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Magazine draws attention to small firms’ products overseas

Chunichi Shimbun

Young owners of small and midsize businesses from Chubu and other regions are publishing their own English magazine, Indexrights, to market their products abroad.

The magazine serves as a tool to attract potential clients overseas, since the companies have insufficient funds to build factories abroad.

One of the companies introduced in the quarterly publication was Nishimura Precision, which sells ultra-thin reading glasses it calls Paperglass. It was featured in an article headlined “Reading glasses folding flat to impressive thickness of 2 mm,” and accompanied by a photo.

The first issue came out in January and 5,000 copies are published each quarter.

Indexrights was started by a group of nine business owners in the manufacturing industry from the Kanto, Kansai and Chubu regions who interacted with each other frequently via Facebook.

They met three years ago at an exhibition in Germany, where they found out that the strengths of small and midsize Japanese companies are virtually unknown overseas.

“We decided to find a way to market small Japanese businesses so we could develop business relationships with foreign companies,” said Indexrights editor Shigeki Ishida, the 43-year-old owner of Mikasa Electrician Department in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture.

Each issue of Indexrights is around 70 pages long. The articles are written by professional writers and translated into English by a New York-based translator who has experience editing business magazines.

The group pays special attention to the magazine’s design and employs a cameraman and a designer with experience at music magazines to do the photos and layout.

They send most of their copies to foreign manufacturers who do business in Japan. But they have also been approached by foreign airlines who like its design and want permission to stock the magazine on their flights.

The annual fee for companies who want to get published in the magazine is ¥600,000.

“A business trip to Europe costs about that much, so it’s a reasonable price if you consider it as an investment for the future,” said Ishida.

Forty firms have joined the group so far.

“We are not big enough to break into the foreign market, but at the same time we have no future in Japan if we do not get jobs from overseas,” said Toshihiro Ito, the 54-year-old president of member firm Gamagori Seisakusho, which makes precision machinery in Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture.

The magazines have proven to be effective. Business meetings are being held with German research facilities and universities as well as a Hungarian manufacturer toward forming a joint research partnership.

In addition to the magazines, the group plans to build showrooms in Frankfurt, Silicon Valley and Singapore to increase the amount of exposure the products featured in the magazine can get.

In Japan, companies of all sizes have begun to relocate their headquarters abroad, but Ishida believes they should bring jobs to Japan instead.

“Otherwise it might lead to the hollowing out of Japan’s manufacturing industry, which will in turn lead to lower employment rates and income taxes for the country, not to mention the loss of technology and skills for future generations,” Ishida said.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on July 12.