Logisitics data platform operator Trabox has announced at the end of February that it will be part of the Visional Group. (Click here for the press release)
In this article, I would like to share an interview I had with Yoshioka, CEO of Trabox, Inc., and Minami, CEO of Visional, Inc., where we learn about what led to their encounter and their future vision of the company.
Both Were Aspiring to Build the Future of the Logistics Industry — How Minami and Yoshioka Met
—I think it may seem surprising to some that Visional is venturing into the logistics industry, a new realm of business activity. Do you recall the circumstances under which the two of you first met?
Yoshioka: Trabox has been operating for 20 years with the aim of improving customer convenience by providing a platform for matching supply and demand using freight data collected from transportation companies and consigners.
Having been in this business for so long, I know first-hand that there are really various challenges facing the industry.
For instance, one of the issues viewed largely problematic in the industry recently would be the shortage of drivers. The number of people who want to be a driver is on the decrease, and the aging of Japan's population is also advancing. The root cause of the problem is clearly the unattractiveness of the job — the less-than-ideal financial conditions and working environment, and the negative image associated with truck drivers.
The underlying cause of this labor shortage is that the digitization of business processes is considerably slower than in other industries — for example, many of our customers still manage deliveries using whiteboards and conduct communications only via phone or fax. Also, our customers' profits would not increase unless we increase the productivity of the entire industry. But the industry structure would remain essentially unchanged unless these profits are invested in the improvement of business productivity and the development of good workplace environments. I believe that, if nothing is done, the logistics industry will be unable to escape in this downward spiral.
We, as well as our customers, had wanted to invest in technology and new systems in preparation for the future. Unfortunately, we do not have the means to do this. In contrast to 20 years ago, IT technology has progressed and changed at a rate faster than ever in the recent years and it has also never been more difficult to choose the right business model. At the same time, new startups are starting to enter our field as well. For the past few years, I have felt that given the circumstances we must keep our business afloat for the sake of our customers, and that, should we fail to, we might collapse together with the rest of the logistics industry.
That's why about a year ago I started looking for a partner who shared my aspiration to take full advantage of technology and revolutionize the industry. It was then that Minami and I got introduced.
Minami: Since about 5 years ago, I have left the operation of the BizReach business to a new management team and have proceeded to launch new businesses to solve issues faced by our society. I have been launching more businesses in the HR Tech area, such as the job search engine Stanby, and the talent development cloud plaftorm HRMOS, and have also ventured outside of HR Tech, with businesses such as the business succession and M&A platform BizReach Succeed, and the OSS vulnerability management tool yamory.
I have always been passionate about starting new businesses. Business is what drives change in the world, and I believe that contributing to society through the movements I initiate is what I truly need to accomplish with my job. I feel that my primary role in the Group is to, while continuously observing the major trends in society, find new areas to solve issues for next, translate them into business plans, and execute those plans from scratch.
Personally, I started paying attention to the logistics industry about two years ago. Despite it being a national economic infrastructure that supports various industries, the productivity growth of the logistics industry, as a whole, has been slow. Even reading government publications made me feel that there are, frankly, better ways to help with the industry's struggle with the many issues it faces.
At the same time, I have come to hear the term "Digital Transformation" often. For example, in the Digital Transformation Report released by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, it is mentioned that the logistics industry has been slow to adopt technology into their business processes and this may in turn reduce the productivity of companies involved. I think, if the productivity of industries that serve as infrastructures that support society does not increase, consequently the productivity of the entire country will not improve and this will weaken our national power.
With these issues in mind, I began talking with various people in the logistics industry and that was when I was introduced to Yoshioka.
—What was your first impression of each other?
Yoshioka: I've met with thousands of entreprenuers, being an entrepreneur myself. But Minami stood out against them. He showed greater aspiration than anyone I have ever met. There is intention behind every single word he says and he has such piercing eyes. (laughs) During our first few meetings, I had no prior knowledge of his background, so I read two books written by him as we proceeded with subsequent meet ups. Indeed, I felt that he was exactly as described in the books — a straightforward guy. I began to feel strongly that, this is the man I want to create the future of the logistics industry with.
Minami: When I met Yoshioka for the first time, he struck me as a person who perceives the essence of matters. As I heard about his and his business' histories, I related to the way he strives to solve problems by first having a proper structural understanding of the customer issues and the positioning of his business. And above all, I have a high regard for his ability to execute and deliver, diligently building his business while working closely with his customers for a long 20 years.
"Yoshioka is indeed a man who embodies ""Do What Matters Right"" and ""Essential Solutions for Fundamental Customer Issues"", values proclaimed in the Visional Way. We share a lot of the same fundamental values when it comes to business management.
As we spoke, I felt that if we can combine our strength in creating technologies and system with Yoshioka's experience and the trust that customers place in them, we can provide more in-depth solutions to the challenges faced by customers in the logistics industry, and together create new possibilities for the future.
Changing the Future of Logistics and Japan as the New and Improved Trabox
—What was the deciding factor that led to this partnership?
Yoshioka: My heart was moved the most when he warmly acknowledged our 20 years and spoke the words, ""Let's create the future of Japan together.""
I've been running trabox for 20 years, going all out for our customers and following up closely with the needs of shipping companies and consigners. Then he comes along and tells me that he will change the industrial structure of Japan by reforming the logistics industry. I was deeply impressed because it is something that I would never have thought of, and yet it absolutely made sense. And frankly, I knew I wanted to work with him to provide the best for our customers.
Also, there was so much in common between our startup story and that of BizReach, which similarly began in an apartment room 10 years ago. I felt that Minami, of all people, would strongly value the history that Trabox has accumulated, and that also played a significant part in this decision.
What's foremost in my mind was to avoid causing inconvenience to our customers even with forming this partnership. There were many factors of consideration involved in this major decision. One of those factors was the fact that I can rest assured that we can continue to provide the best for our customers by taking advantage of, instead of immediately changing, our existing business processes.
Minami: Trabox and Yoshioka have earned the trust of customers nationwide over the past 20 years.
It is that trust, which was forged as they persistently and meticulously built the business through developing products and services, and making history together with their customers, is the reason I was able to make this significant decision.
It was such a wonderful experience witnessing the attitude with which he tackles customer issues and his ability to execute — aspects of his character that enabled him to earn the trust of his customers. He also showed me business development practices coming from a medium- to long-term perspective. For instance, Trabox is an online data platform but for the past 20 years, Yoshioka has been holding offline events nationwide in an effort to create direct connections between customers. Event management is not a glamorous task. Not only do events take a lot of time and effort to prepare, their impact is also not readily obvious. It is easy to come up with and discuss concepts but it takes a lot of grit to put those concepts into actions and to be able to keep them moving. I love the quote from Gandhi, "action expresses priorities,” and I was very impressed because Yoshioka's actions clearly reflect his stance to always put the customer first.
—Any final message to our readers?
Yoshioka: For the past few years, I have been running Trabox under pressure that the business is not going to survive if the situation continues as it is. I was worried about our future as I witnessed our customers and the logistics industry suffer from the lack of productivity growth. As we now become a member of the Visional Group and see the faces of our new partners, a whole new world of possibilities for the future opens up. And personally, I have gained more confidence in the new possiblities that Trabox would create. I've been working hard for 20 years, and I'm really grateful to be able to welcome this significant moment with Minami.
As always, I believe strongly in focusing on the customer first and foremost. And I will definitely prove that this M&A is beneficial to our customers. I will keep this promise in mind as I continue to grow Trabox, this time with the great aspiration to bring about transformation in Japan's logistics industry and support the future of Japan.
To all members of Visional Group, it is my pleasure to be working with you!
Minami: Logistics is an important infrastructure for various manufacturing industries. Together with our new partners from Trabox, I will devote myself to creating new possibilities for the logistics industry and contributing to the improvement of the productivity of society as a whole.
The Group will actively invest in technologies and new systems to fulfill this promise. This includes investing in talent acquisition, as well. As a matter of fact, Yuichi Ishida, who has served as CTO of GA Technologies, Inc., has already joined the management team of the new and improved Trabox led by Yoshioka. So should anyone be interested in Trabox, please don't hesitate to contact us.
In addition, Visional will continue to create new businesses to support the productivity improvement of manufacturing and business activities in fields other than HR Tech. As part of that effort, we will actively consider M&A on top of launching businesses from scratch. Please look forward to the processes we undergo in the next 10 years as we evolve to surpass all imagination.
Once again, I would like to thank Yoshioka and everyone from Trabox for joining us and being a part of the Visional Group.