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唐卓鋒さん ワサビ・クリエーション代表

第79回 日本のチュ小企業の国際化を応援 (シンガポール)

 

 トン・チョッフォン 1983年1月、香港生まれ。香港の中国変換前、9歳の時に親とともにシンガポールへ移住。高校卒業後、2年半の兵役を経て2005年にシンガポール国立大学(NUS)工学部を卒業。同時に、使用済み食用油からバイオディーゼル燃料を製造するベンチャー企業、レインボーインターナショナル(京都市)に入社。14年5月にワサビ・クリエーション(シンガポールと京都に拠点)を設立し、日本とシンガポールを繋ぐイベント企画などを手掛けている。

 

 いわゆる「カタにはまらない」人だ。今アジアの最高学府であるNUS出身で、大学では化学・生体分子工学を専攻した。副専攻でアントレプレナーシップ(起業家精神)を学び、学生時代から数々の事業を手掛けてきた。卒業後は日本でサラリーマンをしながら、非営利活動団体(NPO)で日本の国際化に関する活動を続けて来た。

 

日本との出会いは言語から

 日本語を流暢に話す唐さん。学習を始めたきっかけは、アニメなどに興味があったからではない。シンガポールでは、小学校卒業前の全国統一試験で成績が上位10%に入れば、英語と母語に加え、第3言語を学ぶ機会が与えられる。第3言語は日本語、フランス語、ドイツ語から選べるが、アジアの言語であることと、「響きが美しい」という理由で選択した。

 日本語は中学1年生〜高校1年生の5年間(シンガポールの公立校は中学校4年、高校二年制)勉強し、高校1年生の時には日本語能力検定の1級(当時)に合格。高校卒業後の04年には、シンガポール日本人会が毎年開催している日本語スピーチコンテストに出場し、一般の部で優勝した。

 中学3年の時に初めて日本を訪れ、静岡県浜松市にホームステイ。新幹線をはじめとする先端技術と、伝統文化が共存していることに強い印象を覚えた。学校では、「上履きへの履き替えや給食、弁当など、シンガポールと何もかも違う」と感じ、「別の言語が分かると、世界を広げられる」ことに気付いた。将来的に、シンガポールと日本をつなぐ仕事をしたい、と思ったきっかけだった。

 

国際交流サークルをビジネスへ 

 ワサビ・クリエーションの原型は、唐さんが京都でサラリーマンをしていた2009年に、友達を作るために参加していた組織「ウィー・アー・ワン・ジャパン(WAO)」だ。WAOには、関西在住の外国人や国際交流をしたい日本人が集まり、唐さんはイベント・マネージャーとして花見や花火大会への参加、写真撮影会などを企画していた。

 当初は、外国人が日本を楽しむための遊びサークルだったが、交流サイト(SNS)や口コミで会員数が増え、4000人近くになると、話を聞きつけた京都の染物業者や織物業者などから「海外で売るために、外国人の反応を見たい」と呼ばれることが多くなった。「日本の中小企業と海外をつなぐことはビジネスになる」と思い、京都でワサビ・クリエーションを立ち上げた。

 社名のワサビは、初めて生のワサビを見た時に「いつも使っていたワサビ」と同じものだと分からず、「日本の文化を知っているつもりでも、分からない部分はまだまだある」と気付いたことが由来。海外で知られていない日本の魅力を見つけて、広めることを氏名に設立したので社名にした。

 京都では、企業の海外マーケティングやウェブ多言語化などの依頼があり、収入は安定していたものの、「日本ではよくシンガポールのことを聞かれたが、社会人としてシンガポールにいたことがなく、全く分からなかった」ため、生の現地情報を日本に伝えるべく、14年2月にシンガポールへ帰国。NUSが運営するインキュベーション事業「NUSエンタープライズ」が持つ施設をオフィスにしている。

 

中小企業のビジネス・クラブ

 シンガポールでは、ビジネス交流会、シンガポール映画の日本の映画祭への出展支援など多様な事業を展開しているが、いま注力しているのは、「SMEワン・アジア・アワード」だ。アジアの優秀な中小企業を表彰し、知名度をあげる事で企業がアジア展開をする上でのネットワーク作りを支援する事業で、シンガポールの企業家たちが立ち上げたAPFグループが主催する。同アワードへの日本企業の参加を促すのが、ワサビ・クリエーションの役割だ。

 海外に進出したい中小企業の悩みは、ネットワークがないことと、日本では有名でも現地では知名度が低く、ネットワークを築くにもアポが取りづらいこと。同アワードは表彰した企業をメディアに露出させることで、ネットワークづくりを容易にするのが狙い。来年からは、日本で海外進出を検討している企業を対象にする。

 「日本はアジア唯一の先進国だが、日本に住んでみて意外だったのは、海外に行った事のない人が多く、国際化はそれほど進んでいないこと」という。「日本の中小期魚は、なかなか現地のビジネス・コミュニティーに入り込めないので、国際交流ができる『クラブ』を作りたい」と展望を話した。(シンガポール&ASEAN版編集・大谷聡)

 

 

■社名:株式会社エヌ・エヌ・エー の記載
  
■URL http://www.nna.jp/ の記載
  
■この記事は、アジア経済ビジネス情報を発信するNNA(株式会社エヌ・エ ヌ・エー)の許可を得て掲載しています。


■当該記事の日付 2015年10月13日

Tong Cheuk Fung CEO of WASABI Creation

 

Vol.79 Supporting Japanese small and mid-sized company’s globalization  (in Singapore)

 

 

 

Tong Cheuk Fung was born in Hong Kong, January of 1983. Before Hong Kong was returned to China, he moved to Singapore with his parents at the age of 9. After graduating from high school, he served for the military force for two and a half years and in 2005, he acquired Singaporean citizenship. Four years later, in 2009, he graduated from engineering department at NUS and at the same time, he started working for a venture company, Rainbow International (Kyoto), which creates biodiesel energy from used cooking oil. In May of 2014, he started WASABI creation (based in both Kyoto and Singapore) and since then, he has been working on events and projects to connect Japan and Singapore.

 

 He is, so to speak, an unconventional man. He studied at one of the top universities in Asia and studied chemical molecular and bio-molecular engineering. He studied entrepreneurship as his sub-major study and has worked on quite a few projects since then.  After graduation, he continued his activity related to globalization of Japan at a non-profit organization, while he worked as a company employee.

 

 

His engagement of Japan came from his interest in the Japanese language

 

Mr. Tong speaks Japanese fluently. He did not start studying Japanese because he was interested in Japanese animation. In Singapore, students are given the chance to study a third language if they score within the top 10% on the nationally standardized test, which students take before graduating from elementary schools. Third language include Japanese, French and Germany. Tong chose Japanese because he wanted to study an Asian language, and also because he thought that the pronunciation of Japanese was sounded beautiful.

 Tong studied Japanese for five years from first year at secondary school to first year at junior college  (Public Singaporean schools consist of four years at Secondary school and two years at junior college) and he passed for the highest level (at that time) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test when he during his first year at junior college. In 2004, after graduating from junior college, he participated in a speech contest held by the Japanese Association and achieved victory.

 Tong visited Japan for the first time when he was in his third year at secondary school and stayed in Hamamatsu city, Shizuoka Prefecture. Tong had a strong impression that advanced technology such as bullet trains and traditional cultures coexisted in Japan. In school he felt that, from things such as lunch box, school lunch served in the classroom and changing shoes when going into the school building, everything was different from Singapore.  At the same time, he realized that when you understand a different language, you could broaden your world. This was why he wanted to pursue a career in which he can connect Japan and Singapore in the future. 

 

Making an International Exchange Circle into Business

 

Wasabi Creation originates from a group in Kyoto called “We Are One Japan (WAO)”, which Tong joined to make friends while he was working as a company employee in 2009.People in Kansai, who were foreigners or who wished to have international exchange joined WAO, and Tong was the event manager of the group. He organized projects for the group to join firework events, have photo shoots and do Hanami.

 

At first, WAO was just for fun, however, the number of members increased through SNS and spreading of words, and reached as high as 4000 later on. Dyeing and textile merchants in Kyoto who heard about WAO started inviting them often saying “We want to see the reaction of foreigners so that we could sell our products abroad in the future.” This made Tong believe that he can create his own business by connecting Japanese small and mid-sized companies with other countries and he started WASABI Creation in Kyoto.

 

The company name WASABI comes from his experience in which he realized that though he thought he understood Japanese culture, there were still so many things that he did not know about, from seeing a real raw wasabi for the first time and not realizing that that was the same wasabi he used everyday.  He made it his mission to spread Japanese culture abroad, and this was why he used WASABI for his company name.

 

In Kyoto, there were job requests such as foreign marketing for the company and translation for websites. Tong’s income was stable. However, he went back to Singapore in February of 2014. Tong had never lived in Singapore as a working member of society and had no clue how to answer when he was asked about Singapore.

He wanted to be able to share raw local information with people in Japan. He uses one of the facilities that is owned by the incubation project organized by NUS, “NUS Enterprise”.

 

 

Business Club for Mid and Small Sized Companies

 

In Singapore, WASABI Creation works on various projects such as business networking events and supporting Singaporean films to be exhibited in Japanese film festivals. However, what WASABI Creation puts its efforts in the most now is the ‘SME One Asia Award’. In this event, proficient Asian mid and small sized companies will be awarded, which will help them increase their visibility and support them to create the network they will need in order to develop their business in Asia. This event is hosted by the APF group, which consists of Singaporean entrepreneurs and it WASABI Creation’s role is to suggest to the Japanese companies to participate in this event.

 

The issues that mid and small sized companies have are things like that they don’t have the network and that even if they want to create one, they can’t get an appointment because even if they were famous in Japan, they have a low profile in other countries. The event’s objective is to make networking easier for companies by exposing awarded companies to the media. From next year, they are also going to target Japanese companies that are trying to develop business abroad.

 

Tong claims, “Even though Japan is the only developed county in Asia, many people have never been abroad and there is not much progress in terms of globalization.  I was surprised by this fact.” He shared his future desire with us saying, “I want to create a ‘club’ for Japanese mid and small sized companies to have international exchange because they can rarely become a part of the local business community.”

(Singapore & ASEAN Writer Satoshi Otani)

 

 

Contact Us: EMAIL: hi@wasabicreation.com TEL: +65 8656 7631 LINE: HAMAMATSU1999 WECHAT: UncleTongcf

WASABI Creation Pte. Ltd. 6 Raffles Boulevard, Marina Square, JustCo, #03-308 Singapore 039594