Globalisation & Asia : Case studies

Maintaining leadership in high-value niche markets

The arrival of Asia

Tochigi-based Mani, a producer of precision surgical and dental equipment, generates two-thirds of sales today in Japan, the US and Europe, where its “tier one” customers reside. Offerings for “tier two” and “tier three” customers in developing economies largely follow from the products sold to tier-one markets.

Toshihide Takai, Senior Executive Vice President and CFO, believes that developing Asian economies will eventually represent a majority of sales — that markets currently categorised as “tier two’’ will become much more important to Mani’s business. To protect its advantage in a space that a lowcost, mass-producer will find difficult to take over — among other products, the firm makes 100 million disposable needles a year and each needle is inspected by a person — Mani plans to continue to focus on equipment that surgeons and dentists need to use by hand, including needles and root canal instruments. In addition, R&D will remain in Japan, staying close to what Mani believes are that market’s standard-setting demands. Yet as production shifts to locations outside of Japan, Mani is more deeply integrating management from across its operations, rotating foreign employees into Japan, for example. Indeed, Takai believes that within two years it is likely that either one or two senior company officials in its Vietnam production centre will become a board director for the company.