Case Study: Anja / SME / Looking for Distributors

Anja, spol. s r.o. – from SK

From its base in Bratislava, Slovakia, Anja deals with the manufacturing, trade and storage of agricultural products. With a growing presence in Asia, the company wanted to research the feasibility of establishing links with Japan. Moreover, they were keen on adapting Japanese management techniques in their expanding company.

Business: agricultural products (grains, feed, beans, etc.)
History in Japan: none (23 years in Slovakia)
Size: 56 employees in Slovakia and the Czech Republic
Target market: agricultural, feed and food industry

Anja is a Slovak SME which produces, stores, imports and exports agricultural commodities (grains, pulses, feedstuffs, etc.). Headquartered in Bratislava with a branch in the Czech Republic, the company focusses on the Slovak and Central European market, and has a growing presence in East Asia.

WHY JAPAN?

In the last few years, Anja started importing food and agricultural products from Asia, including rice from Thailand, spices from India and beans and green tea from China. With regards to Japan, the company wanted to investigate both the option of importing to Slovakia (e.g. tea) and exporting to Japan (agricultural products). Moreover, they were very interested in studying Japanese management techniques.

STEPS TAKEN

Prior to coming to Japan for HRTP 49, the company had no business relationship with Japan, nor had it looked into establishing one.

CHALLENGES

Soon after he arrived in Japan, it became clear to Anja's director Mr Jankuliak that it would be nearly impossible for his company to export agricultural products to the country. Due to the long distance combined with extremely high import taxes, chances of setting up a profitable relationship were very slim. With regards to bringing Japanese products, especially tea, to Slovakia, Anja realized that the Slovak market of five million people was too small to allow the company to start direct imports.

CURRENT STATUS – NEXT STEPS

Rather than directly importing to Slovakia from Japan, Anja has found importers in Germany and the Netherlands from whom his company now buys green Japanese tea. However, just because the company has not been able to develop direct business links with Japan, does not mean that HRTP did not have an impact. From the get-go, Mr Jankuliak's objective was also to learn about Japanese management systems. Through the several HRTP courses, especially the sessions where European participants had the opportunity to interact with Japanese managers, he developed new techniques, motivation systems, and insights on how to build long-term relations. When he came back from Japan, Mr Jankuliak invited his team to a Japanese restaurant in Bratislava where he shared his experiences, and discussed with his colleagues how they could make changes in the company based on what he had learned. Since then, the company culture and the interactions within the company have changed, as well as the relations with suppliers and customers. Emphasizing the importance of trustful long-term business relationships has contributed to the 20% increase in turnover Anja realized last year, and to the company’s improved position on the Slovak and European Agro-market.

Interview made with Andrej Jankuliak, Director of ANJA