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An exclusive PBEC Interview with NTP Holdings Chairman Kazuo Oguri

  • NTP Group has a diverse portfolio of companies offering many products & services – can you give a brief overview how the Group has managed & performed during this pandemic, any lessons learned as Chairman of the Group?

We have shortened business hours across all our businesses and offices, and have made this known publicly. We’ve been pushing for all associates to work from home whenever possible, and asking our sales field staff, whose job is customer contact, to keep in touch with their customers remotely, and to exchange information with their managers via their mobile terminals.

In 2016, we established a Virtual Private Network to enhance our data security, which means that our associates are able to access the network securely from outside, thereby avoiding any confusion in-house. Since 2016, all of our in-house meetings have been conducted via Web conferencing, so for the past four years we have been using an online conferencing system that allows 160 offices throughout the entire Group to connect simultaneously, enabling us to communicate without any problems.

How NTP Holdings Chairman Kazuo Oguri communicates with his senior mgmt. team during Covid-19 pandemic

At the time when it was difficult to obtain masks, I was able to leverage my personal network to get hold of a three months’ supply of masks for all of our 5,400 associates. At the same time, we also distributed air purifiers and disinfectant to all of our stores, enabling us to ensure a sense of security among our associates and customers. It’s not possible to carry out vehicle maintenance remotely, so we disinfect vehicles thoroughly when they come in for service, for our associates’ safety, and then return the vehicle, sealed and labeled “Disinfected”, for the customer’s safety.

As a result of all this, during the pandemic we have been able to resolve issues that we had always wanted to tackle, such as improving the efficiency of commuting and wasteful meetings, etc., thereby increasing our time productivity and at the same time avoiding the risk of infection and enhancing our credibility in society.

These initiatives, such as online conferencing, VPN, mobile devices and salary payments based on time efficiency assessments, were not implemented just because of the pandemic. Actually, I’ve been driving these initiatives for the last four or five years. I believe that the investments and challenges that we have kept up during normal conditions, as well as our constant commitment to advancement, have resulted in these successes during times of emergency. Again, we were able to obtain masks, which were in short supply at the time, through my own personal, cross-industry personal connections and relationships of trust. This re-affirmed to me the importance of top management having good networks and being able to take action.

  • As a leading Japanese conglomerate headquartered in Nagoya in automobiles and leased vehicles amongst other things, has the Japanese market demand rebounded as yet and has the pandemic had an effect on purchasing decisions by Japanese households?

Household consumption trends can vary a great deal from industry to industry, and catering and tourism are having a very hard time. The automobile retail business, however, is performing steadily. While people seem to be avoiding public transport in the pandemic, there is renewed interest in the use of their own cars, which ensures a sanitary personal environment. And, as people begin to use their cars more often, they will become more aware of the importance of the maintenance of their vehicle, and it is expected that the vehicle maintenance business will enjoy steady growth going forward. Car leasing is expected to grow similarly to purchasing, but it is thought that car sharing will decline during the pandemic. People are much more cautious than before about sharing enclosed spaces with others.

  • PBEC likes to hear about successful sustainable related stories and closer international cooperation in the region between countries and markets. What recent successes can you share with us, the reasons behind that success and do you see new opportunities emerging for Japanese firms to expand and invest internationally within APAC, if so which countries?

We recognize that international cooperation and business ties in APAC are extremely important, hence why we felt PBEC was a good fit for our international engagement and connectivity needs. And I personally feel that, while Japanese companies’ investments and expansion into other countries are very important, in terms of employment creation, etc., I am also aware that we are coming into an age where it is important to have economic growth powered by these countries themselves as well. The core of NTP Holdings’ business is automobile retail. The trade-in of used cars is essential for new car sales, and the trade-in business is performing well. Japanese used cars tend to be relatively new models with low mileage, and well maintained with extremely high quality. Against the backdrop of the economic situation in APAC countries, the majority of people in those countries cannot afford to buy expensive new cars. By first supplying these countries with Japanese cars of guaranteed quality, we help to lay a foundation whereby more and more of the people can afford cars, their economic activity becomes more vibrant, and the economy grows to a point where they can afford to buy new cars. In this way, I believe we can avoid the wasteful disposal of automobiles and use them till the end of their useful life, thereby contributing significantly to the fulfillment of SDGs and sustainable economic activity.

Unfortunately, until now, the focus of the automobile industry has been on the manufacture and export of new cars, with little attention paid to the secondary distribution market of used cars. There are many import restrictions in place in the region, and as Vice Chairman of the Japan Automotive Dealers Association, which believes that non-tariff barriers should be discussed at the same level as FTP and TTP, and as the Chairman of its Used Vehicle Committee, I want to focus on this issue. I hope PBEC can also assist to raise awareness on this important issue.

And in the field of vehicle maintenance, as Japan’s birthrate declines and the population ages, the shortage of mechanics will become a serious challenge in the near future. There will also be an increase in the recruitment of foreign mechanics who have graduated from automobile maintenance schools in Asia and who are willing to study maintenance techniques in Japan as well as a further push towards use of AI in high value manufacturing and maintenance automation and oversight. In terms of the development of human resources and the creation of employment, there may well be significant growth on the part of automobile mechanics and systems engineers.

  • What is NTP Holdings Group doing in addition to tree planting to address mitigating its own carbon emissions as a responsible Group?

Whenever we open a new store, we introduce HEMS (Home Energy Management System), in an effort to reduce power consumption. Also, in terms of businesses, we are working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in  local communities by selling hybrid cars, plug-in hybrids and electric     vehicles.

Some years ago, we acquired ISO14001, and over the past 20 years or so we have built up considerable know-how in environmental management, such as controlling energy consumption in the operation of our stores, and controlling CO2 emissions when dismantling vehicles. We plan to continue our business based on that know-how.

  • Any tips as an accomplished leader for those seeking advice on how to navigate through the remainder of 2021 with what looks like continuing to be a tough year regardless if business is good or Any coping mechanisms?

I’m always a step ahead of the times, and so I’m not afraid to take on new  challenges. And, I’ve been able to achieve this by always being aware of what NTP stands for, ‘Nice To  People’, which is our corporate philosophy and is expressed in our company name. When I say “People”, I mean our customers, society, associates and families. I believe the value of a company’s existence and the source of its growth is the degree to which it can make people feel happy.

It is vital to be always aware of being ‘Nice To People’, rather than nice to myself, as a company and as an individual, and therefore I strive to maintain this awareness in my activities both as the operator of a private enterprise      and as a public figure. I encourage all my fellow PBEC members to follow this simple but effective ethos as we all try to cope and do our best for our clients, own companies, colleagues and employees.

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