Martin Luther King Day

My mother was never one to tell stories, especially her own. But there was one she had that was special to her. My mother attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston where she studied voice. Shortly after getting engaged she went into the ladies room at school and saw a fellow voice student admiring an engagement ring in the mirror. They compared and admired engagement rings and talked about their future husbands. My mother was going to marry a Naval Academy grad on his first year of duty, her fellow student Coretta Scott was going to marry Martin Luther King.

Coretta Scott King and my mother were married in the same year 1953, and died in the same year, 2006. As far as I know the New England Conservatory ladies room mirror was their only point of contact but I like to imagine the scene my mother described: two talented and beautiful young women excitedly talking about the future paths they were embarking on, and congratulating each other.

The paths were very different but I know they were each very proud of their families. I never knew Coretta Scott King but when I hear her sing, I immediately recognize the same beautifully trained voice I heard when my mother sang hymns at church. I also recognize that great lives are always around us, sometimes very close, but only visible if we take the time to truly observe them.


Joe Odagiri AirPAY Ads

OK, things are heating up in the Japanese cashless payments market ahead of the 10% consumption tax hike with cashless incentives. And things are getting fun. What other country in the world runs TV ads for cashless payment terminals?

Recruit’s AirPay POS system for small stores deftly navigates the entire Japan cashless map and is running an TV ad campaign featuring Joe Odagiri and rich visitors from abroad in various roles with credit cards. The punch line is “Do you take cards?” to which Joe Odagiri the store owner invariably replies, “cash only”. The rich customers walk away and Joe says, “I wish we had AirPay.” Lots of fun.

The Horse’s Mouth

When Nikkei writes that suppliers are experiencing an ‘extraordinary decline’ in Chinese demand I take it with a grain of salt. Nikkei has a long history of insider trading reporter scandals. To me they are more market manipulation mafioso than a reliable media outlet. However, the source the Nikkei report is Nidec Chairman Shigenobu Nagamori. When Nagamori san says he’s never seen anything like this Chinese drop in demand, people across Japan sit up and listen.

Shigenobu Nagamori is a charismatic founder who loves and lives his company every bit as much as Steve Jobs loved and lived Apple. He obsesses over little details and tours Nidec factory floors making sure everything is clean and properly stored. Sweat the details and the big things take care of themselves. He has lived and survived many recessions. When a downturn comes the first thing he does is cut company executive and board member salary and bonuses while holding the line for regular employees. Real leaders rally the troops by sharing the hard times.

Steve Jobs famously worked for a dollar a year salary. I wonder if Tim Cook and the Apple Leadership will take a pay and bonus cut like Steve Jobs did and Shigenobu Nagamori does. It would certainly rally the Apple team if they did.

Dear Tim

Dear Tim

In uncertain and challenging times it’s more important than ever to look for good opportunities. Here is one for the Japanese market. Did you see that news item from JR East about all those old Osaifu-Keitai models being dropped from Mobile Suica in 2020? That’s a few million upgrade opportunities right there.

How about doing a nice little marketing campaign with the Japanese carriers offering a nice trade in price for those old Osaifu-Keitai with a discount on a iPhone XR or iPhone 8? I know, I know, you only want to sell iPhone XR but until the Face ID camera has magic x-ray ability at an affordable price, all those face mask users in Japan will really appreciate a Touch ID iPhone 8 choice. Offer trade in customers free assistance moving and setting up their Mobile Suica accounts in Apple Pay Suica at local Apple Stores. I’m sure it would be a success.

And while you’re at it offer a nice little replacement campaign for those pesky iPhone X units that don’t work with Suica. There are a lot of Japanese customers who would really appreciate Apple reaching out to help and would probably upgrade with a little encouragement and a bug free iOS 12.

Oh and one last thing, offer a similar little iPhone XR/iPhone 8 upgrade campaign in Hong Kong when Apple rolls out Smart Octopus on Apple Pay. With 33 million Octopus card users in Hong Kong I’m sure it would help iPhone sales there too. Apple has a wonderfully unique global FeliCa strategy tucked away in Apple Pay, used wisely it could be a great sales tool.

Love and kisses,

Ata Distance

Return of the Secure Element Wars?

Visa has been phasing out payWave on SIM cards in Japan and other countries because the secure element wars are over and the SIM mafia didn’t win. Unfortunately nobody gave the news to INCIR, yet another FinTech startup in Japan (founded by Singapore startup Gooute) with yet another payment platform idea: instead of selling NFC A/B SIM cards, let’s sell NFC A/B microSD cards for cheap shit Android phones and call it INCIR WALLET.

This might sound like a viable business plan for India or China but it doesn’t sound like a good idea for Japan where:

Good luck with that.