Known as the man who reversed the fortunes of Hitachi, Hiroaki Nakanishi is now preparing the Japanese conglomerate, which makes everything from elevators to nuclear plants, for its next challenge.
For fiscal 2014, Hitachi delivered an operating profit of 600.4 billion yen ($4.89 billion), its second year of record-breaking profit, on the back of cost-cutting, alongside strong demand for its lifts in China, as well as robust sales of auto parts and electronics products.
But it was a vastly different sight four years ago when Nakanishi was named the company's 10th president. The household name had logged four consecutive years of consolidated net losses, punished by the global financial crisis in 2008 and losses in its consumer product divisions such as the flat-panel TV units.
Nakanishi, an engineer who joined Hitachi in 1970 and worked his way up the ladder, proceeded to sell the company's hard disk drive business and consumer-related operations, opting to concentrate on sales of big-ticket power plants, rail lines and water treatment facilities. Having pulled off one of most remarkable turnarounds in Japanese corporate history, Nakanishi became chairman and chief executive of Hitachi in April 2014.
For his achievements, the 69-year-old was named the region's Business Leader of the Year at CNBC's 14th Asia Business Leaders Award last month.
But Nakanishi hasn't finished the transformation of Hitachi. He is steering the conglomerate away from the domestic market, which has dwindling business potential due to a shrinking population.
To accelerate its plans for global expansion, in February Hitachi splurged nearly 260 billion yen on the railway and signaling units of Italian defense and aviation company Finmeccanica, marking one of the company's priciest-ever acquisitions. The takeover should more than double Hitachi's rail business revenue to around 400 billion yen a year, according to an article by Japan Times, giving the company a better footing in the European market.
"Railway business is getting more global, with competition getting more severe so in this case, we need different arms. Finmeccanica has two companies; the signaling companies are profitable, simple as that, and for the locomotive companies, we needed the capacity for locomotive manufacturing," Nakanishi said.