We live in a world that is becoming increasingly digital every day. With the growing presence of email, file sharing and digital distribution even in traditionally low tech fields, it’s hard to imagine paper and printing as a growth industry. How then does one account for the staggering growth of online printing company Raksul in recent years?
Part of the answer is the difference in paper culture between East and West. In America or Europe, the fax machine is often seen as a relic that’s been replaced, like the turn dial phone or the typewriter. Not so in Japan, where 87.5% of Japanese businessmen surveyed say that “a fax machine is a crucial business tool”.
Raksul founder and CEO Yasukane Matsumoto estimates that the printing industry in Japan is worth over US$50 billion. But Japan isn’t the only market that is still thriving for paper and printing: the rest of Northeast Asia is worth about three times as much.
By 2016, Raksul had grown 50-fold since 2013 and continues to expand its user base. If you want to hear why straight from the horse’s mouth, Yasukane will be sharing his experience and insights in a special fireside session at Tech in Asia Tokyo 2017 this September 27.
Services and Model
While Raksul handles the printing needs of over 100,000 clients, the company doesn’t print any of customers’ orders itself. The company receives orders from individuals or businesses and forwards the order to a printing company that is equipped to handle the order in a timely manner. Raksul simply serves as a go between in the printing process, finding printing companies clients and finding customers printing companies for a percentage of the cost of the print job itself.
So what spices the deal for customers? Among other things, the company can also handle the distribution of printed materials. This means that if a company is printing something with the goal of delivering it to another company or a group of people, the paper can make it there without ever stopping at the client company’s office along the way. In addition to this, Raksul can make the printing process easier for customers by providing free design help. Raksul customers get access to over 2,000 free printing templates that can be customized and altered to suit clients’ needs.
It’s easy to see that if you need to print a large amount of paper and deliver it, Raksul is a more convenient option than doing it all yourself. But who exactly uses the service and why?
SMEs account for 99.7% of Japan’s companies, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Among restaurants, retailers, and service companies, advertising online or standing out to the crowd can be difficult. If you’ve ever walked out of a Japanese train station, you’ve likely seen several people handing out flyers for restaurants or shops, and this is exactly why. It’s easy to see why Raksul’s model helps stores that rely on flyers greatly. A restaurant owner can send in an order for 10,000 flyers, and without ever dealing with the papers himself, the flyers can be sent to the mailboxes of consumers within a kilometer of the restaurant. In 2015, Yasukane Matsumoto said that more than 60% of revenues came from printing and distributing flyers.
There is also a considerable untapped user base outside of Japan as well. Raksul has been looking at expansion in places like Indonesia, where the printing industry mostly relies on a physical storefront model. Compare a conventional printshop in a big city with Raksul’s: you may have to go through traffic, wait in line to place your order, and return to pick up your order. It seems like a no-brainer for a business to avoid these pitfalls by placing their order online with delivery as part of the package.
Raksul has been making strides towards several different goals recently.
In 2015, we detailed Raksul’s inroads into the Indonesian market with an investment into Indonesian printing startup Prinzio. The startup seems to be aiming to build partnerships and make strategic acquisitions in Southeast Asia, where it sees potential for growth.
In addition to territorial expansion, the startup has taken to expanding the range of its services. Two years ago Raksul broke into the shipping and general delivery market. Its Hacobell service matches shipping jobs to shipping companies in an average of only four minutes. The service is in use by over 1500 companies in Japan, with the ability to place orders quickly and reliably being a major attraction according to client testimonials.
Last year, the startup announced a partnership with Pivotal Labs with the goal of streamlining the company’s matching and order management algorithms.
Finally, just over one year ago, Raksul brought its total funding up to over US$75 million, making it one of Japan’s most funded startups.
Get the full story at #tiatokyo2017
Raksul’s story isn’t just relevant to printing and paper. From streamlining distribution to making profitable partnerships, the company has overcome challenges through savvy leadership and keen decisionmaking. Yasukane’s talk at Tech in Asia Tokyo’s Main Stage on 27 September can shed some light on the thought process and decisions that have helped Raksul make it in the Japanese startup world.
If that isn’t enough, the heads of other major players in the ecosystem will be in attendance, like Bitflyer CEO Yuzo Kano. If you want to see this and more, buy tickets today and shave 15 percent with the code tiatokyo15. This deal ends tonight, August 18, so act fast before prices increase tomorrow.
Note: This fireside session will be in Japanese, but translation devices are available.
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