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June 23, 2020 | By Masanori TONEGAWA

Coronavirus and Companies

- The Playing Field and the Game will Change in Future

Calls to stay at home, as a measure against novel coronavirus infection, have been in effect in Japan since April 7th. The state of emergency was lifted on May 25, and restrictions on movement between prefectures were completely canceled in June 19. Movement of people going back and forth was lively on Saturday June 20, the first unrestricted weekend. It was the first free weekend in 75 days. I felt that, at last, life was returning to normal, at least a little.

Major countries are concerned about a “second wave” of novel coronavirus infection. In Japan, the first wave took four months, from February to May. The second wave is expected to arrive between fall and winter, and could continue for seven months, from November through to May. Companies will be placed under new restrictions to prevent infection, and the playing field will change. The way they play will also have to change. Transformed business models are essential for getting through the crisis.

For example, as a company, we have leveraged trade shows as a way to help foreign companies to enter the Japanese market. Staging real trade shows will be very difficult for a while at least. But we can’t just sit and wait for the coronavirus crisis to pass. We are working to build a new business platform that brings real and online elements together. Conventionally, in real events, there was some degree of restriction on how far people could physically move and gather together for B2B business matching. For example, when we set up one-on-one trade talks in Tokyo, few buyers are willing to spend three hours and USD300 to travel by Shinkansen from Osaka, the second city behind Tokyo. With the shift to online talks, people can participate from anywhere in Japan.

I think companies which have the following three things will be able to survive: Ability to adapt to change, digital development, and earnest endurance. “Gaman” (endurance) and “shinbo” (patience) have long been bedrock Japanese values. Will companies be able to adapt to the new environment, and find ways to make money in a digital age, while their endurance holds? This is the moment of truth for us, as it is for many Japanese companies.