Why did you decide to move towards East Asia and look for opportunities there?
Actually it was just the opposite, because the Japanese were those who were searching for Hungarian developers in Central/Eastern Europe. The story was that a businessman with some experience in software import to Japan had an idea about developing a system for the Internet of things. Machine to machine communication had just started to develop at that time. He had an idea to develop a cloud-based measurement data collection system for different applications. He developed a server for that system in Japan at a small software company in Tokyo, and then hired a group of developers in Thailand to prepare the embodied software. But he was not satisfied with the performance and started to look for new partners. He visited our embassy in Tokyo and asked about software companies in Hungary. He checked some brochures, did research in the region, also in Poland and the Czech Republic. But he decided for Hungary, because he knew that average Nobel Peace Prize rate per capita is the highest in Hungary.
How long did it take to start cooperation with your Japanese partner?
In 2008, our partner started a very long discussion and long-term planning about the development tasks, which is quite usual in Japan. After about one year and a half, we were delivering our first work. It was not easy because, even though we had some experience with the software, it was not our main competence at that time. But we were able to solve all the problematic issues, which was an important sign for our customer. As we had to develop some software for the network box, which was produced in Taiwan, we also had to work with a company from Taiwan to understand the software in the box. To sum up, we have had the customer since then, and currently it is a very good friendship, and the guys who are working with them enjoy the cooperation.
What is the biggest challenge during your cooperation?
We tried to adapt their commitment to quality, which is difficult, really difficult, because they expect only the perfect product. They expect everything that is delivered to be perfect. So if they find any bugs, or if there are any troubles with the product after the delivery, they usually think that there is something wrong on their side that they made a mistake. And because they don’t like to look stupid, they double check and triple check whether everything is correct on their side. So, if we are not getting any answer or reaction after the delivery, we know we made some mistake.
How would you characterize your customers from Japan?
When you have a customer from Japan, and if you can satisfy the customer, he will not drop you for another partner just for a couple of more euros. Japanese like to keep their business connections if they are satisfactory. I like this mentality because here in Hungary, and also in other parts of Europe, we always have to fight about the price with our competition or in electronic tenders, when we work with big enterprises. So, in this sense, it is somehow different in Japan. Trust is very important, and I guess they use a different word for that kind of interpersonal relationships. But the meaning is the same. They want to know the partner better, they want to have some references to some common acquaintances, or people who can say that you can trust this company so they don’t really like the risks, and they try to mitigate that somehow.
Did you use any governmental support while entering Japanese market?
We have tried to use the EU support. There is the EU-Japan centre, and there are different grants for developing business in Japan. We took advantage of these possibilities, and we are successful with winning grants. Even my first visit was supported by a European action in Tokyo – it was a small exhibition for 40 European companies. Also there are different training possibilities. We sent a colleague to Tokyo for a one-year-long training program. She studied the Japanese language and Japanese business for a year at Waseda University. After graduation it was too difficult for her to live in Japan as a single lady, so she came back. But she started with setting up our office in Tokyo, and currently we are thinking about how to continue our presence in Tokyo. It is important, because the Japanese need strong personal contacts. They really like to share their ideas and discuss if they are good or not, and they are interested in opinions of other people. With our office there we can offer them the support which is needed.
What are your plans in the region?
Since my first visit in Japan in 2011, our company decided to expand our activities there. We are currently working only on development services, but we have a whole range of products that we could offer in Japan. I decided that if we manage to find one customer, or if one customer will manage to find us, we will try product export. Our current customer has already introduced us to other businessmen in Japan, his friends or business partners. Based on these networks, we have started to add new customers. Just next week, we will have two visits from Japan from two different companies so we have started to push that way. It is a big investment, and I think there is a long way to have results. A big investment is different for every single company. For us as a small IT company, we need to start differently than, for example, big companies. We tried to keep our investment as low as possible but even in our case it costs a lot of money.
Sandór Danko – ITware
Sandór Danko is the CEO of the ITware which is almost the only one IT company in Hungary that has been the supplier and development partner of the biggest Hungarian mobile service provider for nearly a decade. With its own development ITware is a leader in creating data communication solutions and it is also a global pioneer in spreading mobile TV.
Since 2001 ITware’s key to success is not only selling products but also offering complex solutions for its customers. ITware is primarily engaged in custom software development, but its activity covers the entire spectrum of IT – from business consulting through development, implementation and operation of new systems.
Mr. Danko is in charge of many projects such as the KOJIMORI (an innovative, cloud-based remote data collection system, which makes valuable data, collected from different types of measuring devices at different remote locations, accessible anywhere), FLEE Tware (ITware’s FLEETware system integrates state-of-the-art technologies to provide a complex, robust and highly customizable fleet tracking solution, based not only on GPS, but also on mobile cell data), APPaware (APPaware provides access to achievements of ITware in the fields of industrial and mobile software development) or MOROMIKUN (Moromi-kun is a tablet M2M application for the busy professionals in the food industry) etc.