CEO / Fujitsu North America, Inc.
Few companies can claim to truly be tech royalty. But nobody doubts the claim for Fujitsu, the Japanese tech giant. Over the years the company has made some major transformations. The company was founded in 1935 to develop telecoms equipment as a spin-off from an electricity generator. Fujitsu developed its first computers in the 1950s and by 1990 the company was one of the five of the world’s top five semi-conductor producers. The company is currently at the forefront of AI-development with a full suite of digital transformation services globally.
Today, the company´s North American operations are finishing five years of significant change under the fresh leadership of Asif Poonja, the former CTO and Head of Customer Markets, who took over the reins as CEO in April.
“We’ve exited the products business in North America, we’ve exited the data center business in North America, we’ve exited the retail products business, and also we sold our field service business to TD Synnex,” says Poonja who studied Math, Business and Information Systems at Canada’s Waterloo University in the 90s. “That’s a significant change. That was 50% of our business. We took a huge effort to shrink, but we did that purposefully to focus on where we need to go. We want to be a 100% services company in the Americas. And on that journey, we’re now at 99%.”
The French proverb is “recoil to jump better.” At this moment, not only Fujitsu North America but also Fujitsu globally, is primed with a philosophy of sustainable growth under the leadership of global CEO Takahito Tokita. The company has even given its unique brand of business philosophy a name: Fujitsu Uvance – standing for universal advancement. This concept elaborates seven key focus areas to make the world more sustainable by building trust in society through innovation.
“Tokita-san, our global CEO, is a true transformational leader. He’s done things like purpose carving, making everyone understand the purpose of Fujitsu and how you personally relate to that purpose.”
This philosophy is centered on the themes of sustainable manufacturing, consumer experience, healthy living, trusted society digital shifts, business applications and hybrid IT – to get the world to an ideal place. Seem vague? Poonja seems more than eager to apply universal advancement in North America.
“I see a lot of opportunities in the Americas to leverage that to grow our business,” Poonja, told CEO North America. “You think about sustainable manufacturing and carbon neutrality. It’s a hot topic right now. We can take our solutions in sustainable manufacturing, our depth in IT services, combined with some of our core technologies; whether it be high performance computing – in which we have some of the fastest computers in the world – or our AI solutions, our 5G networks, or the research we’re doing around 6G. So imagine combining a consultancy and our IT depth with some of those social issues altogether.”
Poonja dreams big numbers too. The company has approximately $400 million in revenues in the North America today. Poonja hopes to significantly grow this revenue in the next three to five years. That may seem implausible, but Poonja has three aces up his sleeve……
The first pillar is the company’s dominance of various core competencies.
“I like to look at it as taking our consulting skills, taking the strength of Uvance, taking our partnerships and core technologies and meshing those four together,” says Poonja. “I see the unique opportunity there, because how many organizations can bring those together?”
“To further their commitment to building a world class Servicenow practice, Fujitsu recently invested in a Premium Enterprise Training Agreement. The ETA provides Fujitsu employees with unlimited training on the NOW Platform to accelerate their platform capabilities.”
ServiceNow – Vice President, Americas Alliances & Channel Ecosystem
The second pillar, which is easily forgotten from a North American perspective, is that Fujitsu global is a $34-billion giant of a company.
“You don’t get the full feel of Fujitsu until you’re actually in Japan,” explains Poonja. “My first trip to Tokyo, I was blown away. You see Fujitsu everywhere. We’re number one.”
Poonja hopes to leverage the company’s almost bottomless global scale over the company’s core Uvance principles in North America to bring about explosive growth. Fujitsu North America expects 7% growth in its market space in 2023. Even with the backing of a global powerhouse and a unique portfolio of synergic commercial services, it is hard to see how Poonja can achieve the exponential growth, he is demanding from his leadership team.
The answer could be the old-fashioned way – by buying it.
“The next pillar is M&A,” explains Poonja. “Our global CFO has not been shy about it. He has stated that we are aggressively pursuing M&A. In America, the last time we’ve had a significant acquisition was probably close to 15 years ago. We’re ripe for that.”
The companies being bought would have to align with the Uvance philosophy, meaning that Fujitsu is in the market for businesses leveraging technology for a sustainable world. Poonja names Graeme Beardsell, the company’s APAC CEO as a role model, partially due to the four acquisitions he has contributed to in the last 18 months.
“We’re helping customers evolve, grow, transform. We’ve done that to ourselves. So we’ve been there, we’ve done that. We know that. And we’re taking the strength of what we have to the market, to the customers, to solve problems.”
What is notable about the Uvance philosophy is its very civic nature, exemplified by the company’s “Trusted Society”, one of 7 Key Focus Areas. One significant opportunity for growth are so-called smart cities – cities which use technology to improve urban services and urban life – something for which Fujitsu may be perfectly positioned due to being headquartered in the world’s largest urban area.
Poonja fondly remembers the meeting of his leadership team in Miami in early May of this year.
“When we were in Miami, we were actually in a suburb called Coral Gables,” recounts Poonja. “I met with the chief innovation officer of the city of Coral Gables then. He shared with us what they are doing to make themselves a digital city. We talked about what Fujitsu is doing in this space. We were blown away by each other.”
The meeting also sent a crucial message, with 10 executives from around the world in attendance. North America has Fujitsu Limited’s support, as the company seeks to adapt its corporate structure to a truly global role.
“My boss in heading the international regions is Onishi-san, the Chief Revenue Officer,” adds Poonja. “We are finally setting up these global roles that you would expect of a large firm. And I’m leveraging all of them. And I’ll tell you, I’m blown away at the amount by the support that they are providing us, though we’re considered small in the bigger Fujitsu scheme.”
One of the natural areas of focus for Fujitsu North America will be finding the talent to drive the phenomenal growth of which Poonja dreams. One of his main tasks in the coming years will be managing the talent in one of the world’s most dynamic industries, as digital solutions and sustainability transformation services become Fujitsu North America’s core business.
“We’re not doing products or data centers anymore,” says Poonja. “Now it’s all about our people. I want to know that we have solid succession planning, that we have solid talent development. We’ve identified the top or upcoming talent. How are we nurturing them? Is it coaching? Is it mentoring? Is it programs? How do we get exposure to global?”
Poonja is also making a major push to improve diversity in the company, which has a meager 20% representation of women in its Americas workforce.
But despite Poonja’s irrepressible optimism for the future, it is easy to see that the past five years of transformation have taken their toll.
“Transformations are not pretty, they’re difficult, he reflects. “If I had any hair before, I could say I lost my hair through the transformation. But honestly, transformations are hard. They’re emotional. You have to let go of some people, you have to transform. We’re beyond that now.”
Japan is a country with a rich heritage. Its imperial dynasty is the oldest in existence. Sumo wrestling is 1500 years old. One of the realities of long-term survival is that, to thrive, institutions and businesses must transform themselves sustainably to adapt to new realities.
With age comes wisdom. And what is wisdom if not looking beyond the numbers to the fundamental philosophy shaping the company? Growth through universal advancement.
That is the lesson Poonja hopes to bring to North America from the Land of the Rising Sun.