5 Mins With Sony's Yasuo Baba
Sony’s ultra-high-resolution lenses, cameras, and remote SDKs are used in a range of business solutions, from AI-powered vehicle inspection systems to 3D scanning chambers that have helped create animations such as in Jurassic Park. They're considered a leader in the digital imaging solutions market, with products in their portfolio such as the Alpha 7RIVA, which is the only full frame camera that can provide a resolution of more than 60MP.
Yasuo Baba has over 20 years of experience in the digital imaging industry and has been in the Sony Digital Imaging Business Solutions team since 2018, having previously worked as Head of Professional Business at Nikon.
His passion for photography extends outside of work and in the past, he has photographed world sporting events including the World Cup, the Olympics and Formula 1, and was even once honoured to photograph Bill Gates.
He joined Technology Magazine to share his executive story.
Tell us about your current role and responsibilities
I'm responsible for Sony Digital Imaging (DI) Business Solutions in Europe. Essentially, my aim is to accelerate business growth and establish Sony as the leading company for B2B customers in the sectors of drones, law enforcement, photogrammetry and other industries with digital imaging needs. On a more granular level, this includes 3D scanning, mapping and surveying, security and surveillance, crime scene investigation, e-commerce, and quality assurance, amongst others.
When I joined Sony, my first objective was to establish Sony DI products, cameras and lenses to become the first choice for professional photographers and content creators.
This strategy proved to be successful as we were able to establish Sony as a dominant player and grew our market share across the news agencies, publishing houses and professional photography sectors from almost 0 to 30% in just two years.
Since the Sony DI products inherit many advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), more and more B2B customers have started to integrate Sony DI products into their solutions.
Within Sony, we have different divisions:
- Sony Media Solutions - for professional broadcasting, cinematography, cloud solutions
- Sony Image Sensing Solutions - which offers an in-depth range of component cameras and image sensing products for industry customers
- Sony Mobile division (Ed note: 2021 saw the smartphone division turn a profit for the first time since 2017).
My focus is to further the development of the business with B2B customers and professional content creators, but not just with Sony DI products. By strengthening internal collaboration across all divisions of Sony we can offer a truly holistic imaging solution for our customers.
What were some career highlights before your current role?
Photography and imaging have always been at the heart of my professional and personal passion. In combination with my interest and expertise in accelerating upcoming consumer trends and demands, my track record is built on exceptional business growth through truly innovative and international marketing and sales initiatives.
It is therefore no surprise that I started to work as a professional photographer after my law studies, initially for newspapers and news agencies, and later for international fashion magazines like Elle and Marie Claire.
Now I look back on 22 years’ experience within the imaging industry and I have built up a true track record of successfully growing and expanding business especially in, but not limited to, the B2B sector.
This career was however built on a broad foundation including four years in telecommunications. As Sales and Marketing Manager of a Finnish telecommunications company, I set up the retail business and B2B solutions for the Nokia joint venture company, which heavily supported the expansion and the dominance of Nokia’s mobile business in those early days.
From telecommunications I moved back to imaging and was Head of Professional Business at Nikon Central Europe. In this role, I was able to increase market share from 20% to 45% in the professional photography sector and established a very successful B2B business with new CRM and sales solutions. As a result, Nikon became the dominant provider of digital imaging products for the law enforcement sector as well for industry customers.
Furthermore, I was also lucky enough to be involved in the management of major events such as the World Cup and Olympics between 2004 and 2016, which meant a lot of travelling around the world, working with the media, businesses, politicians, logistics companies and representatives from organisations such as FIFA, UEFA and the International Olympics Committee.
Following my time at Nikon, I was appointed as Managing Director at Profoto in Sweden (the world market leader for innovate lighting solutions) working together with major international fashion and luxury brands, rental houses, studios and photo retailers.
Besides my corporate career, I teach marketing and sales at universities and business schools in my free time. I also enjoy working as a high performance and business coach, which offers an amazing opportunity to support C-level clients including professional athletes to unleash their peak performance.
How do you see your role evolving over time?
The expansion of our B2B offering is central to Sony’s long-term vision in the imaging market. We will continue to improve and innovate technology by working with our customers to devise bespoke applications.
My personal ambition is to make the imaging division even more successful – together with all Sony imaging team members – to become the Number 1 brand in the market for professional imaging solutions.
What initially drew you to work for the business?
I was contacted by Sony approximately four years ago to join Sony Europe. Despite the opportunity to work for a huge global and iconic tech brand such as Sony, it was the vision and ambition of Sony´s top management that was the main reason I could not refuse to join.
Having previously worked at Nikon, I was excited to move back into the world of digital imaging to contribute to Sony´s growth with my knowledge and expertise of this demanding customer segment.
Can you highlight a couple of achievements you're most proud of since you joined?
First of all, I am proud of my team and colleagues at Sony and the outstanding results we have achieved in the last three years.
We have started from scratch and within two years we were able to increase Sony´s market share in the professional content creator market from 0% to 30%.
After 18 months, and building on this extraordinary result, I can already say that the DI B2B solution business has become one very important and profitable pillar for Sony and is already now contributing to Sony´s digital imaging business as an essential profit driver.
Beyond the overall business result described above, it is difficult to highlight just one. What I truly enjoy about my role, is the variety of partners and innovations we engage with. We work with some really exciting businesses to develop fascinating imaging applications. These include using the Sony Camera Remote Software Development Kit (SDK) to integrate Sony Alpha cameras into drones used for mapping, inspection, and safety missions, and capturing the highest possible resolution 3D scans for film or video game production.
What trends are you seeing in the industry right now that are having the most impact?
One of the major trends is that the still image industry and the videography industry are merging together. There is no more clear distinction between still image/photography and moving image/ videography. The B2B customers and professional content creators are looking for solutions for both video and still image.
At the professional imaging sectors, the data transfer with the new 5G technology offers huge business opportunities and new applications, which was not possible before. With our Sony Mobile team we are offering game-changing solutions for the media industry customers.
Other examples include the combination of machine learning and AI with digital imaging solutions, cloud solutions for storing and managing captured image files, the rise in popularity of mirrorless cameras, the demand for higher resolution images and the requirement for tailor-made imaging solutions and consulting from our side.
What motivates and drives you each day in your role - and do you have any mentors?
I'm driven by my passion to accelerate business growth and helping our customers to unlock the true potential and endless possibilities Sony technology can provide.
As a lifelong learner, I love to learn on weekly basis. My special focus of interest lies in marketing, sales and psychology.
And yes, I have two mentors: one of my mentors is a former CEO of a major pharmacy corporation and the other is an entrepreneur with over 100 companies. In addition, I engage in every possible opportunity to exchange experience and information with my friends and colleagues from other industries. This allows me to learn new perspectives and to draw on their expertise as senior partners in consulting companies or other senior C-Level management positions. I do believe that personal networks are a strong and really valuable asset to have as a senior leader.
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