(This study appeared in ACUMEN– The Magazine of the British chamber of Commerce in Japan)
After a failed attempt to enter Japan, this firm asked UKTI for help
• Little-known pharma firm finally cracks tough market
• Praise for UKTI events, introductions and advice
• Sales soar 50% after team established in Tokyo
• Using Japan as gateway to other Asian markets
Japan’s pharmaceuticals market is the second-largest in the world in terms of prescription drug sales; it is home to several major pharmaceutical firms with affiliate operations in Europe and the US, as well as a large number of medium-sized and smaller firms that are either focused on the Japanese market, or looking to expand their businesses into Western markets.
All of this made Japan an appealing destination for EvaluatePharma Ltd and its chief executive, Jonathan de Pass. Set up in 1996, the firm provides data for financial, consulting, pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms.
But as most firms looking to do business will tell you, cracking the Japanese market is rarely straightforward.
“We knew that we would face a number of challenges in our bid to break into the Japanese market”, said de Pass. “The major ones were that we were not a known brand or company in Japan; the market was reasonably well served by other providers; we did not have a physical presence in the country; there were language, business and cultural challenges; and we would need to make a significant investment—for our size of business—to build a presence in Japan”.
De Pass initially recruited an agent with local industry expertise and good connections with EvaluatePharma’s target clients, and attended two major pharmaceutical exhibitions, Bio Japan 2007 and Bio Expo 2008. But it quickly became apparent that these events were not bringing the firm closer to its target clients.
It was only in 2009 that de Pass realised what UKTI had to offer.
“The UKTI advisor introduced us to the services and assistance available to British firms wanting to enter the Japanese market—in particular, the benefits of participating in the Life Science Trade Mission to Tokyo and Osaka in 2009, as well as the Overseas Market Introduction Service that would generate meetings with our target clients”, he said.
The 2009 trade mission “significantly helped us generate awareness of our company in Japan”, de Pass said, adding that it was well attended and focused, and enabled EvaluatePharma to introduce itself to more than 100 senior executives at pharmaceutical firms in Tokyo and Osaka.
EvaluatePharma’s primary goal was to generate for its services new sales leads that could then be developed into new business. De Pass has nothing but praise for the British Embassy Tokyo and British Consulate-General in Osaka staff as being “excellent in their efforts to introduce us to firms that we had indicated we would like to meet”.
Even after the events, UKTI provided continuing support through introductions to other organisations in Japan that could offer further support and advice, such as the Japan External Trade Organization.
On the basis of the breakthrough in 2009, EvaluatePharma Japan KK was set up in January 2011, with a business development and client service team based in Tokyo.
Since then, de Pass said, the business has grown significantly, the firm has secured all its renewals, and sales are rising.
“EvaluatePharma Japan KK’s business development operations are now fully set up and our sales grew significantly in 2011—by 50% following the opening and appointment of the new Japanese business development team”, de Pass said. “We also look forward to growing our sales significantly in Japan in 2012.
“Furthermore, with an established team in Japan, we are targeting our business growth plans in other Asian markets, with a particular focus on South Korea, China, Singapore and Hong Kong”.
EvaluatePharma has signed up to take part in the February 2012 trade mission to Tokyo and Osaka, which is focused on pharmaceuticals and medical devices, and fits neatly with the firm’s new services developed specifically for the medical device sector, de Pass said.
“The progress we have made in establishing our company and services in Japan would have taken considerably longer had it not been for the support of UKTI and the British embassy and consulate,” he added. “We are grateful for the assistance and valued advice we have received and continue to receive”.