On July 6, at that headquarters of Foment del Treball in Barcelona, José María Gay de Liébana and Leopoldo Abadía, representing Fujifilm and the Japan-Spain Business Circle (CEJE), discussed the ability of individuals and companies undergo transformation in a complex environment.
Fujifilm, founded in 1934 and dedicated to the manufacture of photographic film, had to fight the march of time and reinvent itself with the arrival of digital photography. Its main business area, representing 70% of revenues, began a period of steady decline in the year 2000. But the company was able to find a way to reinvent itself before it was too late, by diversifying and entering the digital market, as well as other, totally new markets where it could apply its own technologies.
During his presentation, Antonio Alcalá, General Director of Fujifilm in Spain, who personally witnessed how sales and revenues plummeted in 11 short years, commented that “All of us in the company were aware that changes in consumer habits were going to come sooner than later, but what we didn’t know was just how fast this would happen”.
Mr. Alcalá then went on to invite the two presenters to come onto the stage and discuss the need to reinvent oneself in changing times.
Leopoldo Abadía began his presentation with an interesting analysis and an invitation to reflect: “Could it be that we have to reinvent ourselves in hard times because we fell asleep in the good times?”
Mr. Abadía added, “when today’s retirees complain about their pensions, they need to be told that when they were young they were not working for themselves, but for those who were old at the time, thinking all along that when they grew old there would be young people working for them. But we Europeans have decided not to have children, and when we get old we seem to live forever,” explained with a certain irony the author of the economics best-seller The Ninja Crisis. He then added that in the future “we will discover that there are not enough young people to support a lot of old folks, especially with precarious wages.” It turns out that longevity is precisely what will force us to reinvent ourselves, when faced with the challenge of living to a hundred and beyond.
The lack of jobs in manual labor will be compounded in the future by the arrival of robots, according to Gay de Liébana, “who will have rights and obligations set out in legal statutes governing robots, and if we don’t have something more to offer, something extra that differentiates us from them, companies will use robots instead of people”.
For both economists, another exemplary success story involving reinvention in hard times is that of Mercadona, the Valencian firm that now boasts a 23% share of the Spanish grocery market. “Back in the year 2008, Juan Roig was able to see what was coming: a trend toward higher unemployment and loss of purchasing power. So what he did was to throw his support behind generics and break away from branded products, while at the same time offering products of the highest quality”, according to Gay de Liébana.
You can watch a video of the event here.