Our most important areas are employees, families, and extended families like our partners, retailers, and promoters. We have the first big target to ensure the safety of all of them because we’ve seen losses in this area.
The other area, as you asked, is the plan until the end of the year when the big wedding season comes up. A lot of purchase that’s already happening for the year-end season. Wedding dates are seasonal, and it starts from October till December, even September. We have some days. So there’s a lot of preparation that goes behind this aspect. So we’re doing a lot of planning. So, having our equipment and cameras available ensure we reach out to our end customers.
Also, we’re running a campaign called Weddings by Canon, specially targeted towards the south because that’s one of our biggest full-frame customers. And here, our target was just one couple. And this is the first time in the industry where we’re going to reach out to the bride and the groom, who are making decisions and plans about their wedding. So our Endeavor was, can we reach out to them and show the beauty of photography that Canon can deliver to them? So that’s Weddings by Canon, and I encourage you to watch the campaign that’s already live. So that’s some of our plans, and we’re doing a lot of preparations around our campaigns and making our product available at every touchpoint of our customers. So that’s the two big plans for the end of the year.
Q – What are the upcoming products in Canon’s lineup?
A – Honestly, it’s a very, very continuous fair for us. Even in the Covid times, if you observed, we launched our biggest breakthrough products, R5 and R6, which are doing so well even today. These mirrorless, full-frame, high-end cameras are doing very well in all the genres I spoke about. About plans, we’ve got a few lenses on the cards, and we’ve also announced the development of R3, which is the next model that will be launched. Even in Covid, we had busy times, and even now, we continue to have. Based on customer needs, we keep churning out the products.
Q – How does Canon plan on responding to the rising mobile photography genre?
A – That’s one of our biggest segments. To be very honest with you, we are not able to supply as per the demand to that extent; the demand is very strong. We discovered a very high market share in that segment. So what we’re doing is that we’re working with a lot of these ambassadors. We’re trying to have these key influencers and vloggers for the segment as well. We are trying to have some vlogger contests where they will start to upload their good work. That’s a work in progress. So we are trying to reach out to them, and we know that they are a digitally native customer segment. So all our campaigns, all our work is especially catering to them over digital. So that’s some of the work we’re doing but reaching out to the segment is a big challenge because you have one Vlogger sitting in Kanyakumari doing street or food photography, and then there’s one sitting in Kashmir.
Q – Which other segment of photography would Canon like to venture into?
A – Interestingly, in the last year and a half, we have observed that the education segment plays a role for us. Nowadays, due to the pandemic, there is a lot of live streaming happening for classes. So while direct courses are running, some prominent Institutes are adopting live streaming, and for that, they need a professional gadget. We supply a lot of our products like Pro Live Professional DBS for such needs, and we’ve done well there. And we see enormous scope for us, especially in this segment.
Q – Can we expect a camera launch towards the second half?
A – I can’t give you a direct answer, but as I mentioned to you, we’ve already announced our development of R3. Yeah, that’s the only thing that I can say as of now, but please look forward to it. We are hopeful as you are.
Q – Any other thing that you would like to include and talk about on the occasion of World Photography Day?
A – So, there’s a general perception that mobile cameras have taken over photography, but it’s not the case. The entry-level, point-and-shoot cameras have been taken over, which is fine, but for us, the beauty is complementing photography and videography. If you pick up mobile ads today, you’ll find they mostly talk about the camera feature. So as a consumer, I’m buying it because it has a great camera, but after I start using it, I start to see a need for more. So that is where a transition from picture taking to photography comes in. So if you ask me honestly, these companies are complimenting us; in a way, they are helping us rise. And we are helping transition our consumers from picture taking to photography. And that is a very positive aspect of our industry growth.