The Story of Konosuke Matshushita: Founder of Panasonic Corporation

On this day, November 27 in the year 1894, one of the foremost post-war industrialists was born in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. His name was Konosuke Matshushita, the founder of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd, renamed Panasonic Corporation in 2008.

Konosuke Matsushita
Konosuke Matsushita (Credit: konosuke-matsushita.com)

Konosuke Matshushita was the son of an affluent landowner who died early after making bad investment. He had 7 other siblings, 5 of them died in their childhood. He started working at 9 years of age. When the shop he was working failed, he joined the Osaka Electric Light Company where he rose to become inspector. After working for 8 years, he left to start his own firm.

In 1917, Konosuke started manufacturing light socket. The initial years were a real struggle. Most of his employees left but he was not about to give up. He was saved when a large order for insular plates for electric fans came in. He continued to improve his light socket and soon, orders started to pour in. When he invented a bicycle lamp in the late 1920s, business boomed. He also started producing radios.

Early on, Konosuke began to implement western-style of management. He restructured the company in 1929 along three product lines which he called divisions. He also focused his energy on establishing sales offices and training his employees.

Although his factories were used for the Japanese war effort, the American Occupation Authorities allowed him to remain in control of his company since it was not part of any of the Zaibatsus. He continued to introduce advance manufacturing techniques and at the same time expanded his product portfolio to include all kinds of appliances. He established not just global sales offices but also manufacturing plants abroad.

Konosuke Matshushita died from pneumonia in 1989 at the age of 94. He had one child with his wife Mumeno. At the time of his death, the brands National, Panasonic, Technic, and Quasar became household names worldwide. In 2019, Panasonic Corporation had revenues of over $72.1 billion ranking 153 in the Fortune Global 500. It had more than 257,000 employees worldwide. Konosuke Matshushita wrote as many as 44 books on business and he is now considered one of the greatest management gurus.

References
http://www.nytimes.com/1989/04/27/obituaries/konosuke-matsushita-industrialist-is-dead-at-94.html?pagewanted=all
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Matsushita-Konosuke
http://www.economist.com/node/14117858
http://www.panasonic.com/global/corporate/history/konosuke-matsushita.html

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