One of the best known names in the healthcare, consumer products and lighting business is Philips Electronics, which has had a presence in the Japanese market since 1953.
Heading the operations in Japan is Danny Risberg. Originally from California, Risberg joined Respironics (currently Philips Respironics) in 1999. In 2005, he became president and CEO of Fuji Respironics and in 2009, he was named COO of Healthcare for Philips Electronics Japan. He took up his current position in January 2010.
Japan Today editor Chris Betros visits Risberg at the Philips Electronics Japan offices in Minato Ward to hear more about the business.
What are your main lines of business?
We have three sectors. One is healthcare – imaging systems (MR, CT, X-Ray, etc.) and ultrasound equipment, patient monitoring, ventilators, anesthesia machines. We also have an extensive line of respiratory and asthma allergy management products, sleep therapy and diagnostic products used in hospitals and home healthcare. In addition, Philips is the world’s largest supplier of AEDs, so most of the AEDs you see at stations are from us.
Our second sector is lighting -- we are the largest lighting company in the world and a global leader in LEDs and new organic LEDs. The need to save energy is driving the uptake of LEDs in Japan. About 20% of all energy in the world is used just for lighting. If you think about that, only the sun makes more light.
The third sector is consumer products -- shavers, electric toothbrushes and oral healthcare. One of our most successful products in Japan is the Sonicare Diamond Clean electric toothbrush because it has been clinically proven that Sonicare is better for your gums and teeth.
Philips used to sell other consumer products in Japan. What happened?
Back in the 1990s, the company made a strategic decision to stop selling general products like coffee makers, hair dryers and irons in Japan because of the domestic players and a very crowded marketplace. Instead, we decided to focus on specialty products and areas where we can add value.
In health care, Japan is the single largest market after the U.S. It is a mature market and the uptake of technology is very fast. The customer base requires high-end quality products and that’s where Philips excels.
Do you manufacture any products specifically for the Japanese market?
We do not develop or manufacture in Japan, no special shavers or anything. However, we do make a lot of specific applications just for Japan. One thing that is unique to Japan is that consumers expect new models much more frequently than in other markets, so we do introduce more lines. It is extremely important to manage the portfolio and pipeline in order to keep bringing in innovative solutions and products to our customers.
How do you market your brands?
Healthcare is our largest sector. A lot of our promotion in that sector comes from clinically proven customer-focused activities. We believe in customer satisfaction as a huge driver for our business. We have a very high focus on peer-to-peer and clinical science. We always attend and participate in the medical professional conventions as well. For oral healthcare, we do advertising campaigns, workshops and many other activities ... truly too much to put into a simple answer.
Are your staff specialists?
Our staff are highly educated. We have a lot of clinical training programs before a product is launched. Experts come from our education center in Singapore and train our application specialists or from the business units from around the world.
For our marketing and product management staff who work with retailers – many times we engage oral hygienists and they do seminars for sales entities on our behalf.
How do you keep up with the latest technical developments?
I read a lot and I spend probably 45-50% of my time out in the field meeting doctors, architects and designers. I also like to go to retail outlets to see how customers are reacting to our products.
Has the time needed to get regulatory approval for products and devices improved?
The time needed for approval may have improved by two months but it is still a year and a half behind what it needs to be. Innovation cycles are becoming much faster. If we know it may take 18 months, there is no point in trying to get a product approved because by the time you bring it and spend a lot of money to launch and market it, it may be out of date.
I sit on the European Business Council governance committee and chair the medical council and in recent years, the dialogue has become much better with the various Japanese government ministries. But there is still a long way to go.
Is Philips a popular company for Japanese graduates?
We do get a lot of inquiries from job applicants, probably because it’s a global well-recognized high-end technical company. With a 122-year history, Philips is seen as a sustainable long-term company.
When you are not working, how do you like to relax?
I love cars and fly fish. I am also an avid dog fan and have three Italian greyhounds.© Japan Today