Osaka global business confab to go online

OSAKA — The 17th and final Global Business Opportunities Convention concluded in Osaka on Wednesday, marking the end of one of the Kansai region’s most prominent international seminars.

The G-BOC conferences aimed to bring together smaller foreign firms and Japanese businesses.

In its place, organizers plan to launch next year a Cyber G-BOC to bring potential sellers and buyers together over the Internet rather than in Osaka itself, thus doing away with the showrooms and seminars of the past 17 years.

“With the Internet, it has become possible to do much more business electronically,” a representative of the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry said Wednesday afternoon. “(This makes) it more economically prudent for many smaller firms both in Japan and abroad to be introduced to each other . . . rather than paying large amounts of money for booth space and travel and lodging in Japan.”

Organizers include the Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe chambers of commerce and industry as well as the city and prefecture of Osaka.

While details have yet to be finalized, the general plan for the Cyber G-BOC calls for overseas and Japanese firms to register with the OCCI.

Information will then be sent electronically to interested parties, with the OCCI and other officials also available online to answer questions.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the three-day G-BOC conferences attracted hundreds of small and medium-size businesses from around the world, all of whom were keen on entering the Japanese market.

But over the past three to four years, attendance plunged. This year’s conference saw 5,870 participants, down from about 7,500 people last year.

OCCI officials blamed the continuing domestic economic slump for the decline in attendance, but some exhibitors said other factors were at work as well.

“The fact of the matter is Osaka small business firms are far behind Tokyo and other Asian countries in the use of Internet technology to follow up on initial talks with potential overseas customers,” one Chinese trade organization official said.

One Indian exhibitor added, “Small overseas firms don’t have the money, or the time, to make constant trips to Japan to talk to potential customers when a lot of the work can be done via the Internet.

“Hopefully, this new Cyber G-BOC will help turn things around. But, unless the individual Japanese firms are ready to respond, it’s not likely to succeed.”