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Toru Tokushige, Founder of Terra Motors Corporation

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Toru Tokushige, was born in 1973 in Yamaguchi prefecture. After getting BA in chemical engineering from Kyushu University, he became involved in management planning in Sumitomo Marine and Fire Insurance Co. Ltd. Straight as his first career. After working in Sumitomo, he earned MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in 2002. After earning MBA, he executed hands-on support of technological ventures as the president of an incubation enterprise in Silicon Valley. In 2010, he started Terra Motors Corporation. Toru is now a part of a project of the Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry “Session for Creation of Firms in New Industry”.

The Asian Entrepreneur is priveleged to sit down with Toru today, to learn from the extraordinary experiences and insights of this incredible entrepreneur.

Founder of Terra Motors Corporation

What exactly is Terra Motors?

Terra Motors is a start-up in Japan. Terra provides pure electric motorcycles to the world. As 80% of worlds sales of motorcycles concentrates in developing market in Asian region, Terra’s products are mainly designed to be used in Asia. Terra also provides affordable three wheelers (electric Tuk Tuk).

How did you come up with the idea of Terra Motors?

When I was working in SV, many of my friends and entrepreneurs had interest in electric vehicle. As I researched on EV an automotive industry, I realized that the big shift change from gasoline to electricity will happen soon in automotive and motorcycle industry. That was when I first came up with the idea of starting EV company. In terms of investment, building automobile company required too much investment for me. However, building motorcycle Manufacturer costs only 1/10 investment. In terms of competitors, existing Motorcycle manufacturers are not willing to provide electric motorcycles yet because of their strategy and thankcost.

In terms of human resources, Japanese 4 major motorcycle manufacturers are the best in the world. I was sure that I could hire professional engineers from these companies.

In addition Japanese products, especially motorcycles, are very popular in Asian region. Therefore, I was sure that Japanese electric motorcycles would be welcomed in the region. These are the reasons that I started from electric motorcycle.

Could you walk us through the process of starting up Terra Motors?

In 2010, I started Terra Motors with my own money. The first product was made in associated plant in China. With the products, named ”SEED”, I started to sell them in Japan to acquire second investment. In 2011, Terra sold about 3000 motorcycles in Japan and became the biggest manufacturers in domestic market. At this point, I got the second investment from famous Japanese executives, such as Mr. Idei, former CEO of Sony, and Mr Yamamoto, former vice president of Apple. Since then, professional engineers from Nissan, Panasonic, and Honda have joined Terra. As the second step, I have established two foreign branches in the Philippines and Vietnam in 2011. In 2014, Terra will have new branches in India.

How has it been like managing the business since?

When I first started Terra, many people who I spoke to said that starting motorcycle manufacturer in Japan seems to be unsuccessful because the 4 biggest manufacturers of motorcycle are all in Japan. Therefore, I had hard and long time finding the initial teammates who could see the potential of electric motorcycles. Fortunately, many telented members who had professional experiences in manufacturer industry and consulting firm have joined the team. In terms of the financial management, I have fortunately come across eminent investors in Japan who support Terra. Many. Doing business in developing market in Asia is not easy as well. Terra hires local employees in Vietnam branch. Implanting Terra’s corporate culture is very difficult as they have different culture and work ethics. As to the products, providing affordable and quality products is very difficult job. However, Terra has successfully found good suppliers which can meet the standard of Terra.

Did you find anything particularly difficult during the startup?

Starting new business in Japan is especially difficult compared to doing the same thing in other countries. Japanese peoples’ quality standard is the highest in the world. Additionally, Japanese people put great trust in famous brands such as Panasonic. Therefore, getting a retailor was very tough in Japan. To prove the quality of Terra’s products needed long and patient effort. Terra’s strategy is to start selling products in famous retailors to prove the quality and novelty of the products. We were sure that placing our products in the local motorcycle shop would not be successful. However, since major motorcycle retailors are company stores, relying on Motorcycle shops is not terra’s option. Terra tried to get a sales contract with electronics retail stores. However, most of the retailors were wary of selling motorcycles in electronics stores. We managed to get the contract with one of the top retailors in Japan and that opened the windows for contracts with other major retailors.

How was the initial reaction from the consumers?

Yes and No.

Yes, sales of our products outnumbered that of our competitors such as Honda and Yamaha. Since Terra’s products are half the price of our competitors (Terra: 120000yen, Yamaha: 250000yen), customers were very satisfied with Terra’s pricing.

No, many of Terra’s customers need more spec. 40km per full charge, 7-9 hours to full charge, and nonremovable battery are not enough to satisfy customers. Terra is now developing new products which can meet the needs of customers.

How have you managed to stay relevant in this industry?

We have gathered important resources as a basis of our business, namely, human, financial,  technical resources, and experiences in Japan.

Our main competitors are both Japanese Motorcycle giants and Chinese manufacturer about chinese company, they are have big strength for price. as we said our main market is developing countries. so, it can be really strong point. But in any market, chinese company already failed. For example in Vietnam in 2008, chinese electric motorcycle company enter that market and they sold really well. But after one year, nobody buy it. Because of quality problem and no after parts and no after service neither.

We already did this kind of things in most customer oriented market(Japan). So, we have well know-how to do this, and we have enough engineer from Yamaha, Honda and so on. Quality is also really fine.

To Japanese giant, they will not enter electric motorcycle market so fast because, they have there own and big infrastructure for gasoline motorcycle. They have lot of engineer, parts supplier, and engine infrastructure. If they change to electric suddenly, they have to cut these things. It is so difficult and even main stream become electric, they should be slow to change.

Against them, we have to have enough speed and motivation to conquer this market as pioneer and if customer know our brand as No.1 electric motorcycle brand in the world, even for japanese giant, it is really difficult to get market share.

What can you tell us about the industry? Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?

Technically, electrification of motorcycle should be easier than that of automobile. Therefore, electric motorcycle should have reached to the market sooner than automobile. However, there are fewer news on electric motorcycle than electric vehicle. This is because Major motorcycle manufacturers are not making shift from gasoline motorcycle to electric ones yet. The reason of not going into electric industry at this point is that major manufacturers do not want to make a drastic shift of their strategy. Their strategy at this point is to expand their market to Latin America and Africa. Electric motorcycles are probably the next step after they saturate these market. They have already done many investment in these regions. Making electric motorcycle require drastic change in investment and human resource. Therefore existing large company are not willing to provide affordable electric motorcycle. Same thing happened in automobile and Tesla took the chance. Terra can be Tesla in motorcycle industry.

What are your future plans for Terra Motors?

At this point, our medium term goal is to be a Tesla motors in motorcycle industry, especially in Asia. Our long term plan is to provide Terra’s products to other developing markets such as Africa and Latin America.

If you could start all over again, would you change anything about your approach? If so, what?

No. I still believe that starting from electric motorcycle was and is the best way into motorcycle and automobile industry.

What do you think about startups in Asia?

In Japan, we need more supportive attitude toward startups. Japanese culture of putting to much trust on traditional and large company should be removed.  In China and Taiwan, there are many startups blooming. Possible future competitors will come from these region.

In Other parts of Asia(South East and South Asia), I think it takes a while until startups can become bigger. Number of professional personnel is not enough. The power of government is too big. Company which cannot collaborate with government are not likely to success. This is not good for startups which normally do not have many credentials.

What are some personal principles or personal values that guide you and your career?

When I was in University, I read quite a lot of books written by Japanese entrepreneurs such as Morita Akio, the founder of Sony, and Honda Soichiro, the founder of Honda Motors. Around that time, I set up my mind that I will follow these three values, to achieve a great deed, to be an entrepreneur, to enjoy my life.  These are my personal values.

What is your definition of success?Success is accumulation of the past failures.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?I had a great influence from books written by Japanese entrepreneurs.  I was particularly amazed by the scale of their thought and their belief to contribute to better life for the people in Japan. I really thought that I wanted to be person like Akio Morita someday.

What do you think are the most important things entrepreneurs should keep in mind?

Passion and logic. I think that Entrepreneurs without passion and logic cannot be successful. You need to have right balance of passion and logical thinking.


In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?
Passion and logical thinking. I think that Entrepreneurs without passion and logic cannot be successful.
Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there?

Entrepreneurs should think of their business in the global market. There are plenty chances when you look around the world, especially in emerging market. I usually spend half a month in Asian countries and the other half in Japan. I am always amazed by the speed of the development and energy in countries like Vietnam.
Connect
Website: http://www.terra-motors.com/jp/
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/TerraMotors.jp?ref=ts&fref=ts

Entrepreneurship

Will Financial Liberalisation Trigger a Crisis in China?

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The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has been liberalizing its financial system for nearly 4 decades. While it now has a comprehensive financial system with a large number of financial institutions and large financial assets, its financial policies are still highly repressive. These repressive financial policies are now a major hindrance to the PRC’s economic growth.

The PRC is at the beginning of a new wave of financial liberalization that is necessary for supporting the country’s strong economic growth. The country’s leaders have already unveiled a comprehensive program of financial reform, which includes 11 specific reform measures in three broad areas: creating a level-playing field (such as allowing private banks and developing inclusive finance), freeing the market mechanism (such as reforming interest rate and exchange rate regimes and achieving capital account convertibility), and improving regulation.

But could financial liberalization lead to a major financial crisis in the PRC? What would be the consequences for financial stability as the PRC moves to further liberalize its financial system? If the PRC repeats the painful experiences of Mexico, Indonesia, and Thailand, then it might not be able to achieve its original goal of overcoming the middle-income trap.

International experiences of financial liberalization, especially those of middle-income economies, should offer important lessons for the PRC. In our new research, based on cross-country data analysis, we find that financial liberalization, in general, reduces, not increases, financial instability. This powerful conclusion is valid whether financial instability is measured by crisis occurrence or by fragility indicators, such as impaired loans and net charge-offs. The only exception is that financial liberalization does not appear to significantly lower the probability of systemic banking crises, although it does lower the risk indicators for banks. These results have higher statistical significance and are greater in magnitude for the middle-income group than for the entire sample.

The insignificant impact on banking crises, however, should be interpreted with caution. One of the possible explanations is that under the repressed financial regime, the government supports banks with an implicit or explicit blanket guarantee. This reduces the probability of an explicit banking crisis, although the banking risks may be even greater because of the moral hazard problem. In fact, government protection of banks could also increase the probability of a sovereign debt crisis or even a currency crisis before financial liberalization.

If financial liberalization significantly reduces the likelihood of financial crises, especially in middle-income economies, then why did some middle-income economies experience financial crises following liberalization? We further investigate whether the pace of liberalization, the supervisory structure, and the institutional environment matter for outcomes of financial liberalization.

We obtain three main findings. First, an excessively rapid pace of financial liberalization may increase financial risks. The net impact on financial instability depends on the relative importance of the “liberalization effect” and the “pace effect.” In essence, what the “pace effect” captures could simply be the prerequisite conditions and reform sequencing that are well discussed in the literature. Second, the quality of institutions, such as investor protection and law and order, also matter. International experiences indicate that investor protection can significantly reduce the probability of financial crises. Third, the central bank’s participation in financial regulation is helpful for reducing financial risks during financial liberalization. This is probably because central banks always play central roles in financial liberalization, especially in the liberalization of interest rates, exchange rates, and the capital account. If a central bank is responsible for financial regulation, its liberalization policies might be more cautious and prudent.

Our research findings offer important policy implications for the PRC. (1) Further financial liberalization is necessary not only for sustaining strong economic growth but also for containing or reducing financial risks. (2) Gradual reform may still work better than the “big bang” approach, and sequencing is very important for avoiding the painful financial volatilities that many other middle-income countries have seen. (3) The government should also focus more on improving the quality of other institutions, especially market discipline, to contain financial risks. (4) It is better for the central bank to participate in financial regulation. The new regulatory system should focus exclusively on financial stability and shift from regulating institutions toward regulating functions. It should also become relatively independent to increase accountability.

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About the Author 

This submitted article was written by  and  of Asia Pathways, the blog of The Asian Development Bank Institute was established in 1997 in Tokyo, Japan, to help build capacity, skills, and knowledge related to poverty reduction and other areas that support long-term growth and competitiveness in developing economies in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Chrissa McFarlane, Founder and CEO of Patientory

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

Chrissa McFarlane is the Founder and CEO of Patientory, a patient-centered enterprise solution on the blockchain to store, secure and access healthcare information in real-time. She is a leader and an entrepreneur with a passion for creating cutting-edge healthcare products that transform the face of healthcare delivery in the United States of America and abroad.

What makes you do what you do?
I am passionate about helping people, especially when it comes to their healthcare. This is my daily motivation for pushing forward in one of the most challenging industries to innovate.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?
Through my networks and maintaining a strong advisory board, I am able to make an impact.

Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)?
I took on the role and decided to start this startup primary to follow my passion and be an inspiration for other women who are seeking to start their own business.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
I have multiple mentors. I met them through my networks.

How did you make a match if you did, and how did you end up being mentored by him/her?
Through introductions and after speaking with them I saw a character alignment that prompted me to ask them to by my mentor.

Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
Through one on one meetings, and team building.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I consciously support diversity because a diversity of thought breeds success in the workplace. It is important to have different lenses of thought to be represented. Our company is a representation of the people we serve.

What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
A great leader in healthcare is equipped to serve the people. Unlike many other industries, healthcare is centered around sustaining the health of the human being. You certainly need to encompass a passion for seeing individuals live and lead healthy lifestyles.

Advice for others?
In building emerging technology, education is always key to success.

Our first Inaugural Blockchain Healthcare Summit will take place on May 31st in Atlanta, GA where we will discuss the current state of blockchain projects and opportunities for the future.


If you’d like to get in touch with Chrissa McFarlane, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrissamcfarlane/

To learn more about Patientory, please click here.

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