UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) has created a website to enable more British firms to unlock the Japanese market.
A reception to mark the launch was held at the official residence of British Ambassador Tim Hitchens in late November, attended by representatives of the 27 firms and organisations behind the not-for-profit initiative.
The site brings together UKTI, British Airways, the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan and Business Link Japan to share their knowledge and understanding of what can be a daunting market for firms with scant experience in how business is done in this country.
“Trade and investment is at the very heart of what we try to do here at the embassy”, Ambassador Hitchens said.
“It is all about partnership, and we work with our formal partners in order to provide a service to aspirant companies coming to this market who need advice.
“We would like to expand the quality of our services to these companies and the information that we can provide them”, he said.
The new site—www.exporttojapan.co.uk—is also an educational reference for firms that are considering entering the Japanese market.
The information available includes facts and figures about the local economy, details on British firms that are already established here, and a list of Japanese firms that are looking for foreign partners across a wide range of sectors.
Newcomers can also benefit from the Getting Started section, which includes a tool for assessing market potential here and advice on how to set up a business in the world’s third-largest economy.
The site even covers travel essentials for anyone arriving in Japan for the first time, as well as an all-important primer on local business etiquette.
Export to Japan lists upcoming trade events and introduces market specialists who can provide local insight. Yet another service at users’ fingertips is live web seminars (webinars) with subject-area experts.
In a video presentation broadcast at the reception, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the impression most people have of diplomacy is that it is largely focused on political and security issues.
While those are naturally important, he said, British embassies and consulates around the world are “heavily engaged in providing practical support to British companies, large and small”.
“I know that exporting can be challenging, especially if a business is just starting out”, he said. “Understanding new cultures, overcoming language barriers and knowing who to trust to represent you are critical issues.
“The Export to Japan website provides you with access to all the information, services and partnerships that your company and other British SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] need to explore this huge market”, he said.
“Japan is a large and under-exploited market for UK companies”, he said. “And you are not alone”.
Each of the site’s partners is offering special deals negotiated to benefit UK firms that choose to work with UKTI in Japan.
These offers include a 25% discount on British Airways flights to Japan and other beneficial arrangements from a range of businesses, including public relations and marketing assistance, support from accountants and translators, and hotel discounts.
Willie Walsh, chief executive of the International Airlines Group, the parent company of British Airways, also addressed the reception through an introductory video, which is available on the website. In his speech, he describes Japan as a “fantastic, lucrative, exciting market”.
“We all know that Britain needs more British companies travelling to places like Japan to sell their goods, their innovations, their technology, their services”, Walsh said.
“Export to Japan will provide you with all of the help that you need … if you want to explore the opportunities that exist here”.
Those sentiments were echoed by Steve Crane, chief executive of Business Link Japan and recipient of the Entrepreneur of the Year accolade at the recent British Business Awards.
Describing the initiative as a “one-click shop”, he said the website provides advice to UK firms considering doing business here and keenly encourages them to put their plans into action.
BCCJ President Alison Jambert underscored the chamber’s support for the initiative, pointing out that several member firms are already involved—and expressing her hope that even more will take part in the near future.
Jambert also said she is confident tangible results will soon be visible that will lead to strengthened bilateral ties and increased investment into Japan by British firms.