Brief History


canon logo
canon logo

Canon is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of imaging and optical products. Founded on August 10, 1937 in Japan by the charismatic industrialist Takeshi Mitarai and three of his close associates, it is headquartered today in Ota, Tokyo.

Its operations in the United States were in a downturn spiral with just a meager $6,000 net profit, from a total turnover of $3,000,000, when the present Chairman, & CEO Fujio Mitarai, the nephew of the founder took over operations. The Internal Revenue Service raided their offices unable to believe such a ridiculous return but after a thorough look through the books it conceded that it was really so. The auditors advised a closedown of its operations in the USA.

Fujio Mitarai did not do that but turned Canon around with a mix of western and eastern management technics, with the company riding the high crest of success today. He collaborated with Hewlett Packard and introduced low cost photocopiers and practically ran out the leader at the time Xerox off that market segment.

In cameras it competed with Nikon and Pentax the market leaders at the time and took a major share off their market to lead them both with a range of very innovative products. Since then Canon has been at the top by introducing a range of cameras to be affordable by every market segment, from the lower to the higher professionals. Canon has created its own niche market within every sector and has been bringing new product lines continuously to keep the competition on their toes.

Returning to Japan after 23 years in the USA, Fujio Mitarai tried to bring the same management technics that he introduced in the USA but was constrained due to the cultural difference and his cousin the son of the founder Najime Mitarai, who was the Chairman &, CEO at that time. Added to other issues Canon operations in Japan was more interested in increasing sales rather than making profits.

The latter died suddenly in 1995 and the board placed Fujio Mitarai at the helm as Chairman, & CEO, and that gave him the impetus to bring Canon to where it is now. He placed more emphasis on profit rather than in achieving a high turnover in sales. This was new to the Japanese mentality of that time, because for them it was the sales that mattered and did not monitor the bottom line, which was the profit.

This brought a new dimension to the way Canon ran their business and by cutting down on costs they managed to turn the company around to increase profits whilst keeping sales at a moderate level but bringing out innovative products. It leads the market in digital camera technology and is far ahead of its competition in innovation, which has given Canon an edge with the professionals.

There was also a new culture introduced where employees who performed well were rewarded financially and by promotions which brought a new dimension to the company. This increased productivity and an overall attitude change in all levels within the company. It also enabled Canon to introduce new innovations and is today the leader in digital cameras.


  • Market leader

  • Innovator of imaging and optical products

  • High quality products

  • Excellent after sales service

  • Impressive worldwide distribution network

  • Preferred by professionals


  • Some technologies still to be mastered

  • Wireless would be one

  • Prices could be higher than the competition