Aim High! Japan Revival – KOKUYO

The Japanese economy mired in confusion for more than 20 years. In 20 years, people lost their confidence in what they were doing in the business world. They were looking back at 1980s when we had bubble economy. Good memories come back once again.

Then, we had the great earthquake and nuclear accident last year. Before that disaster, our economy has already been damaged by the large amount of debt in fiscal finance and the strong yen in the currency market. The strong yen hits Japanese exporters by making their products more expensive overseas while eroding the value of repatriated foreign profits.

What happened to the brand “Japan”? One of the automakers, Toyota, revealed that they are in a struggle to overcome in this strong yen market trend. Panasonic also admitted a fact that they cannot produce efficiently with this strong yen market in a domestic field. Those companies moved their factories overseas and its tread will increase much more. Do we have enough jobs for the youth who are having most difficult time in this strict economy? Where should we head out for a bright future?

Challenge against common sense

NHK show which had broadcast in early January of this year has showed me very unique points for those matters to solve. The keyword here is a challenge against common sense which most of the Japanese believed in without thinking seriously.

Most of the export companies go out of Japan and there would be no jobs available in a near future in Japan because of the common sense that is “Strong Yen”. But is that really true? We have some cases that one of the Japanese companies has tried to find a new way to adjust them against the strong yen market.

Stationery manufacturer, KOKUYO Co.,Ltd.

Japanese society now becomes less children and lots of elders in our population. This trend will affect those companies who depend on domestic market such as KOKUYO, one of the stationary manufacturers in Japan. So last October in India, KOKUYO has acquired #3 stationery manufacturers. Now KOKUYO has 300,000 stores branch in sales network and four local plants in India.

The acquisition price was 6.8 billion yen. KOKUYO was able to acquire 40% cheaper compared to five years ago, thanks to the Strong Yen. In India, there are 260 million children using some stationery at their school. With a thorough market research in India, KOKUYO noticed a notebook which children were using at school.

It is very difficult to open flat with their notebook because theirs are using staples to hold papers. But with KOKUYO notebook, it opens almost parallel to the desk surface because they use a special glue to hold the papers. You don’t have to hold it down in order to write anymore. What’s more, KOKUYO added some Indian taste, a dotted line in the left side of a page in their notebook. They prefer to see a dotted line in the left side of a page in India.

Most of the Japanese manufacturers expose to the eye of the Japanese consumers. Their demand is so high, so that way, manufacturers develop and store their technologies in the Japanese strict consumer market.

In KOKUYO, they brought the only high technology to India and R&D department stayed in Japan. They tried to broad their market share through sales network and local plants which KOKUYO acquired last October. After they yield some profits in India, KOKUYO send earned profits back to Japan. Domestic job will stay steady.

This is a good example. Of course, there are some companies going abroad to utilize cheaper labors in local business. But KOKUYO style should be encouraged more in domestic manufacturers.

The manufacture brings their technology to overseas. They imply those technologies in the local market and create new consumers. Their technologies will be respected in the local market and useful continuously. And having their local taste in their commodity, they will progress in. The manufacture provide their technologies to go along with stages in the development of the partner countries.

Human resource development

As I talked about Japanese lost 20 years in the past, those who grown up after the bubble economy crashed in 1990s, have a characteristic of inner behavior. They don’t demand anything such as having a car, getting promotions and etc. Going abroad is not their option at all. But some of the young generation started to change or should I say, wake up at last.

The Japanese manufactures go overseas to adjust this high trend appreciation of Yen market. The company has to send some human resources to local factory in order to fulfill their functionality. So, usually the youth will be selected to be sent and be exposed to the different world in the local market. The youth has to have the adaptability and language skills. Then, some miracles happen.

The youth gradually change to fit into their local environment because they have to survive. Some even develop their characters in leadership, autonomy and independence. They begin to believe in themselves and have confidence in themselves.

After spending several years in overseas, the youth come back to Japan and start to work as a manager level contributing their knowledge and experience which they get through struggling in a local environment abroad.

I know the Japanese youth are overprotected compared to the ones in developing countries. We are still at starting point realizing this might be the way out for us to believe in ourselves once again. Maybe…

Next, let me talk about local reconstruction in Japan.

KOKUYO Notebook


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