Small business: Adapt or die - Peter Bonisch

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Peter Bonisch, sales and marketing manager of Fujifilm

Peter Bonisch of Fujifilm.
Peter Bonisch of Fujifilm.

Tell me about your business

Fujifilm is the leading imaging company in New Zealand and globally. Our products and services on the consumer side include everything from digital cameras and accessories and Instax cameras to film and photo printing services. Fujifilm also operates in a number of specialist areas, such as medical, graphics, data storage and professional video broadcast. Go Girls, for example, was shot using Fujifilm tape. Eighty-five per cent of New Zealand newspapers are printed using Fujifilm plates. Satellites use Fujinon lenses.

What was the biggest challenge for your industry in recent years?

Without a doubt, the disappearance of traditional camera film. The shift from analogue to digital was rapid and all encompassing. It meant the entire industry changed, seemingly overnight.

What did it potentially mean for your company?

Quite literally, adapt or die. If we didn't face the challenge head on, the company wouldn't have a future, as simple as that. We'd go the way of vinyl records. This was the daunting task facing Fujifilm when I joined the company nine years ago.

What steps did you take to meet the new market?

Fujifilm had to completely reshape and reinvent itself, on both a global and local level, from the ground up. We're a dramatically different company today. Consumers have all the power. Our consumer customer base is now incredibly broad, from teenagers to grandparents. We've widened and strengthened our retail sales channels.

What opportunities did the new circumstances give you?

The chance to be bold and imaginative in our thinking, from developing new technology to offering new solutions for our customers and the ways they take and keep photos.

Contrary to some perceptions, the consumer photographic printing market is a real area of growth - one that's being helped, rather than hindered, by the rise of smartphones. In New Zealand it's worth an estimated $50 to $60 million annually, and Fujifilm now has 75 to 80 per cent market share.

People are printing more because they're taking more photos. In 2012, New Zealanders snapped an estimated 600 million photos on their cameras, and another billion on their smartphones. Around a quarter of photos taken on cameras are printed, but we believe that less than 5 per cent of all smartphone images are currently being printed - which represents a huge opportunity.

We've also created an entirely new category with our Instax cameras, which tap into a nostalgia for old-fashioned instant photos and are gradually replacing entry-level cameras. Thirty thousand were sold in New Zealand in the last 18 months, while Instax film sales have quadrupled in the last year.

What lessons have you learned as you have changed to meet the new market?

Retain your brand integrity and values, such as service and relationships with retailers.

Continually innovate - people are always looking for the next new thing. Realise what role your products play in people's lives, and keep them relevant. We have a saying in the New Zealand office: "We're going where the images are going. As people find different ways to capture key moments in life, we'll discover new ways to bring those photos to life."

What were some of the unlooked for benefits of the new market you were dealing with?

The arrival of digital has meant a new era of freedom and creative expression. This is true for the progressive companies who adapt and innovate, as well as for consumers. It's exciting to be part of.

What would be your top tips be to other businesses in other industries who are undergoing extraordinary change which will either make or break you?

This may be a cliché, but it's true: don't be afraid of change. Don't ignore it, embrace it. Look at other industries that have become obsolete as a result of social and technological advances and see which companies have risen from the ashes and reinvented themselves. Learn their lessons. Be nimble and proactive. See how your friends and family are interacting with the world and other brands, particularly the younger generation, and consider what this will mean for your business. For example, Fujifilm are currently encouraging teenagers to print photos from their mobiles, rather than simply sharing them on social media - there is the potential to start a new trend, and even a fractional shift in their behaviour will translate to a significant increase in revenue. Understand your different audiences and engage with them in ways that interest them. The days of a single blanket message to the masses are over.


Next week: A number of small businesses are looking for funding at the moment. In the current market, what is NZ's community of angel investors motivated by and who is benefiting from their largesse? Some companies just seem to attract fantastic investors, others not so much. Let's hear some tips from them.

- NZ Herald

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