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Santen, the top Japanese company of eye drops has inaugurated its European office in Geneva, reported by Tribune de Genève on 2 September. It is reported that the company had selected Switzerland for its stability that is indispensable for a long term project, which is to become the third largest company in the ophthalmic field worldwide, from the present 15th. Major reasons of the selection of Geneva, among other Cantons, were its professionalism and good understanding of the company’s needs.

Santen’s office in Geneva will have fifteen (15) managers at the begining, and double the number in three to five years to come.

(Note, Information from Japanese source was not available yet as of 3 September.)

Point of interest: Santen had a long-term strategy in mind.

Facts aout Santen

  • Established in Osaka in 1890
  • Revenue (March 2015) — US$ 1,419.2 Million
  • Products — Eye drops for a variety of eye diseases, including glaucoma and dry eye, supported by research and development, production and quality compliance, and sales and marketing
  • The number of employees — About 3200 worldwide

The company web site –> http://www.santen.eu/eu/Pages/default.aspx

SANTE FX NEO AYANAMI REI 1

SANTE FX NEO AYANAMI REI 1

What did a French man find when he was a president of a Japanese company in the aerospace industry for 8 years?

At the age of 29 years old, Patrice was appointed to be the president of a Japanese company, that had been just acquired by a French company. Though he spoke Japanese already, he still had a number of findings in the Japanese business culture.

The Japanese are uniform. When "No necktie" is recommended, all do the same. (Tokyo)

The Japanese are uniform. When “No necktie” is recommended, all do the same. (Tokyo)

  • A long time to sell to major Japanese companies

Our major clients are well-established and large Japanese companies. They were conservative and didn’t trust us as quick as European and American clients did. The Japanese clients asked us requested us various data and samples, that even included confidential information.

The CEO and factory managers of my parent company didn’t understand such Japanese business culture. My role was to educate them. To do so, I brought them to to meetings with Japanese customers.

  • What was a clue to success?

It is important to show commitment to clients. In my case, I always visited the customers with the Director of Sales of my company, rather than staying in the office. I did sals myself. This worked to the clients. In addition, the attitude of customers were softer to me than they were to my Japanese staff.

  • Very high quality requirements

Quality requirements of Japanese clients are much higher than the one by European and American companies. For example, even a smallest scratch on your product is unacceptable for the Japanese, even though it has nothing to do with its functions. This is because the Japanese are concerned about the root cause.

You must have a system in place to be prepared for a case something wrong happens. It is another way to show your commitment.

  • How to assess the satisfaction of Japanese customers

The Japanese customers do not complain, hence you can be profitable at a small scale. In contract, the French complain and the Americans, cheat the system. For the Japanese, you must get a feel of dissatisfaction or satisfaction. If you don’t feel their dissatisfaction, the Japanese customers may just disappear.

  • How to manage the Japanese staff

I was 23 years old when I entered the company and became the president when I was 29. I spoke Japanese and my young colleagues took me around. I even participated in “Settai”, a dinner with clients. These experience helped me to manage the staff.

Japanese staff wait for a boss to tell them to do A, B, C, …. In addition, a close follow-up is needed. In contrast, the Europeans are independent and they take initiatives. You can let them go. The French needs much motivation but not being told.

  • Strong resistance to the change

I recruitment, I found that many people were afraid of working in a foreign-owned company, We offered high salary but it didn’t work well. We could hire only those who worked in other foreign companies before.

Japanese people are highly uniform in their working habit. A strong leadership counts to make any change.

Forthcoming meetings — “Moshi moshi, Japan?” will meet again in the autumn 2015. Planned dates are, 23 October, 20 November and 3 December. Will keep you posted.

Wish to know how to succeed in business with Japan?

Please ask Yoshiko KURISAKI for more –> yoshiko,kurisaki@gmail.com

Though many people like Japan, some of them notice that there may be a glass wall in the Japanese mind beyond which a non-Japanese may not go. Many people felt, “The Japanese are kind, but it looks like there is a limit in becoming friends with them.” Why? What is this feeling?

I presented a set of notions that helps to look at the Japanese mindset, “Uchi and Soto” and “Ura and Omote“.

Uchi-Soto, Ura-Omote

Uchi-Soto, Ura-Omote

The discussion went on based on experience of working with the Japanese in Japan or Switzerlans. Highlights are;

  • I was a president of a Japanese company and only foreigner. I had to be accepted and must understand various codes. For example, I had to be present on the first working day of the new year. I had to be aware of the feeling of employees by knowing the level of politeness (“Keigo”) in the language they talked to me.
  • I had to know the level of politeness in the language (“Keigo“). It was difficult for me but people didn’t talk to me in plain Japanese. Beer helped our communication.
  • I didn’t have a problem in communication in English with the Japanese business partners.
  • I was also the only non-Japanese in my ex-company. I felt I didn’t have to follow the invisible rules in the office. So I left the company at 7 PM everyday, instead of much later as my Japanese colleagues were doing. –> It is another side of “being outside (Soto)“. You were allowed to leave the office earlier because you were accepted as someone who was not a member of their community (Uchi).
  • It was important to have non-Japanese friends, when I worked for a Japanese company in Japan. In addition, I did Aikido to clean up the stress.
  • I didn’t feel a non-Japanese friends but didn’t have a problem. I became frieda with the Japanese people who were newly hired as I was.
  • In the Japanese office, all must behave in the same way. Being a manager and an only foreigner, I leaned that I had to manage in a Japanese way.
  • If you are the only foreigner in your company, it is important to take things as it is. That said, you may lose your sense of judging the people if you are too open-minded. You must keep your own value and make decision on your own, while accepting all around you.

Forthcoming meetings —

  • Date: Friday 19 June, 18:00 – , “What is it like for a French man to be a president of a company in Japan?”
  • Place: McDonald (1st Floor), 22, rue du Mont-Blanc, 1201 Geneva, 1 min from Cornavin station (New Place!)

We enjoyed discussion at “Moshi moshi, Japan?” (held in Geneva on Friday, 17 April) on  “How does a Swiss innovative start-up fight to enter the Japanese market?”

Mr. Shaban Shaame, CEO & Founder, EverdreamSoft, an innovative vendor of Moonga, a game soft run over the mobile device, such as smartphones and tablets.

EverdreamSoft, online games for mobile device

Highlights of discussion

  • I found that a large download volume of Moonga, our game soft, from Japan. I thought “Why?”, as I knew that people don’t speak English as default in Japan. This made me to think that there must be a big Moonga market there.
  • I went to Japan (in 2009) to find a business partner who could translate the game into Japanese and who’d provide graphics for the games. Communication with the Japanese was difficult. I din’t know Japanese and they din’t know English. We managed to negotiate a contract using Google translator, though sometimes English translated by Google function didn’t make sense.
  • Japanese people are hard workers, more than Swiss people are. However, whether their hard work is efficient is questionable. Some (or many?) people work hard where their boss is near by.
  • In the Japanese work ethics, a  group culture is strong. All the people on the same office stay working till midnight. Some cohesion power must be working.
  • Consensus is extremely important in the Japanese decision-making at any level.
  • Is change possible? — Yes but only slowly.
  • Lay-off is difficult and rare in Japan. Hence employing someone involves a risk to an employer. Mobility is still low in the job market.
  • Re. Women at work, maternity leave is guaranteed by law but employers don’t like it. Mobbing to women exists in some offices.
  • Then, we discussed bit coin; what it is, how it works, where can we use it, etc.

Moonga

Forthcoming meetings —

Friday 8 May, Uchi and Soto, the key concepts of the Japanese relationship building

I had an opportunity to interview with Mr. Anthony LOW, VP, Asia, Oceania and Africa Region of Nestlé.

Nestle_logo-2

I was particularly interested in discovering the keys to success in marketing in the regions that have diversified consumer markets, including Japan. Japan is known to be a unique market for its consumer taste and preferences in the food business.

I found there was no miracle. Keys to success were but the very basics of marketing, i.e. the trust, quality, customer insights and long-term interests.

So what’s new?

Yes, there is the reason why Nestlé excels and that lead the company to a remarkable success, the thoroughness. The company’s “Can do” attitude, supported by the thoroughness led to breakthrough in its marketing.

I was happy to be assured that one may succeed in challenging markets by pursuing without compromise to the basic values of marketing, i.e. trust, quality, customer insights and long-term interests. It is not a coincidence that these values are common to the underlying principles of the corporate social responsibility (CSR).

Here is my note:

Keys to success

Customer first, “Can do” attitude = Never say, “No”.

  • To meet customer requirements in Japan, Nescafé, we changed the product. Changed its recipe from “Instant coffee” to “Regular coffee”.
  • Barista Ambassador – To facilitate access to Nescafé in offices (where tea and coffee is served less and less, due to limited budget, economic recession, etc.), offered Barista machine free of charge, including service. The customers buy the coffee products or refill from Nestlé.
    • Test market – Hokkaido. Market size is appropriate.
  • Shrinking population how do you grow business where the population is shrinking? Aging Elder people’s market.
    • Visited and listened to the elderly people. Found that loneliness is their major problem. Created “Nestlé wellness club”. With a small membership fee, send a doctor and dietitian to home.
    • Test market – Hokkaido. Market size is appropriate.
  • Trust, quality and market insights
  • To find a new market in a country where you are for more than 100 years. Creativity. Never say, “No”.

Build the trust with consumers

  •  Marketing strategy is different in each country in the AOA Region. cf. Europe – one common market
  •  There are 115 countries in the AOA Region.
  •  There are over 450 different Nescafé’s worldwide.

Long-term strategy

E.g. In India, Nestlé supports WHO to promote the breast feeding. It is not for an immediate benefit. If some mothers could not continue breast feeding, they buy Nestlé’s milk product. Nestlé infant formulae is close to mother’s milk.

“Romance the product”. Nestlé’s marketing strategy

  • Market test — Nestlé requires 60:40 preferences of Nestlé products over competition

“Then, we ‘romance’ the product to the truth.”
i.e. to make the truth to come to the life.

  • To find an answer to the question, “Why is this product perceived to be better than competition?”
  • If consumers says “this chocolate tastes fresh”, to find why is “fresh” important?

Re. Japanese market

There are over 200 KitKats in Japan,

There are over 200 KitKats in Japan,

  • MUST know how to do business in the local market
    • Perceived value is the key, e.g. Nescafé vs. Starbucks
    • MUST build the perception on quality. No failure is allowed. Must constantly work on the quality.
  • Nestlé’s response to the local market, Special-T. A system for the Japanese tea lovers to enjoy good tea without following a procedure to prepare a good tea.
    • An example of adapting to the taste of local market.
    • Originally tried with black tea but failed. Found that The Japanese wanted to take the green tea that match individual taste.
  • You can’t do cheap business in Japan. Currency rate is not in our favour while price of imported materials are rising (e.g. Cacao).
    • We can’t compete over the price. We create premium values.
    •  Japanese consumers pay for the premium.
    •  E.g. Kitkat – Those that use local materials cost less than others that use much Cacao.
  • Appeals to the emotion
    • Pepper – a robot that reads 80% of your emotion. It selects the best coffee for you. Technology invented in France, produced in Taiwan and the license bought by Softbank (one of the leading mobile phone operators known to be vanguard market strategy in Japan.

Nestlé
10:30 – 13:00, Vevey, 18 March 2015

You are cordially invited for “Moshi moshi, Japan?“, in Geneva on Friday, 17 April.

“Moshi moshi, Japan?” is an informal meet-up with people who are doing business with Japan. Though Japan is a fascinating market, its business culture is nothing like others. In addition, handling the culture well is the key to success with Japan. 

IMG_1887

What are other people doing to work well with Japan?

What works and what doesn’t?

What breakthrough did other people make? 

Let’s exchange experiences and discuss your questions and experience on Japan over coffee!

Mr. Shaban Shaame, CEO & Founder, EverdreamSoft

on “Japanese market for innovative startups

Participants: Anyone interested in business with Japan.

Date and time: From 18h00 to 19h15, Friday,17 April

Place: Starbucks, Rive, Geneva central area

Languages: French and English

Organisation fee: CHF 10.-

The meeting was originally planned for 13 March, and postponed to 17 April. It is a chance for those who had to miss the session in March.

Please register: By e-mail or phone call to Yoshiko Kurisaki, Europe-Japan Dynamics

Yoshiko.kurisaki@gmail.com, Tel. 076 411 6076

I look forward to seeing you!

You are cordially invited for “Moshi moshi, Japan?“, Geneva on Friday, 13 March.
Moshi moshi, Japan?” is an informal meet-up with people who are doing business with Japan. Though Japan is a fascinating market, its business culture is nothing like others. In addition, handling the culture well is the key to success with Japan.
South Entrance, Shinjuku Station, Tokyo

South Entrance, Shinjuku Station, Tokyo

What are other people doing to work well with Japan?
What works and what doesn’t?
What breakthrough did other people make? 

Let’s exchange experiences and discuss over coffee!

Mr. Shaban Shaame, CEO & Founder, EverdreamSoft
on “Japanese market for innovative startups

Participants: Anyone interested in business with Japan.

Date and time: From 18h00 to 19h15, Friday,13 March

Place: Starbucks, Rive, Geneva central area

Languages: French and English

Organisation fee: CHF 10.-
Please register: By e-mail or phone call to Yoshiko Kurisaki, Europe-Japan Dynamics

Yoshiko.kurisaki@gmail.com, Tel. 076 411 6076

I look forward to seeing you!
Yoshiko
Check it out! Forthcoming meetings —
Friday 17 April, Uchi and Soto, the key concepts of the Japanese relationship building
Friday 26 June, Negotiations with Japanese companies (Tentative)
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