The Birth of Panasonic begins with its founder Konosuke Matsushita, born in 1894. As a young child Konosuke studied as an apprentice at the Godai Bicycle Store.
Here, his employers quickly saw his aptitude and interest in business. And as an apprentice, he learned much about the world and of business. At 15, he leaves the bicycle store to embark into the electrical business and begins working at the Osaka Electric Light Company. Over the subsequent years, he rises to an inspector and begins redesigning and improving the light socket. But, quickly decides he should start his own company. In 1917, he started Sanyo Electric, which eventually produces a newly designed socket.
In 1918, he relocates to a larger two-story house and established Electric Housewares Manufacturing. At this time, the company consisted of 3 people, including his wife and brother in law. Their staff gradually increases while developing an attachment plug and two-way socket, and this company later develops into the Panasonic we know today.
As the Japanese economy boomed following World War I, the company grew slightly. But difficult times quickly arose as trade unions become increasingly militant. But, sales continued, and in 1920 he began expanding the company’s presence to Tokyo. And later this year, he completes the construction of a factory, a new office, and the company numbered 50 employees strong. In 1927, the company moved into developing electrothermal products, starting with the Super Electric Iron and next a foot warmer, both becoming huge successes.
They later gradually expand into other electrical fittings, heating, and consumer appliances. The company quickly grows to 300 employees. And by 1930, they began producing radios. In 1933 they construct a modern factory and head office in Kadoma, now with 1,200 employees and over 200 products in manufacturing. In the same year, they begin producing small-sized electric motors, which later debuts as a 3-phase induction motor in 1934. In 1935, they begin expanding throughout Southeast Asia, now employing 3,500 employees and manufacturing 600 products.
This year, they also file and incorporate the company, renaming it to Electric Industrial Co. Later in 1938, they developed a prototype 12″ television, which was japan’s first television broadcast. But, in 1941, the Pacific War breaks and manufacturing transitions to military needs, including wooden ships and aircraft. In 1945, Japan surrendered. And the company now begins rebuilding from scratch with only 4,400 employees while losing 32 factories and office facilities across Japan. Over the next subsequent years, hardships arise as the company fights against restrictions and avoids dissolving. Luckily, in 1950 the Korean War broke out, creating sudden demand. And they officially began rebuilding the company.
In 1951, Konosuke visits the US for a three-month tour, broadening his perspective. The following year, they partner with Phillips, the electronics company, for a long-term collaboration. In 1953 they developed the first National TV set, in only two months, and the first electric refrigerator. The following year they release personal radios, and they grew to 18,000 employees as the home appliance era booms in 1955.
Over the next three years, mass production begins, and the company builds a succession of automated factories to produce dry cells, batteries, washing machines, radios, vacuums, motors, and refrigerators. And they later develop their first home air conditioner and tape recorder. In 1959, they established the Electric Corporation of America in New York, and they later become world-renowned.
Throughout the early 1960s, they begin overseas manufacturing, broadening operations, and technical assistance in other countries. In 1961, Konosuke resigned as president, and his son-in-law takes the role. The company then launches a series of household products, including microwave ovens, gas stoves, space heaters, console stereos, speakers, cassette records, VCRs, and water coolers. And now, the company becomes a comprehensive electronics manufacturer while growth continues.
In the 1970s, they continued expanding internationally, and in 1971, they entered their company on the New York Stock Exchange. However, sales slowed in 1973 with the Yom Kippur War as inflation and recession hit.
In 1977 his son-in-law resigned, and Yamashita becomes president. The following year they begin selling VCRs, and with JVC, their subsidiary, jointly develop the VHS. And they also create a long-term supply agreement with RCA, then General Electric, which leads to VHS becoming a worldwide standard. In 1982, they developed their first CD player. Then 1985, they produced their first VHS camcorder with a built-in camera that recorded directly to a standard VHS cassette.
In 1985, Tanii became president, and the company restructured its divisions in 1987. And in the same year, they partner with Beijing to produce color TVs starting in 1989. Simultaneously, they merge the company and focus on globalization across the Americas, Europe, and Asia. This same year is also when Konosuke passes at the age of 94, who single-handled built the world’s largest and most successful electronics company.
In 1990 they produced their first notebook computer. In 1991, their first cellphone with the world’s smallest and lightest receiver followed by an optical disc recorder for pictures. They continue to have record-setting economic expansion. But, another recession occurs in 1992, slowing sales.
At this point, this prompts a change in leadership, and Morishita becomes president. The following year, they buy out Phillips share in the company, dissolve, and take full ownership. And this same year, they create their fluorescent light bulb. In 1994, they developed rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries for cellphones and cameras. In 1996 they released the first-ever mobile phone weighing less than 100g, then the first DVD player, and the first wide-screen plasma display.
The following year, they devise a new internal company structure, integrating different product groups into separate clusters. And this same year, they released a DVD car navigation system. In 1998, they released their digital TV sets to the US and a portable DVD player and HD video camcorders.
Now in 2000, Nakamura assumed the role of president. In 2003, they unified branding and officially become Panasonic across all domains. A significant milestone in their history. They later go on to develop bathtubs, kitchenware, furniture, home safety, security, and lighting products. In 2005, they opened the Amagasaki Plant, the world’s larger plasma display panel location, and their fourth major facility. And at this point, the company dives deep into LCD and IPS technology.
In 2006, Ohtsubo became president. And in 2008, they change their name to Panasonic Corporation, and they fully embraced this title. In 2012, Tsuga became president of Panasonic Corporation. And in 2018, they celebrated the 100th anniversary of founding. And from here, this is how we know Panasonic as we know them today.
Panasonic has an exciting history of developing new consumer products to enhance people’s quality of life, particularly in Japan. And it’s quite understated how many innovations they’ve single-handled produced. As photographers, we may know them strictly for their camera division, especially following their first CES presentation. And sure, they’ve made several industry setting releases since 2014. But, like Sony and Olympus, this is just one aspect of their larger corporation. And there’s far more than meets the eye.