June 08, 2015

08/06/2015: The Interview: Yoshimasa Tomoyasu, Executive Officer and General Manager of Asia Business Division Satake

First published in Milling and Grain, March 2015

Yoshimasa Tomoyasu originates from Hiroshima. Having joined Satake as an engineer, he was engaged on a series of projects supplying flour mills. Rising to the position of Manager of the Flour Milling Division, in 2007 he was appointed General Manager of the Asia Business Division. He is now an Executive Officer of Satake Corporation, and concurrently President of Satake Australia Pty, Ltd.     
  

Where do Satake focus their sales and marketing?
If you imagine the global rice market like a pyramid which is split into three levels, traditionally Satake’s market structure has focused on the top level of the pyramid, this is a smaller number of companies, this often represents the wealthier countries where they can afford to purchase the highest quality milling machinery to produce the highest quality rice for both their home market and for export. So here at Satake we have only been able to work for the customers at the top of the pyramid with people who can invest in our technology. 
      
As we now have very high percentages of this business we are very happy and we are now looking at the middle part of the pyramid, which if you can imagine that the top represents 500 customers, the middle can be 100 times this, so potentially 50,000 customers. 

It is for this reason we have heavily invested in R&D as there is a requirement for both economical and social quality of the machines and of course the rice.  When we talk about technology and innovation we always have to consider the stage of demand. First they must satisfy the hunger, then the next stage is they look at the appearance, and the third stage is taste and the fourth stage is safety and peace of mind.  The next stage in Japan is health which contributes to the persons sense of wellbeing. 

If we now look at the middle of pyramid we see customers who don’t necessarily focus on taste but they are looking at appearance.  Therefore they may only need the machine for the appearance of rice.  After doing more R&D we are looking to expand into areas of Africa like Nigeria, Uganda and Ghana, this we are doing now.  And needless to say there is also some top of pyramid customers in these countries.

So, where would a country like Myanmar appear on your pyramid?
This is a good question, because many years ago Myanmar was a huge exporter of rice and, as you may know they have had a number of quiet decades.  So many years ago we supplied the government in Myanmar with twenty sets of rice mills. Then 6 or 7 years ago when democracy came to Myanmar, all the mills that were owned by the government were sold off to private companies.  Many of these companies would see that everything was made by Satake and would ask, who are Satake?

We were contacted once more and now they are investing in more modern machinery and they are again exporting which allows them to pay for improved technology.

So what about markets like India for Satake?
India is one of the big markets for Satake. We are working with the top of the pyramid companies here who export to some countries, so they can afford to invest in new machinery for high quality rice for export.  We at Satake enjoy the business in India but to expand our business in India we need to enter the middle countryside of India. Therefore our office in India is its own independent business with many sub branches geographically located around India.  So now we are ready to really penetrate the whole market.  Our factory in Thailand supplies many of the machines here.

Is part of Satake strategy to produce cheaper machinery in your factories such as Thailand and China?
Well, to answer first, our policy when we build and invest in a country abroad is to build the same quality machinery for that local market. If there is surplus and we can afford to do something outside of the country we will do that. 

After we comply with the requirements in the country, the factory is located, and as the labor costs in these countries is lower than in Japan we can produce the machinery more cost effectively. If we work for the middle part of the pyramid in India, even these machines are not right for them on price as we can not compete with competitors who follow Satake. However having said this, our advantage apart from our high quality is the after sales service and training. 

Why would I buy a Satake optical colour sorting machine rather than buying one from one of your competitors, what are your USPs?
Now we have a very interesting story, we now have clients that have purchased colour-sorting machines from other companies. In the beginning our customers could not tell the difference between a Satake machine and that of a competitor. After 6 months it was completely different. The technology deteriorates and they cannot give good after sales service. Many imitator companies never touch the machine after the sale. So, many companies, having used these inferior services, are now returning back to Satake. 

So your question is very difficult, if a customer is looking towards inferior and cheaper options then we sell on performance and after sales service.

That makes sense when selling against cheap options, what about if you are selling against another quality brand?
Customers at this level are looking for quality performance and precision. We are confident that our machines can be adjusted to sort the tiniest defect. So we are confident of our superior flexibility to adapt to a customer’s individual requirements. 

Why is the small rice milling unit so popular in Japan?
To answer this I must explain a little about the rice culture in Japan, rice is treated very much like fresh fruit or vegetables.  Whenever we buy rice in Japan we look at the date and time it was milled and in a shop we choose the most recent or the freshest. There are many rice millers that will start milling at midnight to produce fresh rice. This is why the small rice-milling unit is so popular.

What makes the PeriTec system so special and what is its closest competition and have there been any new developments?
The PeriTec produces very high quality flour, by this we mean very white. There are significantly fewer specks in the flour and because of the way it works the grain, it leaves a much higher level of minerals in the flour. As many millers still test the ash content of flour to designate its quality, the PeriTec system may not be suitable as the high level of minerals produce more ash.


Read the magazine HERE.
 

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