Konosuke Matsushita 松下幸之助
Konosuke Matsushita was the founder of Matsushita Electric, one of the world's biggest electric and electronic appliance manufacturers.
Born into a well-off landowning family in 1894, a decline in the family's fortunes during his childhood meant that Matsushita's education was cut short and at age 9 he became a brazier's apprentice, then a year later a bicycle shop apprentice.
Even at that young age, when sent to buy cigarettes for the owner, he bought in bulk, thus getting a discount, secreted the store of them for when next needed, and pocketed the profit (until the owner caught him out!) He stayed five years at the bicycle shop, picking up basic metalworking skills.
At age 16 Konosuke Matsushita went to work in the Osaka Electric Light Company (now Kansai Electric Power Co., Inc.) At age 21 he married his sister's friend, Mumeno Iue. The next year, at age 22, he went out on his own to develop a new kind of light socket. He set up his own Matsushita Electric Appliance Factory at age 24, successfully producing various appliances such as power plugs, and a battery powered bicycle lamp that would shine for over 40 hours on one battery as opposed to the typical three hours.
In 1927 he established the National brand, making available to the average household electrical products that till then had been prohibitive in price, such as irons (the National Super-Iron) and radios.
In 1933, he devised a new management system, dividing the company into three autonomous divisions: radios, lighting & batteries, and synthetic resins/electro-thermal products.
In 1935 it became Matsushita Electric, and he president. During the Second World War, the factory's assembly line system drew the attention of the army, and it was used to produce goods for military use. In 1943 Matsushita also began on shipbuilding and aircraft production.
With defeat in the war, the allies changed it to a limited company and expelled Konosuke Matsushita as part of their anti-zaibatsu measures. However, Matsushita insisted that he had built the company from nothing and not through takeovers. The company was restored to him in 1947.
In 1953 he formed a technical alliance with Philips of the Netherlands. In 1959 the Group's first overseas sales company, Matsushita Electric Corporation of America, was established. Matsushita appeared on the cover of Time magazine in February 1962.
It is said that at Expo '70 in Osaka, the 77 year old Matsushita lined up, unbeknown to anyone, outside the Matsushita pavilion in the burning summer sun for two hours along with the people waiting to get in.
Based on that experience, he ordered the director of the National pavilion to prepare paper sun hats for distribution to those waiting bearing the words "Matsushita Pavilion." The numbers of visitors are said to have thereby increased enormously.
In 1973, he retired, at age 80. He died in 1989 at the age of 94. His estimated personal fortune was 500 billion yen (about USD4.25 billion).
The next year, 1974, with Japan in recession thanks to the oil crisis of 1973, he wrote the hysterically titled "Japan at the Brink" (Kuzureyuku Nihon o Dou Sukuuka literally, "How Shall We Save A Collapsing Japan?") advocating draconian moves towards a vastly more Spartan Japan. It became a bestseller.
Revered as the "god of management in Japan, he is famous for such quotes as Business is people, A million yen's worth of work from those who earn 100,000 yen a month, 2 million yen's worth from those on 200,000 and, upon the completion of a new product, to say to the person in charge, Good job, but be sure to get to work right away on a product that will make this one unsaleable.