“Most of the top 500 global companies have a presence here. And the population is tremendous.”

Business support from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government

What a business consultancy firm and a rugby equipment company have in common

Photos by Kageaki Smith

Two years ago, neither of them had a company in Tokyo, but today both Saburo Takahashi, Managing Director at Rhino-Powa Japan Co., Ltd., and Allan Watanabe, Managing Director of PIPELINE Japan, are running successful, thriving businesses here.

Rhino-Powa Japan Co., Ltd., which is less than a year old, is a rugby equipment brand headquartered in the UK. Its product portfolio includes scrum machines and other specialised training equipment, as well as rugby balls and sportswear.

“We’re selling to a niche market, but it’s a very well-known brand in the rugby world,” states Takahashi. “Rhino Rugby had a solid presence at last year’s World Cup in England.”

PIPELINE Japan is a completely different type of company. It helps global businesses make the move to Japan by providing them with a team that does everything from marketing to sales. PIPELINE specifically deals with a lot of companies in California’s Silicon Valley that are starting to reach out into new markets.

“Without having to hire managers, sales people or engineers, companies can come to us to have an instant team, and access to a network of B2B enterprises,” explains Watanabe. “PIPELINE has been in existence for two years — it’s still a very new company, but it’s growing.”

Although it would seem that these two businesses have nothing in common, they are both deeply indebted to the same organisation for having become established in Tokyo.

When Takahashi and Watanabe were beginning to look into how to start a business in Japan, they had a lot of questions and needed help. And that was when they learned about the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Business Development Center Tokyo (BDCT).

The BDCT is a service that offers advice and support in areas ranging from incorporating a business and choosing a location, to business development and introductions to experts across a variety of fields. Its strong connection to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government means they have access to the latest information.

“I looked up the address, then just dropped by and started talking to the advisors,” recalls Watanabe. “It’s a free service; and they’re located next to Tokyo Station, which is very convenient.”

Takahashi came across the BDCT on the internet, sent an e-mail, and received a prompt reply.

“I was still in London at the time,” he says. “I was looking for advice from them on how to incorporate the company in Japan. It was very helpful, and I got a lot of good information.”

Watanabe and Takahashi both happened to deal with the same consultant, Namiko Watanabe.

“Watanabe-san was very proactive in looking for contacts for me,” says Takahashi. “She not only helped me with incorporation, but she also helped me find potential partners. It was a pleasant shock, actually. I thought, ‘Wow, how can they do this for free?’ ”

Another similar service that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government offers is through the Tokyo One-Stop Business Establishment Center (TOSBEC). It assists with administrative procedures, including filing procedures for articles of incorporation, company registration, immigration, social security and taxes. It also offers interpretation and translation services.

Allan Watanabe has also used TOSBEC’s services. “I recently went to TOSBEC in ARK Hills to ask some questions I had about employment,” he relates. “I wanted to know, for example, what the potential pitfalls are that we may run into after hiring people. I got some helpful legal documentation in English from them.”

Now that their companies have been set up, Watanabe and Takahashi are excited about all of the potential business opportunities in Japan’s capital.

“Tokyo is one of the best cities of the world,” says Watanabe. “Most of the top 500 global companies have a presence here. And the population is tremendous.”

“We just want to be close to where things are happening,” Takahashi adds.

For anyone looking to set up a new business in Tokyo, the knowledgeable advisors and extensive resources at the BDCT and TOSBEC will help you find answers to your questions and point you in the right direction.

“The BDCT is a free resource of knowledge and information,” says Watanabe. “I would suggest to any start-ups or companies that are looking for opportunities in Japan to stop by.”

“People say that just asking makes a difference, and that’s exactly how I felt,” says Takahashi. “I wasn’t sure about the level of service I would get. I wasn’t sure how much they could do. But I was surprised by how much of an effort the consultants put in to helping me. It’s just unbelievable.”