Interview with Mr. Ryuzo Sakamoto

Face2Face
Mr. Ryuzo Sakamoto
Mr. Ryuzo Sakamoto
President & COO
Toyobo Co., Ltd
Toyobo Co., Ltd

..foreign currency fluctuations, trade agreements etc. factors will result in an even more active relocation of production centers in textile business…from China...to Asian countries.

On May 3rd, 1882, Japan's first privately owned large-scale spinning company Osaka Boseki was established by Eiichi Shibusawa, a famous industrialist in the Meiji era. On June 26th, 1914, Toyobo Co., Ltd. was established from a merger of Mie Boseki and Osaka Boseki. At present, it is grown into diversified group offering a wide range of high-function products such as films, automotive products, environment related products, bioproducts and pharmaceuticals. Headquartered in Osaka-Japan, approximately 130 years after its establishment, Toyobo continues to provide many technologies in a broad range of fields, employing 10,178 consolidated staff and embarking Net sales over JPY 340.6 billion (USD 4.42 billion). Mr. Ryuzo Sakamoto is the president and chief operating officer of Toyobo. He started his career at Toyobo in 1972. He was elected as a director in 2002 and assumed as the president in 2005. He has been engaged in fiber and textile businesses in Japan and Asian countries. In a talk with Ms. Madhu Soni, Sr. Editor & Correspondent –Face2Face, Mr. Ryuzo Sakamoto speaks about the key trends in performance fabrics markets globally.

It is a pleasure to host this talk with you, Mr. Sakamoto! Toyobo was founded as a textile company in 1882. A long textile tradition, I must say! So, what is your view about the textile world today, and the direction it is heading to?

If we look at the market as a whole, we think it will expand together with the increase in population. Historically, labor-intensive businesses have dispersed to lower-cost regions. Looking ahead, we believe that foreign currency fluctuations, trade agreements, and other factors will result in an even more active relocation of production centers in the textile business. For example, these centers will relocate from China, where many centers have been located, to Asian countries.

For textile products, which all shall be markets of importance for Toyobo? What determinants shall play prime role behind this growth in these particular regions?

Basically, the important markets for us will be those segments, mainly of the domestic market, that will place value on functional textiles, such as sportswear, innerwear, and other textile market segments, that incorporate materials that we have developed based on our original comfort evaluation technology, which can quantify the level of comfort that humans feel. Going forward, we also want to develop the markets for these products in the rest of Asia, particularly China and South Korea. The factor that has made our growth possible is that we have the development capabilities that enable us to continue to propose functional materials. We think that customers value not just our capabilities for developing yarn but also our overall capabilities for developing product proposals that are based on our comfort evaluation technology, textile production technology, and processing technology.

Your Group has seen diversification into a broad range of fields with the changing times. Any more such diverse areas to be explored in near future?

Toyobo’s management vision is to become “the category leader for providing new value in the environment, life science, and high-function products fields.” Our technologies accumulated in the area of textiles succeed to our core technologies. We believe the important point is to continue to sustain the flexibility that will enable us to respond to change. Looking ahead, we will continue to accurately identify the requirements of society and the needs of the times, as we work to develop our businesses and introduce new products to the world, focusing particularly on high-function materials as well as on the environment and life science fields, which we have developed and won recognition for in Japan.

So now as performance fabrics make larger share of your business, can you please help us to know the trends and growth opportunities therein?

In recent years in Japan, apparel products with specialized functions have come into wider use among consumers. These include those incorporating perspiration-absorbing, quick-drying materials that can absorb sweat and then disperse it for quick evaporation; “cool” materials that give a sensation of being cool when touched; and water-absorbing, heat-generating materials that can take up water and give a warm sensation. Looking ahead, Toyobo intends to work to expand sales in markets where apparel products incorporating such functional materials are recognized for their value. Turning our attention to the rest of Asia outside Japan, there are opportunities for having a wider range of consumer wear products made from Toyobo’s functional materials.

What worry would you express for figured out repeat of ‘Economic Recession’?

Toyobo’s history of 130 years in the textile industry––not confined to just the recent recession––has been a history of structural reforms. When our equipment, affiliated companies, and other assets in the natural fiber and chemical fiber fields were no longer needed as in the past, we did not hesitate to reduce the size of such facilities. When there were doubts, we addressed them on a case-by-case basis, as we had learned to do from past experience. What is important is not to delay reformation. Having the flexibility to adapt to change is necessary, and we will evolve our business structure to show stable earnings even in the face of changes in the business environment.

Well, that implies a lot of attention to R&D strategy. What say?

In the case of the textile business, Toyobo’s Research Center has developed analysis technology, based on quantification of psychological sensations, such as mugginess and unpleasantness, that people experience when wearing apparel. Toyobo has developed this technology on its own and applied it in evaluating products. We have a strong record of accomplishments in this area and, as a result, have won the strong confidence of our customers.

And lastly, we would request to apprise us how Toyobo ensures its human and environment conscious identity-

The fundamental corporate principle for the Toyobo Group is expressed in the ancient proverb Jun-ri-Soku-yu (“Adhering to Reason Leads to Prosperity”). This principle was one of the personal mottos of Toyobo’s founder, Eiichi Shibusawa, who played a leading role in modernizing Japan during the early 20th century. This motto has been handed down as our Company’s management philosophy unchanged to the present day. These words were first spoken by a Chinese Song Dynasty philosopher, Cheng Yi, and they mean “living in accord with reason and ethics will lead to prosperity.” Here, jun-ri indicates not only “thinking and acting rationally and logically,” but also expresses the idea that “reason and ethics form one’s basic attitude as a human being, and ethical values must be respected.” Jun-ri-Soku-yu is the origin of all the activities of the Toyobo Group, and we believe it is the unifying core principle for our corporate activities, business activities, and CSR activities.

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Published on: 01/02/2012

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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