Japan's electronics industry telecommunications

Post-Galapagos Japan? – globalizing Japan’s fantastic technologies…

Japan Galapagos effect: “Why do Japanese companies make so beautiful mobile phones with fantastic functions, and have almost no global market share?”

I asked this question back in 2003 to NTT-DoCoMo’s CEO Dr. Tachikawa (see my article “Leadership questions of the week” in Wallstreet Journal of June 12, 2006, page 31), and offered several proposals to Dr. Tachikawa, of which he accepted one.

A related question is: “why can Samsung, LG and Apple beat Japan’s initially far more advanced mobile phone makers, and why have Japan’s phone makers taken no effective action to build global business in order to avoid extinction?”

Now six years after my initial presentation to DoCoMo’s CEO, I have been invited as the only non-Japanese to work on Japan’s “Post-Galapagos Committee”. For most of this year our small group of industry CEOs, academics, government officials and other leaders have been working on understanding the reasons for Japan’s “Galapagos effect” and how to overcome it.

Read about this work here in the New York Times, about my (Japanese language) presentation to the committee on the IT-Media website here (in Japanese)

The “Galapagos effect” has not been created by a single factor. Instead a collection of choices by the management teams of Japan’s electrical conglomerates have prevented leverage of their domestic success stories into global success stories. These choices can be overcome. In our “Post-Galapagos committee” we have worked all-year on how to overcome these choices.

Unfortunately the “Galapagos effect” is only one symptom of the crisis of Japan’s electrical giants: most have shown little or no growth in sales over the last 10 years, while at the same time margins tend to be small or negative. Over the same period, General Electric has increased sales by a factor of about three, while at the same time earning healthy margins.

Overcoming this crisis will create many opportunities. If at least some of the conclusions of our “Post Galapagos Committee” can be realized, then our committee’s hard and totally voluntary work during most of this year and many late nights will not be wasted.

For an analysis of Japan’s electrical industry sector see our

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