Ep 34 – Solving Japan’s productivity problem – with Hiroki Kudo

Hiroki_kudoDid you know that Japan’s white collars have the lowest productivity level among the G7 countries? According to my guest, Hiroki Kudo, this may be explained by the extensive number of hours that salarymen stay at the office. But staying late at night at an office is not synonym of efficacy.

In a previous business, Hiroki realized that there is a lot of cumbersome admin work when doing business in Japan: from accounting, to tax payment, to salary calculations etc. He explains that companies should rather spend that time focusing on their core business. Therefore, he set himself the mission to fight against low productivity in Japan. In 2011, that led him to launch MerryBiz, an online bookkeeping service and the first company which developed a system to make receipts visible online in Japan.

Hiroki explains how OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology combined with Artificial Intelligence will revolutionize his business and in turn simplify companies bookkeeping process. As you’ll discover, bookkeeping has a lot to do with a country’s culture, and it is not that easy to outsource it to a different country where labor costs might be cheaper.

In this interview, we also discuss a lot about archaic work practices in Japan and how companies can change their bad working habits. As Hiroki explains however, Japan’s ageing population makes it hard for many corporation to become more digital as the elderly might be reluctant to embrace new technologies. So how can we make Japan more productive ? That’s the central question we’re trying to address in this episode.

Questions: How can Japan be more productive? How can companies be more digital? (reply in the comments)

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  • (2:59) Starting from own pain at previous company
  • (7:35) How MerryBiz works
  • (9:08) Encouraging women to work
  • (10:44) The cultural aspect of receipts
  • (13:12) Admin work and process optimisation
  • (16:02) Excel adoration in Japan and Cloud service adoption
  • (21:57) New business opportunities in admin work
  • (23:35) AI applied to bookkeeping
  • (28:05) changing archaic business practices
  • (32:34) legal change to only keep digital receipts
  • (35:37) Is Japan corp. getting more digital?
  • (37:26) Making Japan more productive
  • (41:14) Quick-fire questions

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