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2014年5月 8日 (木)

中小企業活性化 「攻めの姿勢」で市場開拓図れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun 4:00 am, May 08, 2014
Smaller businesses must aggressively seek more market opportunities
中小企業活性化 「攻めの姿勢」で市場開拓図れ

Small and medium-sized corporations must be invigorated to put the economy back on the road to full recovery. This is essential in that such companies constitute a wide range of businesses in this nation.

Smaller enterprises must exert their originality and ingenuity in implementing what could be called an aggressive strategy through, for example, increased exports. Doing so is indispensable for their success in finding a means of survival.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has drafted the 2014 edition of its “White Paper on Small and Medium Enterprises in Japan.”

The corporate sector’s business performance is beginning to improve nowadays, largely due to the Abenomics policy package being implemented by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Still, the pace of improvement in the performance of medium and small businesses is slower than that of major corporations.

Abe has said: “Medium and small enterprises are the underpinning of the [Japanese] economy. I’ll work to ensure the economic recovery is truly felt everywhere in the nation.”

The prime minister’s pledge to increase the managerial vitality of small and medium-sized businesses is appropriate, considering that these enterprises account for more than 90 percent of the domestic corporate sector.

The latest white paper says that an important task facing the government in this respect is to bolster overseas operations of smaller businesses by, for instance, increasing their exports. Small and medium manufacturers whose business includes exports account for only 3 percent of the total.

Smaller enterprises should take advantage of vigorous demand in newly emerging and other economically vibrant nations in their struggle to survive and prosper. Such efforts are indispensable in that the domestic market is bound to shrink as a result of this nation’s chronically low birthrate and the resultant aging population.

China has been selected by a large number of small and medium Japanese companies as the main target of their overseas operations. In recent years, however, there have been growing concerns about the risks involved in business operations in that country, reflecting strained relations between Tokyo and Beijing as well as a lack of transparency in the Chinese legal system.

Diversify export destinations

A task confronting the government in this regard is to support the export drive of smaller companies targeting markets other than China, such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Myanmar, while also assisting service and other nonmanufacturing companies with opening businesses in these nations.

However, there are high hurdles for independent small and medium corporations in finding market opportunities overseas. Overcoming those hurdles requires the creation of a system which would support ambitious businesses in their efforts to join the overseas market.

Attempts should be made to help smaller corporations better pursue their goal of starting operations overseas. Measures may include a close information exchange between the government and the Japan External Trade Organization so companies can be referred to institutions that can properly assist their drive for foreign operations. It is also important to analyze cases of success and failure involving domestic companies operating overseas.

It is disturbing to see that the government’s assistance measures have not been adequately made known to small and medium corporations. It should also be taken seriously that smaller corporations are dissatisfied with the lack of cooperation among organizations tasked with assisting their drives to start business overseas.

It is disconcerting as well to realize that there has been an increase in the number of small and medium companies that have been forced out of business due to the rapid aging of their top officials.

Also worth considering is the idea of establishing a nationwide system in which companies whose operators have no designated successors would be matched with candidates who wish to run corporations through the mediation of relevant local authorities.

Corporations need to undergo constant change in their top management. And society needs to stem a decrease in the number of people hoping to found new companies. This requires the promotion of regulatory reform aimed at easing procedures to be completed in setting up a business.

There is no doubt that smaller businesses will find it difficult to revitalize their operations if they solely depend on assistance measures. Such corporations should deepen relations with their local financial institutions and exercise wisdom in creating new business models. We hope they will discern their advantages and concentrate their financial resources and personnel on their areas of specialty, thus improving their competitiveness.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 6, 2014)


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