Since the Japanese market is shrinking, how should we deal with overseas?
We have heard your companies’ issues (see Part One). We felt that a common issue is the establishment of new sales acquisition systems and markets. Considering the shrinkage of the domestic Japanese market, overseas expansion may be one of the solutions. What do you think about overseas?
Ichiro Kuroda, Aitec Inc. (Mr. Kuroda)
Our company specializes in eyeglass plating, and eyeglass producing areas are limited in the world. It is riskier to advance blindly into areas with no needs or markets. We have been in the Chinese market for 18 years, and we now feel that low-tech industries like eyeglasses are having hard times even in China.
Shunji Takagi, Hopnic Laboratory (Mr. Takagi)
Our company seriously considered an advance into Vietnam seven years ago, and we conducted on-site inspections several times. We eventually passed on that, which was also because the Great East Japan Earthquake made it difficult to procure materials. We think this turned out to be good. A small company like us cannot afford to make a fresh start alone in an unfamiliar place.
Kanenori Tabata, Fukui Glasses Industry (Mr. Tabata)
Our company is thinking about putting greater emphasis on the market cultivation we have been developing. We are actively participating in exhibitions to expand our network. But we have difficulty in going beyond sales talks, probably because we do not have enough knowledge about markets and companies in other countries. Support from government and organizations like J-GoodTech will expand the potential for Japanese SMEs.
I agree. We are working out various measures to help you.
I think companies are interested in overseas markets and have an intention of taking on the challenge if they can, although they feel it is difficult. But they may not have enough money or time for it.
Among the support projects we currently offer, we are promoting business matching by inviting companies from Vietnam and Thailand to Japan in collaboration with governmental organizations in Asia. Companies in each country collect information about Japanese companies in advance from J-GoodTech, and specify Japanese companies for sales talks when they visit Japan. This flow is unique to this project. If there are language issues, we arrange an interpreter. A coordinator from J-GoodTech may also join talks as required to support smoother matching. We believe our services like this will be very helpful.
This kind of business matching is very often done for each industry. We expect that most companies in the same business category, such as medical instrument or automotive parts, will come together in J-GoodTech. We think that a company in Sabae City can use J-GoodTech for efficient introductions when considering expanding precision eyeglass machining technology to another field. We hope J-GoodTech will be a useful new marketing tool for you.
Now, what about Fukuoka Rashi?
Hiroaki Onchi, Fukuoka Rashi (Mr. Onchi)
Our company established a factory in Vietnam in 2013. We have been manufacturing eyeglasses there as well, but we have also been having difficulties for many years in cultivating markets. However, recently we have begun to perceive positive changes. We think Sabae is much better known as the Eyeglasses Town compared with four or five years ago. The Sabae City logo makes a striking difference if it is used for advertisements in free local community newspapers. This is because the mayor and other local government staff are devoted to branding. We will continue to make use of the brand power of Sabae City. We also think a website is important. We created an English version of our website early on, to achieve our object of attracting attention from as many people as possible.
Actually, J-GoodTech provides a service of translating corporate information about registered companies free of charge. We now have English pages for about 4,000 companies in the J-GoodTech database. Overseas companies search for Japanese companies in the database to contact them. We hope you will also make effective use of J-GoodTech to lead overseas companies to your websites.
Hyakuo Makino, Mayor of Sabae City (Mayor Makino)
In that sense, I think everyone is using the portal site effectively. Sabae City also has a B2B site and a B2C site. We anticipate user access and other immediate synergistic effects by connecting with J-GoodTech through mutual links. At the same time, we will continue to promote the registration of more Sabae companies with J-GoodTech.
It’s very encouraging to hear Mayor Makino say that. We aren’t just supporting one company as a point, but all of Sabae City as a broad plane, so we think that close cooperation with the government is essential. We are also considering future broad-based support to help Japanese companies advance into recently growing Asian markets, such as Vietnam and Indonesia. In Sabae, processing is shared among individual companies that possess high-level technologies. It may sound like a dream, but we may be able to realize a different type of advance if we can shift this structure of Sabae's eyeglass industry overseas. In other words, it is an image of bringing out the brand of Sabae City as a whole. We can promote local production for local consumption and revitalize eyeglass-producing areas in other countries by using the technology and know-how of Sabae City. For eyeglasses manufactured in Sabae City, another solution may be to further improve the conventional technologies, promote a commitment to products for high-class brands, and acquire markets other than in Asia, such as Western countries.
That is a very interesting idea. If it becomes specific, I’d definitely be pleased to endorse it.
It seems feasible in the near future if Sabae City and J-GoodTech resolve concerns about overseas expansion and issues that cannot be solved by a company alone. I got the impression that everyone feels overseas markets are attractive, but cannot take a step ahead because no local connections are available. It tends to be riskier if you advance alone into an area where you have no connections. I think overseas countries will also be known as realistic markets if we can obtain the understanding of companies in Sabae City in collaboration with J-GoodTech, which has various support systems.
That's right. We feel that we need to keep providing support to help increasing sales, even a little. We are not only promoting overseas support, but also matching with Japanese major companies, by considering the growth of the domestic market. Now, major companies also have a strong will to acquire technology from different business categories. We strongly hope to provide active support both in Japan and abroad while quickly perceiving trends like these.
Our city will provide any kind of support. Let's liven things up together.
Mr. Kuroda・Mr. Takagi・Mr. Tabata・Mr. Onchi
Absolutely. That would be great.
Established in 1948. Aitec conducts surface treatment for various products by making use of high-level surface treatment technology cultivated through many years of eyeglass manufacturing. The company plans, manufactures, and sells unique eyeglass frames. Aitec is one of the largest-scale plating companies in Japan, and it is also known as the top-share surface treatment company in Sabae.
Hopnic Laboratory Co., Ltd.
Established in 1988. Hopnic is a lens manufacturing company specialized in advanced lenses for eyeglasses, such as high refractive index lenses, photochromic lenses, and lenses that absorb specific wavelengths. The company has the world's top share in the market of high refractive index lenses, and their lenses are used by lens and sunglass manufacturers in Japan and abroad.
Fukui Glasses Industry Co., Ltd.
Established in 1966. Fukui Glasses manufactures and sells eyeglass frames. Their main products are frames made of titanium and 18-karat pure gold. The company has an integrated production system from cold forging, pressing, machining, and braze welding to post-polishing product assembly, completion, and quality assurance.
Fukuoka Rashi Co., Ltd.
Established in 1948. Fukuoka Rashi manufactures machine element parts by making use of high technology cultivated through manufacturing eyeglass parts made of titanium and other materials. The company arranges various metal and resin parts, develops new mechanisms, and manufactures products by machining. Their Vietnam factory was established in 2013, and it also manufactures and sells products with Sabae quality.