TOKYO — In the semiconductor industry, four years can feel almost eternal. That’s how long it’s been since I first met David Uze, president of Freescale Semiconductor Japan, who had barely started at Freescale after a successful career at Dell and AMD in Japan.
The ensuing years have seen market shifts, technology changes, and new players taking over. In the midst of all this turmoil, Uze and his Japanese team have begun making a difference in a local Japanese market notorious for its resistance to change -- any changes, but especially those imposed by foreigners.
The original goal Uze mentioned during a 2010 interview with EE Times was for Freescale Japan to grow and contribute 20 percent of the parent company’s revenue by 2020.
Assuming Freescale’s revenue in 2020 at $5 billion, Uze set his Japanese team’s goal at $1 billion revenue growth by then. Since Freescale’s net sales in the calendar year 2013 already reached $4.19 billion, 20 percent by 2020 might not be possible. But the goal of $1 billion in 2020 remains unchanged, said Uze during an interview this week.
At the half-way point, Uze sees his team well on its way, by sticking to such fundamentals as creating opportunities for face-to-face customer meetings and requiring a salespeople to make at least 15 sales visits a week.
The second phase of Freescale Japan’s growth, however, likely requires a larger vision and different strategies. Uze is concentrating on the Internet of Things, urging Japanese vendors to collaborate in building an exemplary IoT city in Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Village.
I asked if this initiative is something promoted by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. No, he told me. “That’s what I want, and what Japan needs. I want people in Japan to think about it.”
Japan, once the leader in the high-tech world, has lost that distinction. “Japan needs to put that giant belt back on, by leading the world in IoT.” There’s no better opportunity than the Tokyo Olympics to prove that to the world, in Uze’s view.
David Uze, President, Freescale Semiconductor Japan.
(Source: Junko Yoshida)
Uze, full of energy, still talks like a machine gun, but he also knows exactly when to sit back and listen. He has a knack of getting his ideas (and passion) into people’s heads. Uze, in fact, is a master of “emotional sales” -- first with his own team. Now his team is pitching customers in Japan.
Back in 2010, the world was still struggling to find a way out of the 2008 financial meltdown. On March 11, 2011, the Great Earthquake and Tsunami hit Japan. Freescale’s business in the Japanese market hit rock-bottom in 2012.
Hard times tend to expose people’s true colors. Five days after the earthquake hit, Uze rented a van, loaded it with batteries, food, diapers, and other essentials and drove more than five hours, through continual traffic jams, to Freescale’s employees and their families in Tohoku. He did this despite a ban by the HR department at Freescale Japan on entering the disaster zone.
Uze’s defiant rescue mission helped him win over his team in Japan. Now he’s seeing a turnaround, with Freescale Japan’s revenue growing at an estimated 15 percent through 2017. He’s confident that this rate will hold through 2017, because his team has already secured some big design wins with Japanese carmakers.
Freescale Japan’s chip business is now outpacing the industry’s average. Of particular note is a more than 30 percent increase in automotive MCU revenue in Japan in 2013 over the previous year.
Every foreign chip company, not limited to Freescale, saw an opportunity to milk the 3/11 tragedy that especially hurt Renesas Electronics -- a key supplier of critical automotive MCUs to Japan’s automotive giants.