Blockchain: Hype or Real? President of Blockchain Association, Tokyo, Clarifies
With technology, innovation is always around the corner. Some more than others. We have all seen the hikes in interest and following for tech innovations to have them fizzle out. We saw it when Virtual Reality was going to ‘eat-the-world’, but it didn’t. We saw it when ‘Drones’ were going to do it, but they didn’t. They did capture a niche, but they never escalated to something great, like the Internet.
We are at the start of another such upswing. To be fair, it’s not really a start but something that has been under the radar for too long. No, we are not talking about Bitcoins. Take a step further back, and you will get to the topic, Blockchain.
Now we are going one-on-one with a tech and business expert who has built a wild following over his views on blockchain and related market activation.
Here we are talking to Kohei Kurihara, a renowned voice in support of the high-flying tech, blockchain. Kohei started with multiple marketing and social exploits. He went fast and long to soon start his own company guiding enterprises to expand in Japanese markets. With his expertise in branding and consumer behaviors, Kohei has grown his stature in quick time.
He eventually found his way to start his second company, CollaboGate, with a vision to bring different players, companies, governments, and tech experts on the same page for blockchain implementation.
It was a privilege to dive into the latest in technology with Kohei, who is also the President of Tokyo Chapter at the Government Blockchain Association, Japan. Here’s a transcript or guide of the interview.
- What are the best practices for a global company to enter Japanese markets?
Kohei: It was a healthy network which helped us meet and lead to this interview. So, the first advice would be…
‘Grown local networks, build a local relationship, and become familiar with the unique business culture in Japan’.
Japanese philosophy and business style has made it the No. 3 GDP country in the world. It requires a customized strategy where it’s more about lasting business relations rather than short acquaintances.
At a corporate level, focus on building the market with profit sharing and favors when you start from scratch here. Even at a personal level, invite your clients to social interactions like drinks or parties to build a stronger bond. Once the trust factor sets in, the cordial business relations continue further along the length of the association.
- How would the logistics market develop in Japan considering the increasing e-commerce demand?
Kohei: The average Japanese e-commerce customer expects their deliveries to be on-time in any and all conditions. Planning logistics movement with these requirements becomes a problem. Amazon and Rakuten, local e-commerce giant, have been pushing online shopping growth here. With the growth in the market and players, problems within proper logistics movement come up more. Yamato holdings and Japan Post are increasing shipping staff and building up their own delivery network to solve the hassles.
However, logistic business models here are multiple-layer outsourcing models which retain decade-old primitive planning methods.
Government is taking this up seriously and are attempting to restructure the logistics ecosystem. However, it is still not going well. Each delivery corporation themselves set premium price slots and control volume of shipping. Better connected drivers and vehicles in a shared ecosystem are being considered as options to better the system, but it’s still at an early stage.
- Retail and e-commerce companies have taken up the opportunity to upgrade their logistics set-up using technology-backed optimization, which means using machine-learning algorithms to suggest better and faster routes to make quick deliveries. How well is the Japanese market inclined towards adopting new and better technologies to improve their businesses and end-customer experience?
Kohei: Technology solutions are being applied to solve the issues and prevent loss of time and delayed or missed deliveries. Yamato Transport has released new service where the customers can change their delivery address and shipping time. Retail and online merchants are adopting their own API to improve customer service. They are collaborating with message apps like ‘LINE’ to handle customer inquiries.
Artificial Intelligence bots will talk to these customers with proper communication protocols, with reading nuance to readjust some requirements. Sagawa holdings are currently even developing AI-based image recognition technology.
Machine learning will soon study features and allocate pickups and deliveries without human handling.
Logi-Tech is slated to solve multiple problems, but it has just started.
- Given your expertise in Blockchain, in your opinion what are the top challenges, such as safety, scalability, and willing decentralization of data (as in why would an enterprise want to decentralize its core data) with the adoption of Blockchain by enterprises? And how would technology develop to overcome these challenges?
Kohei: In the logistics market, warehouse administration and delivery optimization are expected to develop with peer to peer technology adoption. Amazon and Alibaba even have experience with autonomous robotic maintenance.
IoT censorships have already spread out with some limited manipulation. That’s why as a decentralized processor, blockchain and similar technology will be working out in near future. Besides, Alibaba has announced the acquisition of patents for cross-border logistic service. Their platform, T-Mall, will make use of this technology to verify shipping information, prevent counterfeit and ensure genuine items. IBM and Walmart have been taking steps to streamline cross-border logistic networks with blockchain to discern product quality.
- Considering that Blockchain isn’t new, why has the world taken up by its potential only in the past year? There are people who would say that there is hype surrounding Blockchain which might lead to misinterpretations and misrepresentations. How would you respond?
Kohei: Blockchain is one of decentralized processing methodology use nowadays to add smart contract mechanism inside ecosystems. Of course, blockchain has several aspects that we have not been able to perfect with the conventional approach, but they are other benefits.
In order to disseminate new technology movement, promoting the name and concept is a key driver to bring public attention. However, technology is only as good as it’s user experience and usability.
To be implemented in a real economy, we must think of both, non-stressful customer communication and to evaluative feedback respectively.
I believe, if we can continue to work out and people come to use it a lot, blockchain will be an actual solution, not just idealistic rumors.