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Key Learnings to Succeed in the Japanese Market Samay Kohli, Chief Executive Officer, GreyOrange, considered their successful entrance in Japan a strategic advantage in positioning themselves as global leaders in fulfillment automation.

By Samay Kohli

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Japan is a highly competitive market known for its demanding customers and deep investment spend. High labour costs and an ageing demographic make Japan a meaningful growth market for warehouse automation. Logistics companies and e-commerce platforms in the country consider it inevitable to transition to a modern business model in which order fulfillment in warehouses is data-driven using AI-based software and intelligent goods-to-man robotics.

Given the high degree of automation that already exists in Japan, we considered our successful entrance in the country a strategic advantage in positioning ourselves as global leaders in fulfillment automation. Now, more than a year after entering the market, here are the key learnings to succeed:

Do As the Locals Do
To truly succeed in a specific region, you must immerse yourself in the local market and authentically adapt to its culture. Business in Japan is conducted in a formal setting with certain etiquette, greetings and dress. To integrate ourselves into the Japanese market, we made sure that we consulted with partners and local colleagues to be sure we were adhering to local customs and manners.

Teamwork and working to advance the business together are central to Japanese working culture. This resulted in complete transparency with our partners by working together seamlessly to co-create a strategy to increase productivity in warehouse operations and help our partners provide the best value to their end customers.

Listen To Your Customers
Japanese people like to teach, so you must listen to their lessons in order to earn their trust and respect. Our partners there have taught us to be patient, good negotiators and respectful of the business process.

Listening to customers includes listening to their changing needs in order to stay relevant and valuable. For example, consumers today demand everything faster than they ever have before, sparking next-day and even same-day delivery expectations to be met. This is pushing retailers and e-commerce providers to figure out how to speed fulfillment and delivery processes. GreyOrange solutions guide retailers and e-commerce providers to optimal ways to adjust their procedures to meet those demands for immediacy.

Become Thought Leaders
As we prepared to enter the Japanese market, we concentrated on educating our customers and the industry about the impact and advantage of leveraging goods-to-person (GTP) robots in the fulfillment process. The technologically-advanced market of Japan combined with the rise of e-commerce and a growing consumer demand for just-in-time ordering created the perfect stage for us to demonstrate how Japanese companies could increase efficiency both inside and outside of the warehouse.

The lesson here is to take calculated risks and have faith in your company. Be present where your competition is absent. By tapping into local resources and providing thought leadership in an emerging field, we were able to succeed in the Japanese marketplace. If you are equipped to play the game well, sometimes playing safe isn't the best way to grow.

(This article was first published in the October 2019 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)

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