Sunday, June 09, 2002

There's an interesting obituary of Genichi Kawakami, long term head honcho of Yamaha, in the Economist. Its on overwhelmingly complimentary piece, but it talks about his desire to catch up with and surpass piano manufacturer Steinway in terms of prestige as one of the few disappointments of his career. It also describes his great enthusiasm for everything his company made or did. My favourite story of Kawakami, as told in Bob Johnstone's We Were Burning: Japanese Entrepreneurs and the Forging of the Electronic Age , involves the electric organ business. As with pianos, you had an old venerable and prestigious American firm (in this case Hammond) which dominated the business. (Okay, Hammond was not quite as prestigious as Steinway). New technology for analog sound synthesis had been invented at Stanford University in California, and the inventors initially went to Hammond. Hammond did not know what to make of semiconductor based technology, and didn't want the product. Yamaha got wind of it, and eventually did a deal. The amusing part of this is that Kawakami conducted the negotiations from a hospital bed. The reason for this was that he had recently been a little too enthusiastic about his company's motorcycles. Yamaha's dominance of the electric organ business has been total, from the cheapest to most expensive organs, ever since.

No comments:

Blog Archive