The CEO Asks Part 3

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Hello everyone. This is Bazaar’s CEO Ohwada. Continuing from where we left off, I’m thinking of interviewing myself.

The story takes place after opening the market in China, which contrary to what you might expect, I ended up deciding that my work field is not China.


「Just when you have managed to cultivate a new market and would be able to secure a stable job as a China specialist businessman, you decided to quit Sony.」


Ohwada「Yes, there were several reasons for that. First, there’s the younger generation that will have decreased by 20 percent in the next ten years. Second, a market that is shrinking and is being dominated by older people is not interesting. And the last is, I just couldn’t get the meeting I had with potential users in China out of my head.」


「What kind of meeting was it?」


Ohwada「It’s quite some time ago, there was this one time when I lived in a city full of migrant workers. At that time, I asked them to show me their cellphones, and I found out that what they showed me were mostly feature phones with the painted letters on the 2468 buttons erased.」


「Why were they erased?」


Ohwada「They said they played so many times this one game that used those buttons as up, down, left and right button to direct movement. I wondered if that was true, and I looked at others’ cellphones. And it turned to be the same, they played the game so many times to the point that those buttons got so worn out the painted numbers were gone.」


「What kind of game did they play?」


Ohwada「It was a truly boring game. I asked them why they played such game, and the answer was that that game was the only thing available to them. Even when bad things happen to them, if they play the game before going to bed, somehow they would feel better because of the distraction.」


「Because there was a lack of supply, the demand became so high.」


Ohwada「Exactly. That made me think, is Sony really delivering games to those who need them? At that time, you had to prepare 300 US dollars for the hardware and around 50 US dollars for the software to be able to play games in Playstation. In the developing countries, people who can get their hands on Playstation are the wealthy people for whom plenty of entertainment are available. “I want to go on a trip”, “I want to have a massage”, they have a lot of demand in exchange for money in their wallet, and game just happened to be a part of it. Even though exactly because of those buyers Sony now still exists, I feel that the royalty that comes out of it shouldn’t be that high.」  


「If you want to do business, do it where there is demand. It’s like, sell water in the desert, right?」


Ohwada「I agree with that statement as that’s the basic of business, but what I mostly felt about that fact was that it was unfair. I felt resentment towards the unequal opportunities available to be able to enjoy entertainments. As a creator, as a user, and as an employee, I couldn’t forgive it. But be as it may, Sony as a company was much bigger than I thought, and I came to understand that there were things I couldn’t do there, even if I wanted to, so I decided to quit.」


「What did you do after quitting Sony?」


Ohwada「If you look at the dynamics of the world population, from now on it’s gonna be either Southeast Asia or Bangladesh. And it’s clear that Africa would also follow suit later on. I thought that Southeast Asia’s market that’s closer to Japan has some possibilities, so I decided to conduct market research there.」


「A new market. How did you carry out your research?」


Ohwada「I used the same method I had used back then at Sony. My brain doesn’t seem to have evolved, so in the end I decided to ask those dealing in games and those playing the games. For that reason, I prepared and brought around 10 game consoles and smartphones and did a street stall for a while. It’s a game center on the street. I laid out blue sheet in front of the gates of elementary, middle, high schools and universities in major cities in each ASEAN country, and let those students play Japanese games. While saying “It only costs you 10 yen for each play!”, having them play the games and giving them prizes for when they managed to beat my personal scores for those games, I also asked them whether they liked games or not, what kind of games they liked, and whether they would pay for games or not. I did those kinds of research.」


「It’s a really primitive research.」


Ohwada「It’s a super primitive research, but that way I was able to see the reactions of these young people directly. To begin with, statistical data is never trustworthy, and the kind of reaction you see out of them; whether when they hesitated to pay 10 yen for each play, or their unexpected reactions when they played the games, is something that you can only get if you meet them face-to-face. It’s very valuable to do so, but in contrast there’s also danger in doing it. For example, having a gun pointed at you, or getting kidnapped by robbers, and so on.」


「That’s scary. And what are things you understood from that research?」


Ohwada「First of all, the thing I can say for certain is that everyone definitely loves games, although it can’t be said that they love games as much as the Japanese do, but if it’s only about the coins in their pockets, they are willing to use them to play or buy things related to games. And surprisingly a lot of them are walking around with smartphones.」


「In particular what market was good?」


Ohwada「So I did a lot of researches, and in the end it was in a city called Bandung in Indonesia that I profited the most. I then wondered as to why it was so profitable there, and later on I found out that although as a city Bandung only has about 4 million people, it has 42 universities and close to 60 vocational schools. Furthermore, Indonesia’s GDP per capita is more than 3,000 dollars, and become the sort of standard used to measure how much money is usually spent on entertainment, there is a huge possibility there. Their GDP per capita is also close to ASEAN’s average value, so I thought it would be easier to start my business there.」


「If that’s the case, isn’t starting business in the capital city Jakarta the normal thing to do?」


Ohwada「There was also the option of starting the business in Jabodetabek / Greater Jakarta, but the thing is, even if we did a test in a massive area with a population over 20 million people who are struggling every day with chronic traffic jams, the success rate would be pretty low. Be it a success or a failure, it would be hard to determine what made that happened, mainly because there’re too many factors involved in the process that would have caused it.」


「That’s why you chose Bandung」


Ohwada「I understood Bandung is the way to go, and then in September 2014 I decided to take my family together with me and moved to the city.」


「I see, so that’s how finally you started the business called Bazaar. We will talk about the services they provide in Bandung in the next chapter.」

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