Biomedical Consulting International Aims to Triple Japan Consultants by Year's End
March 2011 -- Biomedical Consulting International (BCI) helps biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies develop their products faster and register them with regulatory authorities around the world. Founded in 1999, BCI recently opened a Japan office to help Japanese companies prepare their products for overseas markets and to help overseas companies prepare their products for Japan. President of BCI, Dr. Satish Tripathi, spoke to us about how he started the business there and how working with JETRO helped BCI begin its business in Japan sooner than it would have on its own.
Opportunities in Japan
On visits to Japan while working for some of the world's largest pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device companies, Dr. Tripathi saw that consulting as a profession in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries was not as well established in Japan as in other markets. Japan is also a member of the International Conference on Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH)--an organization that seeks to achieve greater harmonization in drug registration in Europe, Japan and the U.S. Dr. Tripathi saw an opportunity to develop BCI's consulting practice in Japan. "One of the things that is not well known is that--at least in the generic area--not many Japanese pharma and biotech companies have gone outside of Japan," he said. "Also, a lot of overseas companies go to Japan but later in the game--after the U.S. and Europe. There is opportunity to help Japanese companies register their products outside of Japan and also to help companies from outside of Japan to really start doing business there."
Working with JETRO to Set up the Office
To take advantage of these opportunities, BCI established a Japan office and worked with JETRO to do so. "The Japanese market can be difficult to enter," said Dr. Tripathi, "but because of JETRO's help--for us at least--it was fairly easy. JETRO was able to provide pretty much everything we needed." Services JETRO was able to provide at no cost to BCI included:
- Giving BCI an overview and time estimate for establishing a Japan office
- Giving BCI information on pharmaceutical companies in Japan
- Setting up meetings for BCI during Dr. Tripathi's trip to Japan. "JETRO set us up with maybe 20 to 30 meetings during just a week's time," he said.
- Making introductions to attorneys, human resource firms, accounting, finance and payroll experts, and organizations helpful to beginning BCI's business in Japan
- Making sure BCI understood regulatory requirements, such as needing a representative director to establish a kabushiki kaisha (KK), or wholly-owned independent subsidiary
- Introducing BCI to Japan's banking system (see below)
- Making available to BCI free temporary office space and the JETRO business library
"In the absence of JETRO, it would have been hard for us to have considered going to Japan that quickly," said Dr. Tripathi. "Even though Japan is a member of ICH and because of other business reasons, we may have been wanting to go. I think we would have easily delayed that in favor of, say for example, going to Latin America and Australia and the west coast of the United States before going to Japan. But JETRO did an outstanding job in helping us enter Japan very quickly."
"In the absence of JETRO, it would have been hard for us to have considered going to Japan that quickly."
Dr. Tripathi looks forward to growing BCI's Japan business
at a good clip. Currently, BCI's Japan office hires a new consultant about every other month. It aims to have 10 consultants by the end of 2011. In the time that BCI has been in Japan, "we've made quite a bit of progress," said Dr. Tripathi, "so it tells me that there is definitely some untapped opportunity there. At present, our Japan business is doing as well as our European business. Japan is going to remain very important for us."
"Japan is going to remain very important for us."
Insight & Advice
From his experience working in Japan, Dr. Tripathi provided some insight and advice into doing business there:
- Visit Japan early and often from the perspective of starting a new business. I had been visiting Japan as an employee of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, but when you're starting up your own business, it's very different.
- Getting your foot in the door can be a little harder than in other markets. You often need to be introduced by somebody; you have to build your reputation. And I think that's one aspect that can take time.
- Japan's banking system is different. In Japan, you don't get a checkbook before you've done business for a couple of years, and you don't get a credit card until you've done business for several more years. The other thing is that there are very few banks that provide statements in English. We worked with JETRO to look for a bank that could provide statements in English. Statements in English are provided on a fee basis.
- Appreciate the culture. Learn some of the Japanese business practices and also very quickly figure out what works in Japan
- Get in touch with JETRO. Once we got into the idea of going to Japan, JETRO made it much easier to move forward. They were very proactive. Whatever we needed support for, they went all the way to obtain the information and share it with us. It's rare to find that kind of support and help to get a project started.
Japan Company Profile
||Biomedical Consulting International KK
||3, aims to have 10 by end of 2011
||Regulatory and product development consultants for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries
||Kamiyacho MT Building 14F
3-20 Toranomon 4-chome
||Biomedical Consulting International, Inc.
*Note: The opinions contained in this article are based on the experiences of the interviewee. They are not representative of all experiences in Japan or working with Japanese companies, and do not reflect the opinions of JETRO.
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"Setting up a Business" flowchart