10 May 2021

NZTE: Interview

While New Zealand’s reputation for high quality food and beverage exports is widely recognised, its successes in technology remain under the radar. However, the gains and inroads made by New Zealand tech companies – despite the challenges of COVID-19 – show otherwise.

In amongst the disruption to international travel in the past 12 months, Yoshifumi Imamura’s role as the ‘arms and legs’ for New Zealand businesses in Japan has become even more important.

As the Head of Business Development at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) in Tokyo, Yoshifumi connects New Zealand companies with the right potential customers, distributors and channel partners in Japan. He specialises in creating and maintaining strong in-market relationships, particularly in the renewable energy, agri-tech, manufacturing and technology sectors.

Yoshifumi started working with Auckland-based Mindhive to establish a partnership with Rikei Corporation for the streamlining of manufacturing processes through AI and machine vision. That partnership was soon recognised by the Japanese Government with a subsidy programme through the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to improve manufacturing efficiency for small to medium-sized businesses.

Since then, Yoshifumi and Mindhive have delivered innovative AI solutions to the Japanese market. “The pandemic has triggered the desire for a lot of companies to change and adapt their ways of doing business – and this attitude of improvement and searching for ways to be more efficient works perfectly with what Mindhive is able to achieve,” he says.

“Mindhive solutions are a good match for Japanese manufacturers,” he says. “There is a great opportunity for manufacturers to tap into the most advanced technology available.”

A key advantage of doing business with New Zealanders – or ‘kiwis’ – is the ease of doing so. The 2020 IFC World Bank ‘Doing Business Report’ ranked New Zealand as No.1 for the fourth consecutive year. Kiwis are open, reliable and flexible – all traits that foreign parties appreciate.

Compared to large enterprises overseas, New Zealand businesses are relatively compact in size, meaning the Japanese partner can communicate directly to the right people, often senior management, with the ability to make decisions quickly and expedite the process.

There are many more similarities between the ways New Zealand and Japanese companies like to operate, and all signs are pointing towards a growing relationship between the two countries, and more opportunities for partnerships.

“Mindhive has shown its commitment to Japan, having been in discussions with well-known Japanese parties for several years and having local, Japanese representation”, adds Yoshifumi.

“They have earned the trust of their Japanese manufacturing partners and have paved the way for success in Japan.”