27.12.2021 - Economy

Latvian companies expand in Japan

This year, 28 companies are participating in the Latvian Days in Japan. Japan has many cultural differences from the US and Europe. Companies already working there are therefore advising to adapt and work with local people who know the language and the nuances of the market.

To mark the centenary of diplomatic relations between Latvia and Japan, a series of events are taking place in Tokyo, the capital of Japan, until 19 December, presenting the offer of Latvian companies and opportunities for cooperation.

“Japan is a very important cooperation partner for us, both in terms of investment and technology transfer. We see that during the pandemic many Latvian companies are looking for new markets and partners outside Europe, including in Asia. This is also confirmed by the great interest of Latvian entrepreneurs in the opportunity to participate in the Latvian Days in Japan,” said the Director of the Latvian Investment and Development Agency (LIAA) Kaspars Rožkalns.

In 2020, Latvia’s total trade in goods and services with Japan amounted to 80.8 million euros. This ranks Japan 42nd among Latvia’s foreign trade partners. The total exports of goods and services to Japan amounted to 51.1 million euros, accounting for 0.3% of Latvia’s total exports. Imports of goods and services amount to 29.7 million euros or 0.2% of Latvia’s imports.

The Latvian Days in Japan are traditionally organized by LIAA in cooperation with the Embassy of Latvia in Tokyo. This year, 28 companies are represented at the event, including a number of technology entrepreneurs, such as the invisible glass manufacturer Groglass, the video game equipment manufacturer Azeron, the drone technology company Atlas Dynamics and the Latvian unicorn Printful.

One of the Most Important Markets

The gaming keyboard manufacturer Azeron has been global from day one, and Japan has long been one of the top five countries to which the company exports the most. This year, Azeron has managed to enter the Japanese Amazon. The company has sold twice as many keyboards in Japan in a few months than in its entire history of just over two years.

Azeron’s exports to Japan will reach 100,000 euros this year.

When asked how the company started working in this market, Azeron co-founder Jānis Kūlbārdis says that customers themselves showed interest. The company uses software that notifies people in a work chat when someone is talking about the company on the internet. Since entering Japan’s Amazon, the team noticed a lot of buzz on Japanese chat platforms. People asked if anyone had tried the company’s keyboards and others shared how the product worked. Gradually, there was more interest in the company’s products in this market and Azeron took it more seriously.

“The Latvian Days in Japan organized by LIAA are a great opportunity to introduce ourselves more widely in this market and proudly represent Latvia internationally,” said Elīza Gudēna, marketing manager at Azeron.

Recommended to Work with Locals

Kūlbārdis has observed that the culture and habits in this market are quite different.  There is a strong preference for computer games and various devices, which is beneficial for the company’s popularity in the country. It is also interesting to note that only one in 80 Japanese complains about import duties. By comparison, one in five Canadians do.

“Perhaps they are used to everything on the island being imported and having to pay extra for it. But it’s also a cultural thing,” says Kulbārdis.

He recommends that other companies thinking of operating in Japan work with locals who know the language and the nuances of the market. The company paid particular attention to the translation and localization of marketing materials. After the translators translated the texts, they were reviewed by Azeron fans from Japan.

Adapting to Market Demands

Printful has been in Japan for more than two years. “We started by introducing Japanese on the Printful website, then we added the Japanese currency, the yen. In parallel, we worked on opening our first production facility in Asia,” says Printful’s Business Development Manager for Japan Valts Feldbergs.

In August 2020, the company officially announced that it had entered into a partnership with one of Japan’s largest manufacturing companies, which will fulfill Printful’s orders in the Japan and Southeast Asia region.

Since the opening of the plant, new categories, and customized Japanese products such as United Athle have been added.

“Printful’s future goals in Japan are to add as many products as possible to meet market demands and trends. We also want to develop knowledge of e-commerce and print on demand among the Japanese. We would like to see more and more people getting into this field and trying their luck, for example by selling their own designs,” says Feldbergs.

Printful wants to be even closer to the Japanese market by asserting itself as a completely local company offering unique services to this unique market.

The Region’s Fashion Capital

Feldbergs says that Japan is one of the most important markets in Asia, as Tokyo is the region’s fashion capital.  Japanese cultural products such as anime are in demand all over the world.

“By adapting to this market as much as possible, we are trying to get more and more locals to become Printful customers and start selling their designs and art both inside and outside Japan. Of course, using Printful’s services,” he says.

Feldbergs explains that Japan is a very complex market with many cultural differences from the US and Europe.  It is important to adapt to them so that when Japanese customer enters the Printful website, they do not feel that this is a foreign company. Just by looking at the website, they should be reassured that they are operating locally and not sending products from overseas.

 “So, there is a lot of work to be done on details like usability, localized products, and education about e-commerce and print on demand. It helps to explain to locals what we do and that we do it locally with local products,” says Feldbergs.

Encouraged to Try

This is not the first time Printful has participated in the Latvian Days in Japan.

We decided to do it again this year because we have had very good cooperation with LIAA and the Latvian Embassy in Japan over the past few years. This event takes place in such a prominent location as the Roppongi Hills complex, which is visited by more than 100,000 people a day. Therefore, this is a valuable event for us to be at, so that everyone in Japan could potentially take notice of us,” said Feldbergs

Source: labsoflatvia.com

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