In SUGEE Person Interview, we introduce people from abroad living in Osaka and Kansai area who are trying to realize their unique ideas in their fields.
This time we interviewed Mr. Tejas Chotai who has started his SaaS business for the energy industry in Japan. As a new entrepreneur in Osaka, he spoke to us about his experience here.
Interviewee profile: Tejas Chotai
I am an entrepreneur based in Osaka with over 8 years. My previous career as an engineer in Oil and Gas industry has blessed me with opportunity to work in four different countries (Canada, Japan, Australia and Brazil). My studies and professional background is in mechanical engineering. Before starting my current cloud software business I have self-taught programming so I can launch my business without outsourcing the development to others.
Company Profile: RENPA GK
Renpa GK was founded in 2019 and it is a company of one (just myself) offering reverse auction cloud software for businesses looking to reduce their utility bills.
Thank you for accepting our interview Mr. Chotai. First of all, tell us about your current business and your company in Osaka?
My company is called RENPA GK. I develop and sell cloud softwares for B to B procurement sector. I provide software as a service to businesses.
My product name is ENE-Nyusatsu.
It’s a reverse auction software where companies with large electricity bills, like factories owners and building operators, can host a reverse auction, inviting many electricity suppliers to bid against one another. Company can then select suppliers of their choice based on the result of the auction. After deregulation in the retail electricity sector in 2016 hundreds of new players have entered the retails electricity market. Leaving businesses with too many options to choose their electricity supplier. Making it difficult and confusing for companies to select best suppliers. ENE-Nyusatsu helps companies eliminate this problem.
It looks you are so interested in the electricity industry. Why did you choose this industry for your business?
I was an engineer in the oil and gas industry before I started my own software business. So although not directly related to electricity retail, I was already in the energy market in broad terms. That’s where my interest in my current business came from.
Could you tell us what happened until you started a business in Osaka?
I used to live in Osaka in my childhood when my parents moved here for work. When I decided to start my own company I chose to come back here after 15 years.
I was in Canada during university and I worked there for one year as well. After that I lived and worked in Yokohama, Australia and Brazil for few years each. I resigned my job in Brazil, moved to Osaka and started working on developing my software product. When the software was ready, I incorporated and started selling it to my clients.
Why did you choose Osaka as your business location?
Japan is the third largest economy in the world which is one reason I was attracted to doing business here. I chose Osaka because, having spent many of my childhood years here, I felt comfortable in this city and also because it is the second largest business center in the country after Tokyo.
Tokyo is just two and a half hours, Fukuoka is in four hours and Nagoya is in 1 hour away by Train from Osaka. I find it to be a convenient place to have my business.
When I make sales calls/emails to my target customers I found fellow Osaka-based companies are more receptive and supportive compared to companies in other locations. This was a surprising plus side to be based in Osaka.
How do you think what are difficult points of starting your own business?
One of the first issue I faced with opening a bank account at major banks. Apparently if you are a software firm using a coworking space as your office, major banks won’t allow you to open an account with them. You need to have either a office lease, or be selling some physical goods, or both. I eventually got to open an account at one of the regional banks.
Sales is my biggest struggle at the moment. As majority of my target users are large companies, I find it difficult to get in touch with the decision makers within their organization. Cold calling and cold emailing don’t seem to be reaching the decision makers as much as I expected. I’m trying out different ways to overcome this issue. But it’s still in progress.
How about Japanese language? This is also the most difficult point for people from abroad who want to start a business in Japan.
Fortunately I learned to speak the language when I was here as a child so it is not a problem for me. However I can see why it would be a big, if not the biggest issue if I didn’t know how to speak the language. For example I used an online guide called “freee” to learn how to incorporate and register my company. They guide you through the steps of registering a company easy-to-follow manner. But it’s only available in Japanese. If I didn’t speak Japanese, I know I would’ve struggled a lot more just to get my company registered.
Do you have something that you should have done before you started a business?
For my first product ENE-Nyusatsu, I built the program of the product, then try to sell it to customers. However, looking back at it now, I should have talked to my target users a lot more before I started building my product. This could’ve saved me lot of time and effort for rework. I think that’s one thing I would do differently for my next products. Talk to target customers before developing a product!
How do you see your business going forward?
I want my business to expand into different sectors of B to B procurement. Not just in the energy market, but also in manufacturing for example.
Also my current product is only for domestic market but in the future I want to create a product that can solve problems for businesses worldwide.
Lastly, please give a message to the future entrepreneurs in Osaka or Japan from abroad.
Wish you good luck and I hope to meeting up with you somewhere along the journey!
This interview is held on 24th January.