Konosuke Matsushita (1894 – 1989) was a Japanese industrialist who founded Panasonic, the largest Japanese consumer electronics company. For many Japanese, he is known as "the god of management".A biography of Matsushita's life called Matsushita Leadership was written by American business management specialist John Kotter in 1998.
Konosuke Matsushita was born on 27 November 1894 in Wakayama Prefecture. His father was an affluent landlord in the farming village of Wasa which is a part of Wakayama today. Matsushita was born into a well-to-do family but the family became impoverished because his father made some bad investment decisions, primarily in rice speculation. In 1899, the family's entire fortune was gone and anything of value was sold off. The family was forced to move to a cramped three bedroom city apartment where conditions were less than sanitary. There was always a lack of food, clothing, and medical care. Within several years, Matsushita's health declined rapidly and three of his older siblings died due to infectious diseases. His formal education ended at the age of nine.
Matsushita Electric Industrial Company
In 1917, Matsushita left Osaka Electric Light Company to set up his own company. Without capital, a formal education, and experience in manufacturing, it would appear the company would fail before it even began. He set up his shop in the basement of his tenement and with his wife, his brother-in-law and several assistants, he began creating several samples of his product. He attempted to peddle his samples to several wholesalers but was unsuccessful because he did not offer more than one product. Matsushita's assistants left his company and he was left with only his wife and brother-in-law, Toshio Iue, who proved to be a capable salesman and manager in his own right. Matsushita would have eventually become bankrupt but he was "saved by an unexpected order for a thousand insulator plates for electric fans."From there, Matsushita was able to continue producing his light sockets and eventually they became popular as wholesalers began realizing the product was better in quality and less expensive than comparable products in the existing market. Matsushita's products were originally marketed under the name brand of "National" and later moved on to the more recognizable names of Panasonic, Quasar and Technics.
One of Matsushita's best products was his invention of a more efficient battery-powered bicycle lamp. During the 1920s, bicycle lamps were either powered by candles or by oil-burning lamps. These types of lamps were highly inefficient as they usually only lasted for three-hours. He created an oval lamp that used a battery for power and a lightbulb for illumination. He had to personally market his products to retail bicycle shops. The early years of the company were difficult and he once had to pawn his wife's kimono when he found himself short on money.