Tyler Suiters:

Hey everybody. We're the Consumer Technology Association. I'm Tyler Suiters. We are the owners and the producers of CES, the most influential tech event in the world. We're here to help you get CES ready. The big show is January 11th through the 14th, 2021 and big news, this will be an all digital show. CES will still be the place where exhibitors can connect with existing and new audiences from all around the world. But in 2021, you're getting a highly personalized experience.

Tyler Suiters:

We're going to bring a global event right to the comfort and the safety of your own home or office. This will be a new immersive experience, and you'll get a front row seat to discover and see the latest technology. Obviously, we are really excited about this. The topics. Well, there'll be the same game-changers you've become accustomed to in recent years, smart cities and resilience, 5G, applications of AI, digital health and vehicle technology.

Tyler Suiters:

And today, we are talking with a company that has been there since the very beginning. Panasonic has a 50 plus year history with CES, including exhibiting at the very first show back in 1967. And after all these decades, Panasonic still remains an agile company especially during the pandemic showing the remarkable ability to adapt to such quickly changing times and circumstances. So today, a conversation with Panasonic North America's President of System Solutions. But a quick caveat for you.

Tyler Suiters:

Part of this interview was before we announced the big news about CES 2021 going all digital. So we did a two-part interview and you'll notice a few differences in the audio. Not to worry. You should be able to hear everything just fine. But thanks for bearing with us as we adjusted to some technical difficulties. All right, today, a conversation with Panasonic on this edition of CES Tech Talk. Joining us now is Faisal Pandit. He is President of Panasonic System Solutions Company of North America, a long time veteran of the Panasonic Company. And Faisal, great to have you with us today. Thanks so much.

Faisal Pandit:

It's a pleasure to be here, Tyler. Thanks for having me.

Tyler Suiters:

Needless to say a bit of an odd time in our world and everybody's world right now.

Faisal Pandit:

It's true.

Tyler Suiters:

Especially so I think in the tech sector in the just like name the business, we are going through adaptations and changes and adjustments, but tech is also playing such a big role in either mitigating this pandemic or fighting maybe future pandemics that may arise. What is your perspective on what you're seeing both at Panasonic, but also more broadly throughout the technology sector?

Faisal Pandit:

Well, if you look at the, going back a couple of few months when this crisis unfolded, we didn't as a company think would be able to manage these challenges because it was all new. It wasn't a playbook out there that you could follow. But very quickly, we gathered and we were able to respond to this crisis in a very smooth manner. And that speaks a lot to the agility of the business. But if you peel the layers, it's really the underlying investments in infrastructure and technology that companies like ours have made over the years that have sort of prepared us for such scenarios.

Faisal Pandit:

And not necessarily nobody could have imagined this level of crisis, but certainly from a risk mitigation and the ability to collaborate remotely and things of that nature. We were well prepared because of the investment in those kinds of efficiency tools and technologies. And looking at broadly the tech sector, there's been a tremendous amount of interest in the collaboration platforms in anything that allows you to communicate remotely, anything that allows you to conduct your business remotely. So tech has really emerged as the sort of the front lines at the front lines of fighting this pandemic and there's technology deployment, whether it's the healthcare systems, whether it's tracking the COVID crisis at the state and local government levels and things of that nature.

Faisal Pandit:

Specifically from Panasonic's point of view, if you look at our product portfolio, it's very diverse. And we have seen a tremendous some amount of interest in some of the products in technologies that we have invested in over the years from our customers in response to dealing with this crisis. For instance, we prepare a big role in the first responder segment. So our ruggedized platforms, our Toughbook products, which is our ruggedized laptops, ruggedized tablets and devices of that nature have been in a tremendous level of demand over the last few months. That's a market we have a strong presence in.

Faisal Pandit:

But again, there is a need for those kinds of tools platforms to deal with the crisis, whether it's at the hospital level, whether it's at the law enforcement level or any fire services, anything of that nature. Beyond that, there's been a push for instance in the manufacturing sector from focusing on standard industrial electronic products to healthcare products. So we were able to bring our past know-how, our technology expertise, our understanding of best practice in the manufacturing arena and for why that support to some of our partners and some of our customers who were able to ramp up the production process significantly.

Faisal Pandit:

Some of the companies went from one day creating automotive parts to the next day building parts for ventilators. So how would a business of that nature be able to shift its production and reaction and start focusing on a very different product. And that's where we would able to help some of our customers and partners with. So there's many, many examples all over. If you just look at the pure outside of Panasonic, the pure software space, the level of interest, the level of demand. And because again, it's the key enabler. It's the foundation element that keeps us all going right now.

Faisal Pandit:

If you would've asked me back in January or February and imagine taking your entire company to remote in a matter of days and literally a matter of few days, I just couldn't have imagined that. I wouldn't be able to see that happen. But we did it. That certainly speaks to the innate agility within the organization, but that's got to be supported by the right set of infrastructure, right set of business models and right set of technology platforms. So tech is really out there. One thing I want to highlight is there's new trends that are emerging that are disrupting various market places.

Faisal Pandit:

And the whole, the fear of the infections and the virus, it's just not going to go away short in the near term. It's going to stay that even if there's a vaccine out there. People will be cognizant of that may be in the back of their mind. So there's a lot of, for instance, in the food service industry, there is a lot of conversation around touchless technology. So we've seen, and we have over the last few years, as we have shifted our business from being more consumer focused, more B2B focused and more around creating ecosystems.

Faisal Pandit:

So we have invested in some of these areas. But the recent events kind of pushed us to accelerate some of this innovation. So things like touchless technologies, food lockers for instance. So we have a significant investment in that arena. And interestingly, I was expecting the large chains to have an interest in that kind of technology. But believe it or not, it's a single location restaurant that's asking for those kinds of tools and capabilities.

Tyler Suiters:

That interesting because-

Faisal Pandit:

And they are going to make an investment.

Tyler Suiters:

Yeah, because the pandemic then is really affording opportunity or forcing opportunity in some senses. That you don't have the luxury of time as you said to reset an office structure when you have to change everything in a matter of days, and you get to the larger, how do you run a model on touchless transactions say when you've got to put it into real time. So instead of saying, going to that deep analysis of, will this be changed or will it not, you're getting this real-time feedback. In this case that single restaurant operations are the most enthusiastic. But that could apply [inaudible 00:09:13] to a number of the operations at Panasonic is adopted.

Faisal Pandit:

Absolutely. Along those lines, focus on employee safety. I mean, it was there, but today it's a very different focus. Are you maintaining social distancing in a company facility? And having technology like camera technology coupled with software, analytics and things of that nature, provides a tremendous amount of value to companies and the most important from a safety point of view. And that's one of the things we need to address. How do we get the economy back on track, how do we get that momentum back. It's really if we're able to address the safety concerns. In factory floors for instance, because availability of people is a challenge again, because of health reasons, social distancing.

Tyler Suiters:

Mm-hmm(affirmative), sure.

Faisal Pandit:

So they're investing in automation, robotics automation or process improvements. And we're stepping in those opportunities as well because we have a tremendous amount of manufacturing know-how. So across the board, we're finding new disruptions which are creating a new set of needs in the markets. And the key is agility. It's really, if you're in a position to respond to those needs in a short period of time, you as a company will have a key quick role to play in that space in the long run. So window of opportunity is limited and the needs are a debt and they need to be addressed again, in the broader interest of bringing the momentum back in our economy.

Tyler Suiters:

So how do you attain, if that's the right verb to use, agility at a global company like Panasonic with such disparate supply chain and manufacturing centers and customer bases as well. Agility is something that's wonderful to aspire to. And I think that a lot of startups you might find in Eureka Park are talking about that certainly, but how do you accomplish that and embrace that at a company the size and scope of Panasonic?

Faisal Pandit:

It's difficult, but it's not impossible. It's really boils down to the leadership's belief and the culture that you create around the business. In spite of being a large company, we have multiple businesses. So each business has its own sets of challenges and own set of sort of approaches. But the business stats that I head up, we are in the process of transforming, or we are transforming towards being a more solutions company, which is creating an ecosystem around our devices or hardware and building software and service capabilities. To be able to do that, your timelines, your vendor opportunity is limited when it comes to software and services.

Faisal Pandit:

So you need to have an organizational structure, you need to have a culture, you need to have a mindset that supports it. So it's not one element of your organization that you can change. Its across the board. You have to drive that cultural change. And it has to be a leadership level support for those kinds of changes. Now, in a large company like ours, there's a lot of checks and balances like any large company for that matter from a legal point of view, from investment management point of view. But you manage that in per little bit with the innovation engine, which will go to market strategy.

Faisal Pandit:

So senior leadership has to step in and sometimes make those decisions quicker and remove some of those roadblocks that can impede the development from a business point of view or from a product development point of view. So it's a really a cultural shift. And there are pockets of changes that we're seeing. Large company as a whole will take long time to get there in certain parts of the business, especially which are very heavy hardware centric may not need that level of agility. So it also depends on the profile of the business.

Tyler Suiters:

Right, so I alluded to the fact earlier Faisal that you've been at Panasonic for 25 years now, a lifetime in the tech sector or in many corporate sectors to be honest about it. You talked about moving from product-based to solutions-based model there at Panasonic and the diversity of business sectors where you are just, still surprises me, when you grow up with Panasonic as one well-known brand name that means something specific to you. And in the year 2020, it is so broad. And that you're embracing the key technologies, whether it's AI or the ingredients to smart cities or all the technologies that 5G will serve as a platform for, and you're broadening into public safety to, you mentioned food and retail to manufacturing and supply chain. How do you keep a grip, first of all, on that broadest spectrum of sectors and how do you stay nimble and innovative in so many at the same time?

Faisal Pandit:

Yeah, I think that's a great question. It's what makes the company an interesting place to be part of. It's what makes the whole professional journey exciting in many, many ways. I think ultimately it all boils down to what's worked for me is customer engagement. In respect to the space that you are in, in respect to the products that you have or you're trying to promote, you need to understand your end user. You need to understand your customer. That's one of the things Panasonic is pretty big on the engagement with the customer, whether it's your partner reached, your reseller partner network or your direct customer, understanding their needs.

Faisal Pandit:

Once you understand their needs, then you can accordingly plan. And it's not a specific to a needs of a certain customer, but you kind of get a sense of the pattern, which allows you to understand the needs of the industry. What's disrupting that industry? Where would the industry landscape look like five years from now? So that requires a tremendous amount of customer engagement. And that's been my sort of my focus over the years. A lot of customer relationships, a lot of customer contacts to understand the market dynamics, and then bring them back into the business and find the patterns, whether it's the market destruction pattern, whether it's the innovation engine, innovation roadmap patterns and plan accordingly.

Tyler Suiters:

Is there one emerging technology that has you most excited in terms of the potential that it holds for the largest number of sectors that you deal with?

Faisal Pandit:

Oh, sure. If you look at step back into Panasonic's history, we were very big in the consumer space. Still a lot of people think of us as a consumer company. Although you can't buy TVs in North America anymore. But we've shifted that quite well. Today, 95% of North American business is B2B focused. So from that aspect, I think we have had, and we had a need to change our focus from a product development point of view, from a go to market aspect and entire business model. And we've done a pretty good job in that.

Faisal Pandit:

In, I would say, say 20 years ago or so, Panasonic started focusing and emphasizing some of its B2B technology, the Avionics space, the automotive space, some of our mobility devices such as the ruggedized device that I talked about earlier and in industrial automation for instance, another area which is a strong focus for us. And we did really well in those spaces. So if you look at some of these sectors that I talked about, our market presence is really high. It probably one of the top three in all of these spaces and in many more.

Faisal Pandit:

And what we've been able to do through that process is build a customer relationships and create a market presence, have an understanding of the market. Now, the market is changing. There is a need for that ecosystem. Customers are looking for more than the device. But the device is at the center of that ecosystem. So the conversation starts with us. So it gives us an opportunity to have conversations beyond the device in that area. Now, devices generally speaking are there to collect data. So in most cases, and I'm generalizing here, the needs are around what do I do with that data?

Faisal Pandit:

I'm collecting this data. You know my business, we have a relationship. How can you, Panasonic, help me make sense of this data? And there's multiple platforms and multiple ways of managing that. But that's a common need across these businesses. I'll give you some examples. In the food services space for instance, for many years, we're a market leader in point of sale systems, POS technology. And that's to great extent at something, an area we're not as actively involved, or we have kind of shifted our presence there.

Faisal Pandit:

But the more customer engagements that we have, those customers are really interested in helping in finding ways to drive efficiencies in their operation. How can a quick service restaurant predict their production needs? How much food they need to prepare and rent for instance. That's top of the mind for them. Not necessarily the hardware components because for lack of better word, maybe this commoditization in some of these areas, but this is a shift from a demand point of view. A quick service restaurant, 10 years ago had two touch points with their customer, the drive through and the front of the restaurant. Today, those two plus mobile applications, Uber Eats, and many other ways.

Faisal Pandit:

So you have a lot of demand coming in. Your kitchen footprint. Your production capability is not increasing as much. So you need to be efficient in your operations. So again, we have the data, you have all the information, healthy makes sense. Similarly, in public safety for instance, there's an increasing number of car accidents for law enforcement agencies. So they're talking to us about building a cockpit, a car cockpit, which reduces distracted driving. Provides tools that would reduce distracted driving. For example, Weiss activation, some onscreen guidance and things of that nature. or there are law enforcement department struggling to manage video given all the video that they collect.

Tyler Suiters:

Sure, sure.

Faisal Pandit:

And they have manual processes in managing them. So we're having conversations that are, how do you build systems and platforms around that help you automate that, for instance, the redaction process, or do predictive analytics on those devices? So data is the key across all these elements. Now there obviously, each segment has its own idiosyncrasies that required a different view or a different perspective on the data and the application that's applied. But that's sort of at the core of our transformation. And we are investing pretty heavily in that, on the software platform side that will allow us to manage those needs.

Tyler Suiters:

Mm-hmm(affirmative). You mentioned the deep history of Panasonic and a consumer technology sector. Speaking of CES, you are among the handful of companies that was at the very first CES in 1967. Panasonic has been at every CES ever since. Clearly, this is a touchstone event for you each year up. At Panasonic, what does CES represent to you as a company because clearly, there's a history back to year one with the company at this event?

Faisal Pandit:

Yeah, I would put a lot of value on CES. It's changed over the years. It's sort of evolved as we have evolved. My last couple of CES, I thought I was in a car show. There's so much automotive focus. So the show has changed, but we liked that. We appreciate that because it aligns with what we're trying to do. We're moving away from the consumer to B2B space. It's a great forum, a great opportunity for us to showcase our innovation.

Faisal Pandit:

We spent billions of dollars on the innovation engine, and it's an opportunity for us to bring it to the market and how a single location, which brings people from so many different backgrounds, geographies, expertise and have an opportunity to interact with them, I think that's really powerful. It goes back to what I mentioned earlier about the key success factor in being at Panasonic is that customer engagement and having an opportunity where you can communicate with customers from all diverse backgrounds. I think that's really helpful. And that's why we've valued quite a bit.

Tyler Suiters:

So, I'm sure you're deep in the planning stages right now and realization for what Panasonic's presence will be at CES is still a bit far from finalized, but can you talk about some of the key themes or the elements you're very excited to address and showcase coming up January in Las Vegas?

Faisal Pandit:

Sure, there's still a lot of things in the works, but if you look back at the last couple of years, our focus has been on immersive experiences and immersive entertainment, smart mobility, energy solutions and things of that nature. So we're obviously going to continue to build on those because these are long-term themes. They can't change from year to year, but we've continued to invest in those areas and we'll bring to the new innovations around those themes and a lot more.

Tyler Suiters:

So CES 2021 is going to be an all digital experience reaching a truly global audience. I know it's early in terms of putting finalized plans together for the show, but where is Panasonic right now? What are you thinking as far as what you're going to emphasize, what you're going to highlight, the key technologies that you really want to show off to the world at CES 2021?

Faisal Pandit:

Sure, it's certainly going to be different experience. We're used to being present there and engaging with our customers. So we'll have to do it in a virtual setting. If you would've asked me this question a few months back out, I've been somewhat uncomfortable about the whole experience. But we've learned a lot over the last few months and we've all gotten very comfortable with the virtual experiences and at Panasonic, we've put a lot of effort in enhancing those experiences and making sure that we drive up very positive engagement with our customers.

Faisal Pandit:

And we've seen actually an increase in the number of attendees and some of our events relative to when we did those in-person. So from that aspect, we're comfortable with the shift, with the change and I would really appreciate of the CES team for their flexibility and making it happen. I know it's a big change. But as I said, we're excited about it. And I think we'll be able to deliver the same if not better experience for our customers and for our partners. We would typically meet in-person at CES. So in terms of what we're highlighting or what we're planning, it's still a lot in works, lot of some surprises, some exciting things that we'll introduce at the event.

Faisal Pandit:

But generally, we will continue on building our theme around smart mobility, immersive experience, energy solutions. But beyond that, there's also been a lot of focus and effort on addressing some of the disruption that is taking place currently in the market, whether there's new trends so responding to new needs. So there is a lot of work going on across Panasonic, across multiple divisions to cater to those new needs. And we're hopeful that we'll be able to talk about and introduce some of those capabilities at the show. So we're looking forward to it, very excited. And again, as I said, the digital engagement has become almost a standard for us now. And we're investing in it heavily. And hopefully, you'll be able to see that at the show.

Tyler Suiters:

So Faisal, you mentioned connected mobility, a key theme for Panasonic at CES 2020. Where are you all right now to the extent that you can share it and how far out does that road extend so to speak in terms of the vision that you at Panasonic have for what connected mobility means to consumers, but also to businesses?

Faisal Pandit:

Yeah, connected mobility initially was all around the automotive aspects of our business in developing better connectivity between the vehicle and traffic control systems and other related aspects of that space. And that was very well received. We had several duty engagements that are progressing well that have grown over the last couple of years. We've invested in that part of our business heavily. We have a large team out of Denver that's focused on building that capability within the automotive space.

Faisal Pandit:

But beyond automotive when you talk about connected spaces, when you talk about connected systems, that's an integral part of nearly every business's focus going forward, whether it's our appliances, whether it's our Avionics systems, our business systems, industrial solutions, just name it, the focus on driving high level of connectivity between the device and the ecosystem that it exists in is a big focus. Because again, the devices are strong.

Faisal Pandit:

There's a lot of value. But as with the market changes, the value of the device is not going to remain the same as it was before if it is not connected to the broader ecosystem. So it means data connectivity and analyzing the data. And Panasonic recognize that need a while back and invested in the right areas, whether it's data analytics space or building a smart mobility initiative or focus around our automotive business. So there's a lot of work underway, and it's going to be a critical element of our broader roadmap in the future.

Tyler Suiters:

Faisal Pandit is President of Panasonic System Solutions Company of North America, a CES veteran and someone who clearly understands the transition that the entire tech sector is undergoing right now. Faisal, really appreciate your time, especially as busy as we are right now.

Faisal Pandit:

Absolutely, my pleasure.

Tyler Suiters:

All right, coming up next time on CES Tech Talk, a conversation with another global brand you probably know well and a global brand that also happened to be at the very first CES show back in 1967, we are talking to Sony. Now this is a company that made headlines at the most recent CES in 2020 with its Vision-S Concept Car. This was cool and lit up social media. So what does the company have in store for CES 2021? That is a wrap on this edition of CES Tech Talk. As you know, CES transcends the traditional tech industry. Companies use CES as a platform to show how they're embracing technology and evolving their businesses.

Tyler Suiters:

Companies large and small have a platform at CES. And we want to help you be CES ready. So do yourself a favor, subscribe to the CES Tech Talk Podcast and that way you won't miss any episodes as we head towards CES 2021 in January. You can get updates regularly on the website, ces.tech, that is ces.tech, a great place to be on the lookout for more exciting news about the show. As always, none of this is possible without the true stories of our podcast, our Executive Producer, Jennifer Drogas, our Assistant Producer, Kristen Nemeroff and our Senior Studio Engineer, John Lindsey, you all are the best in the business. I'm Tyler Suiters. Let's talk tech again soon.

 
 

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