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Online matchmaker for Japanese SMEs looking abroad

Publication Date : 13-05-2014


Bellnix, a Japanese small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), believes it has a killer product - a power converter the size of a 20-cent coin - and wants the world to know about it.

Before it can do that, it needs help to find foreign business partners. This is where an online matchmaker comes in.

By as early as the end of this month, SMEs from Singapore and other countries looking to tap Japanese technology through a partner in Japan like Bellnix will be able to access an online matching service.

Called J-Good Tech, the business-to-business service is in the final stages of preparations to go live. It will start with a database of about 600 Japanese SMEs and provide information such as their technologies and market share.

Available in English and Japanese initially, with work ongoing to add Asian languages, the service is part of the government's efforts to help SMEs in Japan expand through collaborations with partners from abroad as well as to make it easier for overseas SMEs wishing to gain access to the Japanese market.

The online service will add value to the physical events, such as product exhibitions and networking sessions, that have characterised the interaction among the SMEs to date, as interested parties can perform their checks and due diligence before holding face- to-face meetings.

Tan Ka Huat, managing director of CEI Contract Manufacturing, a Singapore SME, is looking forward to checking out the J-Good Tech service.

"The matching of SMEs is not an easy task and takes time. The online service will be useful in helping with the groundwork to supplement the very important face-to-face meetings," he told The Straits Times.

He was one of two Singapore participants who joined 48 other top executives of Asean SMEs at a meeting with their Japanese counterparts in March. The networking event for SME CEOs he attended is an initiative started in 2012 by SME Support Japan, the agency tasked with promoting the country's 3.85 million SMEs.

Satoshi Uchida, a deputy manager at SME Support Japan, said there is a mismatch between the keen interest participating SMEs have shown at the networking events that come under his charge and the dearth of opportunities for them to meet.

"Japanese SMEs have told me how much they appreciate the business meetings with overseas SMEs," he told The Straits Times.

The networking events bringing together Japanese and Asean SMEs, for instance, have resulted in millions of dollars' worth of deals in products such as vehicle parts, medical equipment and food machinery.

CEI's Tan noted that J-Good Tech is one more avenue for Japanese SMEs with very good technology to overcome their language barrier to expand overseas. SME Support Japan staff will be involved in helping the SMEs transmit their proposals to each other.

Makoto Shiota, president of the agency, said J-Good Tech's focus will not just be on the selling of Japanese technology and goods but on the cultivation of business partnerships as well.

"These days, more and more (Japanese) SMEs have shown their interest in investing in Asean countries," he said.

The private sector, too, has been drawn by the strong interest shown by Japanese SMEs in Asean countries. Last month, Shinsei Bank introduced unsecured loans for Japanese SMEs looking to invest in Southeast Asia.

Ryotaro Tateno, a spokesman for Bellnix, said the company is hoping to meet potential customers and good partners through J-Good Tech for its power converters, which are used in running electrical equipment.

"The fast-growing Southeast Asian economy, which is expected to grow further, is in focus for us both as a market and a manufacturing hub," said Tateno.


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