Entrepreneur Spotlight: Akio Morita

“We plan to lead the public with new products rather than ask them what kind of products they want, the public doesn’t know what is possible, but we do”

Akio Morita knew it right. The visionary entrepreneur developed an early interest in technology and ventured into the tech space with a little radio repair shop in a bombed-out building in Tokyo post the World War II. He then went on to transform it into one of the biggest powerhouse electronics companies – Sony Corporation.

Despite coming from a traditional sake-brewing family, Akio had developed a significant interest in electronics. The unparalleled love for electronics led him to pursue a degree in physics from Osaka Imperial University and serve the Japanese navy. During his stint at the navy, Morita analyzed at the Aviation Technology Center and ended up meeting Ibuka Masura, a member in the Wartime Research Committee. The two later went on to together establish one of the most innovative organizations in the world – SONY Corporation.

Akio Morita and Sony

While Japan had lost a quarter of its wealth in World War II, Morita explored ways to create a remarkable array of highly engineered and technological advancements. Morita’s entrepreneurship journey was alive with innovation and action. There are relevant learnings for today’s businessmen from the man who stunned the world with an impeccable and advanced organization named SONY. We have analyzed a few for our readers.

Knowing the Right Marketing and Branding

Akio Morita had pioneered the concept of marketing. Combining innovation and marketing was a brilliant move made by Morita. Sony salesmen were made to wear customized shirts with oversized pockets. His marketing and branding excellency led to the groundbreaking success of the Sony Walkman in 1979, Trinitron: first home-use VCRs in 1968, compact discs in 1982, and many more. The US marketplace drew Morita’s attention and hence, a determined Morita planned the strategy well. Morita’s strong intent to establish business relationships with North America, Europe and other countries fetched Sony a global recognition. His ability to understand the western and eastern cultures led to Sony’s uprise in the tech landscape.

Bring in the right folks

Morita focused on hiring the right employees who would stay in the organization for a long time; employees, who would create a concept together. Morita once said –

I established the rule that once we hire an employee, his schools records are a matter of the past, and are no longer used to evaluate his work or decide his promotion.”

Knowing the employee inside out was what he believed and practised.  A determined Morita ensured to meet each of his employees individually.

Research and Development

Observe your customers. Sense intuitively what they might need or want. Finally go on to build. Morita advocated this strategy throughout his entrepreneurial journey. The technological research and product development was taken care of by Ibuka, while Morita paved way for Sony to deliver the innovations to the global marketplace. Sony’s first ever innovation was the reel-to-reel magnetic tape recorder, later licensed to Bell Laboratories.

Funding is Not a Mandate

An enterprise that later came to be known as the world’s most innovative consumer electronics company, had zero funding initially. Those were the times of World War, when life was uncertain, let alone venture fund. Akio believed money in itself is not precisely defined. The value of money is ascertained only when it is paid. Motivation, and not money defines success. Once you create value by innovating, and there is a market for it, people will pay. Morita played the game right. His long range planning and investment fetched Sony huge financial backup which, even today Sony continues to reap. One of the greatest ideas of Akio was to aim at a market that is huge. As customers validate, a business  can keep scaling the product or service with unreasonable/unfair advantage over potential competition. And in such ideal scenarios, it is worth adding that funding is done, like money means nothing.

Akio Morita – The Solopreneur

A lot of aspiring entrepreneurs focus on finding a co-founder. I do not say it’s wrong but Akio Morita was pretty much the only person behind the business. A not-so-technical Morita did not possess any sales experience. With the whole world going into war, the likes of which we will (hopefully) never see again, this man was focusing on building a product – all by himself! While I am not contesting what a good co-founder/partner can do for success in a business, I would certainly state that if someone needs to venture into their business, do not go by what the world-of-google says. It is okay to be a solopreneur and not have partners.

Adopting the Right Distribution strategy

The mid-1950s saw most Japanese producers relying on giant Japanese trading companies to export their goods. This urged Morita to build his own efficient distribution channel. He established a direct connect with the customer, thus opening doors to numerous growth opportunities. The message of the innovations and wide ranged benefits could be directly passed on to the consumer.

Akio Morita died at the age of 78 in 1999, leaving behind a legacy of technological advancements, innovations that Sony continues to explore and nurture. The man behind the uprise of Japan post-world war has disrupted the way people perceive music and television. Morita’s journey has left a trail of relevant learnings and inspirations for the young and budding entrepreneurs, which even today continue to inspire a larger part of the business community.

What Morita Taught Us

Akio Morita and Sony’s success is a proven inspiration for many entrepreneurs. Be flexible and patient enough to reap long-term benefits. Invention and innovation combined is the key to advancement. One can learn from his belief that people excel and grow when they are open to free discussion. An organization can barely be successful if thinking and planning are left to management alone. Akio established the rule that once an employee is hired, his school records should be taken as a matter of the past and should no longer evaluate his work or decide his promotion. According to Morita, it is vital to know how to develop people’s inborn creativity. Many individuals have creative ability, but few know how to utilize it. Adopting the right defined and intensive learning path is crucial.  Ensuring alignment of corporate education to the business goals and needs is what Akio emphasized upon. We hope this piece adds to the value creation for your business goals and assists you in your entrepreneurial journey.