Despite the economic uncertainty facing Japan, there is always a demand for high-end quality products, especially in the areas of interior design and leisure. One company that is importing and distributing some impressive items is Modernity Co Ltd, headed by Frenchman Regis Verin.
Based on the concepts of design and technology, Modernity currently handles three European brands – Parrot wireless speakers, Revo Internet radios and Diesel lighting collection – which is distributes through high-end stores like Conran, Bals and Axis.
Modernity displayed its products recently at the Interior Lifestyle exhibition at Tokyo Big Sight.
After arriving in Japan in 1990, Verin worked at the French Embassy for two years. He then started a company to assist European companies develop their business activities in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan, with particular emphasis on fashion and accessories. In 2007, he joined consulting firm PMC, where he still continues with consulting activities.
GaijinPot, together with Japan Today editor Chris Betros visits Verin at his office in Azabu to hear more.
We now import and distribute three brands—Parrot, which is a French company specializing in wireless technology. One of their core products is a digital photo frame, connectable to Internet and integrating Bluetooth technology. Once you input your email address into the frame, you can take a photo with your cell phone, for example, and send it to the frame. You can give it to your mother in another country, set it up for her, and then send her photos of your family every week.
Parrot also has Zikmu speakers designed by Philippe Starck. Designed to radiate sound 360 degrees, the speakers have a dock for iPhones or iPods, and can also stream music from PCs. You can control your speakers and iPhone from the comfort of the sofa using the intelligent remote control.
Another brand is a lighting collection from Diesel that integrates the latest tech for lighting with a very modern design from Italy.
The third brand, from the UK, is the Revo Internet radio player that includes iPhone and iPod docking and connects to Internet wifi. You can get 16,000 radio stations worldwide.
What sort of interest did these products get at the recent exhibition at Tokyo Big Sight?
There was quite a lot of interest. The market needs things other than products developed by Apple and other big names. By having a Modernity booth, our mission was to show new aspects of modern life. A lot of retail stores and potential buyers came, particularly interior decorators and hospitality businesses.
Where do you distribute your products?
We only specialize in high-end products and distribute through stores such as Conran, Bals and Axis. You can order online as well. For example, I think there are many foreigners in Japan who would love to be able to listen to their radio stations from back home and I expect the Revo Internet radio to do very well.
How do you market the company?
So far, we have been developing a network of about 60 high-end retailers in Japan, as well as online for speakers. We would like to develop B2B business with interior decorators, so that when they have a project, a hotel or restaurant, we can recommend our products.
You’ve been assisting foreign companies trying to succeed in Japan for 20 years. How tough do you think the market is?
If the quality of the product and after-sales service is high, you can succeed. Perhaps, 20 years ago, it would have been impossible to gain recognition for high-end electronic products from the UK or France, but nowadays, Japanese are more prepared to buy electronics which are not Japanese.
How has the ongoing recession affected your business?
We are in a niche market which is less affected by the economic downturn because there are always some people who want to have, or rather I should say enjoy, the latest technology and interior designs in their daily life.
What is your criteria for choosing products to handle?
I go to overseas exhibitions and see a lot of state-of-the-art products. But it has to be innovative in terms of technology and something fresh in design, then how I feel about it and if I think Japanese people would like it.
What about market research?
Generally, if a company wants to know if their product will do OK in Japan, we’ll use our network to test the market.
Are you looking at other markets besides Japan?
Yes, we are developing this business in Indonesia where I see great potential for the Zikmu speakers and Internet radio. The number of rich people is growing and many other brands don’t consider it to be a priority market.
What is a typical day for you?
I come here about 8 and finish at 8. Throughout the day, I will deal with a lot of emails, meeting retailers, coordinating deliveries and so on. I still do some consulting work for PMC.
And when you are not working?
I like traveling to Izu to enjoy the beach and BBQs and spending time with my family.