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Yang Wenlei shapes Olympus' China strategy with focus on services, manufacturing
Yang Wenlei, CEO of the China unit of Japanese tech giant Olympus Corp, said the local market is of great significance for the company. Olympus, she said, has great confidence in the growth potential of the Chinese market.
The company will press ahead with research and development activities and high-end manufacturing in China's medical field. It also aims to tap the huge local demand for medical equipment, including endoscopes, microscopes, and solutions for minimally invasive surgeries, she said.
"We will enhance our efforts in medical, imaging and scientific solution sectors in China this year," Yang said. "The medical sector will be our main focus and we will pour more resources into the segment."
At present, Olympus is focusing on sales promotions in China. "In the future, we hope to build a comprehensive regional headquarters in China, covering R&D, manufacturing, services and training," Yang said.
"We attach great importance to the medical sector in China. Compared with Europe, the United States, Japan and other developed countries, China has huge potential demand for medical equipment, given its aging population."
According to the China Medical Devices Industry Association, Olympus' endoscopy products are used in over 90 percent of Chinese hospitals with 3A grade, the highest of China's three-tier grading system for public hospitals, while its pathology microscopes account for about 30 percent of market share.
Moreover, endoscopy treatments and minimally invasive surgeries in China offer an important opportunity for the company, according to Yang.
Since 2009, Olympus has established medical training centers officially called C-TEC in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, providing a learning platform for doctors to run medical equipment and improve their operating skills.
As for the traditional imaging sector, the shipments of digital cameras have witnessed a decline in recent years due to the popularity of smartphones. But Yang said that with the consumption upgrade in China, local consumers have an increasing demand for professional imaging equipment such as single interchangeable-lens reflex cameras.
"We will continue to exert our own advantage in the imaging sector to develop and manufacture related products catering to the demands of consumers," Yang said.
Founded in 1919, Olympus has been praised as a leader in precision technology. It introduced its first camera in 1936, kicking off an era for the imaging industry.
In 2008, the company was the first to propose the concept of Micro Four Thirds, followed by the introduction of the first relevant camera products in 2009. This development provided the basis for the current mirrorless single-lens camera boom.
Yang served Olympus Corp's China unit for 27 years before rising to its CEO this year, suggesting why it is not always easy for female executives to climb the corporate latter.
Yang was born in Shanghai and started learning Japanese when she was a teenager. After graduating from Yokohama City University in March 1992, Yang joined Olympus Optical Co Ltd. After working there for several years, Yang landed the role of deputy managing director of Olympus China Investment Co Ltd in 2001.
Throughout her career, Yang did her best to help Olympus group expand its presence in China. In April 2019, Yang was promoted to the highest position in Olympus' China subsidiary.
Yang has her own understanding of being a good leader in a company. "As a manager, you should have a high degree of tolerance, which means you can accept different opinions and thinking methods, on the premise of respecting the employees' personalities," Yang said.
"Secondly, I think a leader should have a relatively strong communication ability and analytical ability."
Moreover, a leader needs to have decisive judgment skills and execution ability. "A leader should improve the motivation of employees, put the right people in right positions. We accept different characters, different ideas and different cultures."
But how to put the staff in different positions and make full use of them is critical to the development of the whole company, she said.
She also knows women have inborn talent in dealing with people better. "Women can give play to their own advantages, that is, being calm and inclusive. I can listen to different opinions, and try to balance these opinions, which women are good at." Moreover, women can understand a point about anything easily, she said.
Yang loves traveling and cooking in her spare time. In her view, travel could be helpful to work, as contact with different people and sights of different sceneries could stimulate thinking and broaden horizons.
"I often travel with my family members on holidays. I take along an Olympus camera to record the moments during my trip."