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Live teleshopping of Japanese products for Sri Lankans

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Friday, 17 August 2018 00:10


  • Gold Block Japan brings new experience to local audience
  • Offers ‘Made in Japan’ and ‘Japanese Quality’ products
  • Pledges speedy delivery with payment upon receipt of products
  • Hails potential of local market, focuses on women and convenience


Gold Block Japan Chairman Jun Kobayashi who has been in the teleshopping business in Japan for more than 10 years has partnered up with Gold Block Japan Managing Director Janaka Wimalananda, a well-known restaurateur and business owner, to bring the experience of live teleshopping to the Sri Lankan audience. This new business venture, which kicked off in March, is named ‘Gold Block Japan’ and is the first of its kind to be telecast on live TV in Sri Lanka. The duo sat down with Daily FT to discuss their partnership, products and what they hope to achieve in their new endeavour. Following are excerpts: 

By Ruwandi Gamage

Q: How did you think Sri Lankans would embrace this concept?

A: I met Janaka, my partner, in 1998 and we have done a lot of other businesses together before. This was another one of our ventures in business. Though I don’t live in Sri Lanka at the moment, I know a lot about Sri Lanka through Janaka, through the stories he tell me, and the multiple visits I’ve made during the past two decades. I could say with confidence I know about Sri Lanka than an average tourist would. I know the longstanding history between Sri Lanka and Japan and how well knitted this relationship is. I was very happy to become a partner of this considering the love I have for this country and I thought it will be a good experience to introduce Japanese products that the Sri Lankan market don’t necessarily have but would definitely be embrace. 

As living standards gets upgraded day by day here, people’s needs change and they seek better quality of things. Therefore, we thought it is a good time to introduce Sri Lankans to this concept which the Japanese are already enjoying. I thought if we can replicate this concept here, people would be able to watch it live and then order through the hotline and get products delivered right to their doorstep without even moving from their seats.

Q: Can you tell me how the show operates in Sri Lanka?

Wimalananda: The people who do it there are the people who do it here. The products are introduced by a Japanese presenter, who does the presenting in Japan in their live teleshopping shows. These people are very familiar with their products, so they present it during the TV show and a bilingual Sri Lankan presenter translates it to be understood by the Sri Lankan audience. The show airs in the morning hours between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on weekdays and weekends in different television channels. It airs for an hour, live on TV and is not pre-recorded.

Q:How do you purchase the items?

Wimalananda: When you watch the live show and call the hotline number, it is handled by our dedicated calling centre. We have 30 employees who are well trained in customer relations and product knowledge. They type information as the call is being made and when the order is confirmed, the system generates a purchase order, which goes to our distribution centre. They look at the order, prepare it and pack for delivery. The packaging includes the necessary information such as price of item and are ready to be dispatched the next day. 

An order made to be delivered within Colombo will reach the customer the next day, before 4 p.m. If it’s out of Colombo it will reach the customer two days after the order has been confirmed. The customer is given a call to inform of the order being delivered and to make sure they are at home to receive it. And when the item is delivered, the customer makes the full payment in cash.

Q: What kind of goods are you focusing on?

Kobayashi: TV shopping in Japan has been there for more than 15 years. It is a very successful venture in Japan now. It is because we focus on things people want every day, on things people really need in their daily activities. The focus is on essential things, items that aren’t expensive and bulky. The simple things such as a knife, but with improved quality and improved performance and efficiency. The inspiration was to bring the capabilities of a samurai sword to a knife we would use every day. Our concept is to build a connection among the things we introduce each time. Likewise after we introduce the knife, then we would showcase a chopping board, then a specialised peeler.

Q: There’s no household that doesn’t have these simple products. Why would they want to buy your products?

Kobayashi: These are everyday simple products, but they have been improved upon innovatively to overcome the common issues they would normally face. These products perform more efficiently. If we take the cutting board for example, it is both lightweight and doesn’t hold any bacteria, unlike the common cutting board in the market. It is the same with other products. The technology that is used to make these products improves upon on the quality and performance and makes these items more efficient in daily life.

Q: Are all these products made in Japan?

Kobayashi: Our motto is ‘Made in Japan’ and ‘Japanese Quality’. Made in Japan stands for itself. ‘Japanese Quality’ means that the items are sold in the Japanese market on live TV, and they are items the Japanese people have embraced. These may come from other countries such as Korea, but they are things made for the Japanese market to be sold in Japan, according to Japanese specifications. The products are predominantly made in Japan. If they are made anywhere else, it is specified on the packaging of the items. When I select items to be sold here I make certain that these products are fast selling items in the Japanese market.

Q: How do you view the potential in the Sri Lankan market?

Kobayashi: Of course there’s lots of potential in the Sri Lankan market. That is why I wanted to start this here. But I’m not fully aware of the trends here, that is why I have a Sri Lankan partner helping me. I have hardly been a tourist in Sri Lanka, I have hardly visited any attractions. I have mostly come here for trading, because there’s lots of trading opportunities. Sri Lanka has developed compared to when I first came here 21 years ago. Women are more independent than earlier. Our target audience is women, and their convenience in handling daily activities, but that is just the beginning. It is not just housewives, we also want to target ladies interested in beauty products and introduce new beauty products to the Sri Lankan market.

Q: How has the response been so far?

A: It has been an overwhelming response, more than we expected. We’re even hoping to increase our call centre employees from 30 to 50, to accommodate the increasing customer purchases. Our profit margin is not a big one as we sell everyday essential items. Our target is to sell as much volume as we can and so far it has been going great.

Pix by Sameera Wijesinghe

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