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Konosuke Matsushita

Born: 27-Nov-1894
Birthplace: Wakayama, Japan
Died: 27-Apr-1989
Location of death: Osaka, Japan
Cause of death: Pneumonia

Gender: Male
Religion: Buddhist
Race or Ethnicity: Asian
Occupation: Business, Inventor

Nationality: Japan
Executive summary: Founder of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.

Konosuke Matsushita apprenticed in a bicycle shop from the age of nine, and at 15 he was hired at the Osaka Electric Light Company, a power utility, where he was soon promoted to an inspector's position. In 1918, he invented an electric light socket that was superior to sockets on the market, and established what became the Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., manufacturing the sockets in a small tenement apartment. The company's success was slow but steady, first under the brand name National and later under additional nameplates as Panasonic, Quasar, and Technics. By the 1930s Matsushita was making numerous electronic products from radios to electric irons, and the company's founder was popular with employees for generous wages and a practice of including workers in the decision-making process.

When the Great Depression hit Japan, Matsushita avoided layoffs by transferring manufacturing employees to sales positions. In 1938, Matsushita built Japan's first corporate memorial, where, in annual ceremonies attended by executives and families of deceased employees, the names of many thousands of dead Matsushita workers have been inscribed. After World War II, due to involvement in the manufacture of Japan's war technologies, the Matsushita company was briefly shuttered by allied forces. When the factory was allowed to resume operations, its founder was not permitted to return, but workers spent three years pleading with occupation authorities for Matsushita's restoration, and his name was finally removed from the purge lists. Under its founder's leadership again, Matsushita became even more of a leader in Japan's electronics industry, manufacturing washing machines, refrigerators, and televisions, and introducing Japan's first tape recorders.

His brother-in-law, Toshio Iue, founded the company that became Sanyo Electric Co. in an unused Panasonic factory loaned to him by Konosuke, where Iue's employees manufactured bicycle generator lamps. Matsushita's grandson, Hiro Matsushita, is a well-known race car driver. Matsushita retired in 1973, and spent years writing inspirational and entrepreneurial best-sellers. He wrote that the purpose of a business, through turning a profit, is to "banish poverty, bring happiness to people's lives, and make this world a better place." He died in a hospital that had been established by his own philanthropy, and at his death he was worth an estimated $3B.

Wife: Mumeno Iue (m. 1920)

    Matsushita Founder and President (1918-73)
    Rotary International Osaka, Japan

Appears on the cover of:
Life, Sep-1964, DETAILS: Meet Mr. Matsushita
Time, 23-Feb-1962, DETAILS: Industrialist Matsushita

Author of books:
Japan at the Brink (1976)
Thoughts on Man (1982)
Not for Bread Alone: A Business Ethos, A Management Ethic (1984)
Quest for Prosperity (1988)
As I See It (1989)
Velvet Glove, Iron Fist: And 101 Other Dimensions of Leadership (1991)
People before Products: The Human Factor in Business (1992)
The Matsushita Perspective: A Business Philosophy Handbook (1997)
The Heart of Management: Konosuke Matsushita's Enduring Insights (2002)


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