Interview with Mr Masahiro Okafuji

Face2Face
Mr Masahiro Okafuji
Mr Masahiro Okafuji
President [Textile]& Sr MD [ITOCHU Corporation]
ITOCHU Corporation
ITOCHU Corporation

Established in 1858 by the founder Mr Chubei Itoh, ITOCHU Corporation initially began with linen trading operations. Since then, it has evolved and grown over about 150 years into a conglomerate engaged in the domestic trading, import/export, overseas trading of various products such as textiles, machinery, information and communications-related products, metals, products related to oil and other energy sources, general merchandise, chemicals, and provisions and food. ITOCHU has made multisector investments in insurance agencies, finance, construction, real estate trading, and warehousing as well as operations and businesses incidental or related to those fields. Under the former mid-term management plan - ‘Frontier 2006’, ITOCHU reached its objective of becoming a ‘Highly Profitable Corporate Group’ achieving over ¥100 billion consolidated net income. Mr Masahiro Okafuji, President [Textile] & Senior Managing Director-ITOCHU Corporation, was born in Osaka prefecture, Japan, in 1949 and is a graduate from Tokyo University. He has been involved in the textile business since joining ITOCHU in 1974, and was appraised with series promotions as Executive Officer, year 2002; President of Textile and Managing Director of ITOCHU Corporation, in 2004; and Senior Managing Director- ITOCHU Corporation, in 2006. Mr Okafuji has contributed greatly in building the business model for one of ITOCHU's leading business -the brand business. Face2Face caught up with Mr Masahiro Okafuji to understand more about Brand Business Strategies that punctuates ITOCHU’s grand success.

Narrating the major milestones from over fifteen decades history of ITOCHU, could you share on how the company has placed itself on textiles front today?

The history of ITOCHU Corporation dates back to 1858 when ITOCHU’s founder Chubei Itoh commenced linen trading operations. Over 150 years, the company has been a 'sogo sosha,' engaged in domestic trading and import/exports. ITOCHU has developed significantly in the past five decades, after World War-II.

While many trading companies have distanced themselves from their ‘textile’ origins, we remain a ‘textile company’. Marubeni and ITOCHU are the last two 'sogo soshas' to have an independent textile division in the organization. The Textile Company is ranked one of the top three domestic retailers/garment /apparel companies. ITOCHU’s net income reached 17.1 billion yen, making ITOCHU one of the top leading trading company.

What keeps your company ahead of competition?

We change our business models together with the rapid changes in the consumer market. In addition, our business covers a vast range of fields; from raw materials to garments, accessories, foods, household goods and products related to our lifestyles.

How do you see Asia from your business perspective?

Asia is very important to our business for mainly two reasons. Firstly, we have many factories in Asia for manufacturing not only materials and textiles, but also products for final consumers, such as garments and accessories. We put emphasis on these factories, since we are expecting business growth in the European and US markets. Secondly, Asia has great possibilities as consumers’ market. We have expanded our business to launching stores in Asia, such as ‘Le Sport Sac’ and ‘DEAN & DELUCA’. ‘Le Sport Sac’ was launched in collaboration with Novo Concept Holding Limited in Hong Kong. ‘DEAN & DELUCA,’ which is a sophisticated grocery store with a cafe, was launched in Taipei as the first one in Asia, in January 2007.

Published on: 06/07/2007

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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