“Patience is a key word when dealing with Japan“
Remembrane SrL is a biotech start-up company established in 2010 and headquartered in Italy.
The company focuses on membrane lipidomics of in-vitro cultures and develops customized in-vitro lipid supplementation. Through its technology and know-how, Remembrane provides solutions to a wide variety of players in the Biomanufacturing, In-vitro testing and Advanced Therapy fields. In 2015, Remembrane’s CEO Dr Chatgilialoglu was selected for the EU-Japan Centre’s Biotech mission organised in the margins of BioJapan Expo. This mission was an opportunity to meet with new potential partners and start doing business in Japan. During the Biotech Mission, Dr Chatgilialoglu met with three different distributors and was able to sign a contract with one of them that now sells Remembrane’s products in Japan
Activities: Focusing on membrane lipidomics of in-vitro cultures and developing customised in-vitro lipid supplementation
Operating in the cell culture field for already a few years, Remembrane was looking for new market opportunities to expand its activities abroad. The Italian company became interested in the Asian market, and especially in Japan, while seeing opportunities that this market had to offer in terms of Biotech developments. Japanese companies are indeed very active in the biotechnology market and many of them are using cell cultures-related technologies, such as cell and gene therapies in their activities. For Remembrane, Japan was therefore targeted as a strategic place to sell technologies. In 2015, Dr Chatgilialoglu was selected for the EU-Japan Centre’s Biotech mission organised in the margins of BioJapan Expo. A first step to accessing Japan for Remembrane.
Before the 2015 Biotech Mission, Remembrane did not have any Japanese partners. This mission was an opportunity to meet with new potential partners and start doing business in Japan. During the Biotech Mission, Dr Chatgilialoglu met with three different distributors and was able to sign a contract with one of them that now sells Remembrane’s products in Japan. Dr Chatgilialoglu explains that this distributor relies on its network among universities and national companies to sell and promote Remembrane’s products. The past year, Remembrane has received orders from two different Japanese universities and Dr Chatgilialoglu is confident about future sales.
For Dr Chatgilialoglu, Japan is both good and challenging market when it comes to establishing business. Compared with similar markets, such as South-Korean one, where communication is not an issue, the English language becomes one of the biggest challenges when dealing with Japanese partners. A lot of Japanese customers speak a little English and some of them do not speak English at all. Therefore, securing business through distributors can be a good solution to get into the Japanese market. Many distributors are used to working with foreign companies and communication is therefore easier. However, when dealing with distributors, Dr Chatgilialoglu suggests that one should be aware that products are usually promoted among many others: “It is necessary to find the right distributor who will push your brand and will find it exclusive and unique”.
Since the mission in 2015, Remembrane went back several times to Japan for different trade fairs and met with Japanese companies in Europe and in the US. Dr Chatgilialoglu explained that some of them were companies he met during the 2015 Biotech mission, and as these companies regularly attend Biotech fairs, it is therefore easier to engage in a dialogue with them. While Remembrane is still in touch with its distributor, the Italian company is now seeking new potential Japanese partners. Remembrane’s CEO remains positive about rapid outcomes: “We have a lot of Japanese contacts and now we have to wait and see if they become new customers. We are confident about that”. The next step for Remembrane is to come back to Biojapan expo with an Italian delegation, and to secure business with Japanese customers.
According to Dr Chatgilialoglu, patience comes as a keyword when dealing with Japan, and insists on that word explaining that it usually takes time to build business relationships with Japanese partners. Frequent trips to Japan, in order to meet with potential partners, is generally a good start to gain a reputation and secure business opportunities. Another idea for starting a business in Japan is finding distributors who would be willing to promote new brands in their network, a solution that was fruitful for Remembrane. This solution constitutes a good first step in the Japanese market, before finding direct customers.
Interview made with Dr Alexandros Chatgilialoglu CEO at Remembrane (September 2017)