Interview with Koji Naka, Managing Director, CASIO Middle East
Q1. For CASIO G-SHOCK’s 35th birthday, could you remind our readers what are the 3 most important dates in the brand’s history?
A1. Pioneering innovative brands have been, time and again, part of CASIO’s history. For example, CASIO’s first electronic wristwatch launched in November 1974 was called Casiotron. Consistent investments in research and development throughout the years have resulted in major achievements for CASIO, which led to the birth of G-SHOCK in April 1983, the first of its kind shock-resistant wristwatch. Once again in March 2016, CASIO introduced the world’s first Smart Outdoor Watch that runs the Android WearTM operating system. In other product categories, we have also achieved huge milestones as early as 1957 when we introduced the world’s first compact all-electric calculator while our first electronic musical instrument was launched in 1980.
Q2. What is it that Middle-Eastern customers look for in a watch, which has caught the brand’s attention?
A2. G-SHOCK is one of the Middle East’s bestselling watches and our market share enjoys dominance in the region. It has some of the best features that works perfectly well with the tough environment in some countries such as the strong heat in summer months. G-SHOCK presents the top option for tough weather conditions. Of course, its rough and powerful brand image makes it a very attractive brand for the Arab youth, which is quite a big segment. The Arab World has many young population interested in music, arts, sports and G-SHOCK is an ideal expression of their character – be it creativity or adrenalin-pumping activity.
Q3. What are the challenges that you face in watch market in the Middle East and does it differ from women and men watches?
A3. CASIO has established a strong relationship with customers across the region. It is indeed, a favored brand for consumers, because they have experienced what we have committed to deliver, ensuring high quality, durability and innovative-ness that has high value for users. Although, it pays to mention that we are still expanding our geographical presence. We are now visible in key North African markets such as Egypt, Morocco, Kenya and Nigeria and expansion plans are afoot. In each of these countries, our plan is to have more point of sales, because we want customers to find us easily and hopefully, by next year, we can share with you more information about our growth in this area.
Q4. What is the favorite CASIO product in the Middle East?
A4. Interestingly, there is no one favorite among our brands. Students, for instance, favor G-SHOCK and scientific calculators, while our young customers prefer G-SHOCK, or ProTrek. Our BABY-G brand is also highly popular among the ladies’ segment. Currently, we are pioneering in musical instruments with the launch of the GP series digital grand piano, which is also a first of its kind and it is being favored by many musicians in the region. You know, people in diverse groups prefer different things, at CASIO, we promise to deliver variety of products that suits their needs.
Q5. In 2017, CASIO achieved a historic milestone when the total worldwide shipments of G-SHOCK watches passed the 100-million-unit mark. Are there any new features you intend to add to advance G-SHOCK in 2018? And how do you explain the success of this product?
A5. That’s big news for all. Yes, we achieved the 100 million G-SHOCK in 35 years! What does that tell us? We have, in fact, developed a product over the years that people love. Of course, there are many aspects that play a role in this success. However, design, technology and functionally are the main elements that helped bring about this achievement. We continue our efforts to introduce new technology that serve the needs of our customers. We want to be a distinguished brand, which makes it our mission to always create something that bring newness to people. For instance, the new smart outdoor watch provides used with a GPS map, offline! That’s one of a kind as all other smart watches require 3G or WiFi network. So, while you are exploring the woods or climbing a mountain, what happens if there are no 3G or WiFi? This is the type of innovation that we offer, and that’s why customers trust our products.
Q6. What are the products that CASIO plans to introduce in 2018?
We have just introduced our G-SHOCK limited edition for the 35th Anniversary celebration which comes in red and matte black with signature designs. Also, we ventured into mercury-free data projectors along with our new LK Series from Electronic Musical Instruments Category, which helps new joiners transition their learning experience easily. We are also ahead of the curve in terms of anticipating regional needs. For countries implementing value-added tax (VAT), we have introduced a VAT Calculator that can make the calculation of VAT as easy as possible.