Alex Fuhrer - Business in Japan and Hong Kong, Kawada, Longshore
(Alex at Kite and Rocket in NY)
In 2016 I started working at Nextoy, a New York based company that specializes in getting new toy and game ideas produced. Nextoy collaborates with inventors and global toy companies to bring innovative new products to the market. This led me to a recent opportunity to work in both Japan and Hong Kong with Kawada, an influential Japanese toy company and wholesaler, and at Longshore, perhaps the world's leading games factory in HK and China.
Japanese business culture is fundamentally different from Western culture, which can lead to awkward misunderstandings. On my first day at Kawada’s office, I was brought floor to floor to meet every division of the company. Each person greeted me with a smile and a bow while I timidly waved back, unsure at which point to stop waving or if I should try bowing too. What happens if we bump heads bowing at the same time?!
(Alex and the Kawada team)
Japan is a land of nuance, grace, politeness, and manners- different from my experiences living recently in Brooklyn! Among the many cultural differences, there are social and business protocols that are particular to Japan. A notable application of this was the lengthy and careful team decision making process. The process can take days or weeks and once a decision is reached it has been carefully vetted and is unlikely to change. For example, when reviewing a new game submission, first a few members of the R&D team will assess the concept and gauge whether it’s worth taking a closer look at. If it strikes intrigue, then it’ll be evaluated by the entire department, as well as the sales and marketing divisions and all senior management. If there’s still interest, there will be several follow-up meetings to discuss the item, and each individual involved will be asked to voice their opinion on the pros/cons of the product. Some of these meetings can have more than 20 people present, and can last for hours until a collective decision is reached.
(Alex and the Longshore team)
Once a decision is made by companies such as Kawada to go ahead with a project, the next step is getting it made which usually means at a Chinese factory. Longshore is one such organization and contributes to the product development, engineering, tool making and manufacturing. They produce all types of toys and games, from skill and action, cards, board games, and technology. There’s a saying in the toy industry that goes “price, schedule, quality - pick any two” and this is Longshore’s burden and they manage to do a fine job on all 3. The manufacturing process is complicated, and it was amazing to see the number of resources and level of expertise involved, from engineering, model making, tool building, testing, costing, quality control, supply chain management and the factory workers who assemble the products. It was so impressive how Longshore coordinates these elements seamlessly.
Hong Kong has been going through massive protests, and meanwhile over at Longshore we were developing goofy games to make people laugh. The contrasting energy was evident, and it really emphasized the importance of bringing fun products into the world.