Akio Morita - The Man Who Made Sony

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Case Details:

Case Code : LDEN005
Case Length : 12 Pages
Period : 1921-1994
Pub Date : 2002
Teaching Note :Not Available
Organization : Sony
Industry : Consumer Electronics
Countries : Japan

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Introduction Contd...

Morita was an excellent marketer, who emphasized the need for brand building of Sony's products. As a result of his efforts, the brand became a symbol of high-quality sophisticated products. Morita was largely responsible for the globalization of the company at a time when Japan followed the system of closed economy. One of the other key success factors of Sony, according to the analysts, was Morita's people skills and his trust in his employees.

After his resignation as the Chairman in 1994, he was made the honorary chairman of the company. However, after a severe attack of pneumonia, Morita passed away in October 1999.

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Though Sony continued its tradition of offering innovative products even after Morita's death, by the early 21st century, Sony was facing several problems due to the slowdown in the global economy. In 2002, Matsushita, Toshiba and Samsung had emerged strong contenders for the leadership position.

However, analysts believed that despite the competition and other problems, Sony was still the best company in the consumer electronics industry, mainly because of Morita's efforts to make the Sony brand synonymous with innovation and high quality products.

Background Note

Morita was born on January 26, 1921, in a wealthy family, which was involved in the sake brewing business for fourteen generations. He had been groomed to be the successor of family business from the time he was in the third standard. At the age of ten, Morita's father made him attend all board meetings. He was taught to monitor the brewing process and evaluate the quality of sake brewed at their factories. He was also taught to deal with various people working for them. However, by the time Morita reached tenth standard, he realized that he was more interested in mathematics and physics.

He pursued his interests and eventually, graduated in Physics from the Osaka Imperial University. Immediately after his graduation, in 1944, Morita joined the Japanese Navy as a Lieutenant.

At the Navy's Wartime Research Committee, Morita met Masaru Ibuka (Ibuka), an electronics engineer and they became good friends. After the end of World War II, Morita accepted a faculty position at the Tokyo Institute of Technology (TIT) in Tokyo, where he once again met Ibuka.

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