Our Country Manager in Japan, Jean-Michel Mollier ( Founder and CEO at Cetanā®) is an expert of the Japanese market. Backed by over 30 years of experience in Japan, he perfectly knows the Japanese ecosystem and therefore he can answer all your questions to help you do business in Japan with success!
Cetanā®, an international company well established in Asia
Cetanā® is an international development company based in Japan, sustained by over 30 years of experience in the Japanese market. We have successfully supported more than 500 companies and organizations through on-demand services. We specialize in “health”, as defined by WHO (a complete physical, mental an social well-being). We cover fields such as the Silver Economy, medical devices and equipment, disability, walking aids and sport. We also work for companies offering production related solutions. Cetanā® covers Japan, Korea and China through a network of dedicated experts.
What are the cultural aspects to consider when setting-up a business in Japan?
To succeed in this increasingly competitive market, you need first to learn how to deal with time, communication, and distances
1. Time is a key concern since it is a relative concept in Japan. When negotiating with a potential partner, they will often ask you a lot of questions, check everything in detail and require high responsiveness, until they are satisfied. Surprisingly, when it is your turn to ask questions in order to better understand their business, time becomes difficult to manage. You will often wait for some answers and sometimes, you will have to come to the conclusion that answers won’t come.
2. Communication too may appear to be a challenge, even if your counterpart is fluent in English and very empathic. This is mainly due to the particular structure of the Japanese language and its influence on the Japanese mind. Non verbal communication is more important in Japan than anywhere. Being able to give meaning to the unspoken (which in some circumstances has a strategic importance) may be tough without substantial experience.
3. Distances tend to opacify your communication for two main reasons. Firtst, there is an 8-hour difference between Europe and Japan during the winter timetable, that which implies some synchronisation between partners. Distances have also a psychological aspect since they tend to have an emotional impact on the way partners understand each other when some troubles occur.
Is the region an environment conducive to entrepreneurship?
Japan has a long tradition of insularity, so entrepreneurship is seen as a national concern rather than an international matter. However, recently, many SMEs led by young and dynamic managers do their best to expand their business abroad. Some private companies located in Tokyo provide on demand data to identify potential partners for M&A operations. Little by little, Japan is transforming into an economy where entrepreneurs are open to new ways of doing business, directly and quickly. As western entrepreneurs, we may keep in mind that establishing a relationship with a Japanese partner implies to be the first to say: shall we dance?
What are the key points to bear in mind when doing business in Japan?
First, you need to assess the positioning of your offer. Then, be aware that entering the Japanese market is a long run effort. It will require time, energy and patience. Once the project has started, never give up. Be regularly in touch with your partners: provide them useful information, pay them a visit at least once a year, make them motivated to act as if they were yourself. Invest in your future by investing in their present.
What are the major sectors of the Japanese economy?
Thinking exclusively in terms of sectors is in my opinion a way to limit ourselves and to miss out many opportunities. I recommend to remain focused on some themes such as safety, ecology and performance. However, for those who are really attached to the sectoral approach, let’s say that transport, health, information technology, housing, equipments for the production and materials are among the best growing sectors.
Also, if you are interested in the Asian market, don’t hesitate to read our article about the South Korean business ecosystem: https://blog.beeleev.com/country-report-south-korea.