Otsuka People Talk
President Director of P.T. Amerta Indah Otsuka
Localizing management is our principal focus, and in this sense, I think we are ahead of most Japanese companies.
He joined Otsuka Pharmaceutical in 1990. After working in nutraceutical sales, he was transferred in 2000 to an affiliate in Indonesia, where he has worked for 13 years. He is the head of the management and the only Japanese person at the Indonesian affiliate that manufactures and sells POCARI SWEAT and SOYJOY products.
In collaboration with NHK Enterprises, Inc.
Some 3,500 Otsuka Group employees work in Indonesia
In 1974, the Otsuka Group established P.T. Otsuka Indonesia, its first company in Indonesia. At the start, P.T. Otsuka Indonesia handled only IV solutions, but it has since expanded into pharmaceutical and nutritional products too. Today the Otsuka Group employs about 3,500 workers at a total of five companies in Indonesia.
The lone Japanese employee
At Otsuka, we believe that management and operations of our overseas affiliates should be entrusted to employees from those countries; localizing management is our principal focus, and in this sense, I think we are ahead of most Japanese companies. This philosophy is why we have very few Japanese employees working at our companies in other countries, and in fact I am the only one from Japan where I work. In the beginning, I wasn't even able to answer the office telephone, and I had to look hard to find something I was capable of doing so that I too could contribute.
Reciting the benefits of POCARI SWEAT every day
We began marketing POCARI SWEAT in Indonesia in 1989. Although most people today know what POCARI SWEAT is, back around 2000 the brand recognition was low, and of course the name Otsuka Pharmaceutical was not very well known either. We realized that if we wanted to change this and boost our brand strength, it was vital that our own employees fully understood POCARI SWEAT. So we drilled them on this, having them recite the attributes and benefits of POCARI SWEAT before starting work each day.
A different culture, a different promotional campaign
Most of the population of Indonesia is Muslim, and very few people here drink alcohol, and in fact there is no word for "hangover" in the Indonesian language. Also, most people take showers rather than soaking in hot baths, so campaigns featuring scenes of people drinking POCARI SWEAT to rehydrate when they have a hangover or after getting out of the bath wouldn't be effective here. Getting a good understanding of the local market for sales promotions was difficult.
First POCARI SWEAT factory in Indonesia opened in 2004
I think typically in Japan the idea would be to form a company, set up facilities, and get production up and running, but at the time, we didn't have a lot of capital and sales were not that strong. So we moved forward very slowly, very gradually. First, we formed a sales and marketing company, and only when we were ready to operate a factory on our own did we start production here. In 2004, we established the Sukabumi Plant, the first POCARI SWEAT factory in Indonesia, and in 2010, we opened our second factory, the Kejayan Plant.
The growth in POCARI SWEAT sales today has a great deal to do with economic development and increasing health consciousness in Indonesia. These factors, we believe, have really helped us increase sales.
Factory acts as setting for connecting with local community
When we built our new factory in 2010, we also set up a small private school on the grounds. Our factory can not readily employ large numbers of people, so we were looking for ways to contribute to the local community. Employees decided to get neighborhood residents together and offer lessons in English, Indonesian, and mathematics. This is a great way to connect with people in the local community. We aren't merely providing facilities and bringing in outside teachers; our employees teach the children themselves, which makes the connection with the local community that much deeper.
Ever-present sense of isolation and the importance of family
I am always lonely. As the head of a local Otsuka affiliate, I am the only Japanese person on the staff here, and being the one who makes the final decisions can be tough. But at the same time, the need to take decisive action based on firm conviction and determined resolve brings me courage.
Family is very important to me, and when I took this position in 2000, my family moved here with me. My eldest son was six months old at the time, but when my family returned to Japan, he was in the eighth grade and my younger one was in sixth grade, so they have both grown up in Indonesia.