Connecting the Pieces: interview with COO of POCKETMARCHÉ, Mikio Yamaguchi [Part 1]

”Connecting people” Building a bridge between farmers, fishermen and consumers

Please tell us about your business.

We are running a platform where primary industry producers can sell their products “directly” to consumers. It’s not just about buying and selling food, but we also want to build a business  where producers and consumers can talk, developing a timeline function for sharing information, allowing producers and consumers to communicate directly with each other. This will allow consumers to find producers they are interested in and learn about their production sites.

-What is the strength of your business?

Our strength is that we have built good relationships with producers. This is due to the fact that the producers register in Pocket Marche worldwide, sympathize with our company philosophy. In fact, the number of registered producers has been increasing as a result of the president’s direct visits to their work locations.

Farmers and fishermen are not used to selling directly to customers. Therefore, we are not only focusing on selling, but also in  providing knowledge on how to sell, for example what kind of conversations to have with customers to create fans, and follow up to help producers to build good relationships with consumers.

We are also proud to say that according to the data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries,  at least half of the farmers who are selling directly on the Internet, are using our service.

-Please tell us about “Tohoku Taberu Tsushin”.

Tohoku Taberu Tushin

“Tohoku Taberu Tsushin” is a food magazine.This magazine shows not only about eating food, but also about the thoughts and the feelings of the people who produce the food, providing a different way to enjoy it. We have also created a Facebook community where we can talk with producers and hold events where we can have dinners together with them.

How do you decide which farmers and fishermen will be part of “Tohoku Taberu Tsushin” ?

The selection of producers is based on the editor-in-chief’s decision. The first person in charge was Mr. Takahashi, and now we have another person in charge as well. What they both have in common is the importance they are taking on the “what message to convey”. 

Mr. Takahashi normally goes to see the people in person, spends time with them to listen to their expectations. 

What challenges did you face in the process of transitioning from Tohoku Taberu Tsushin to Pocket Marche?

Compared to Tohoku Taberu Tsushin, the amount of information about each producer is less in Pocket Marsh, so some users who are familiar with Tohoku Taberu Tsushin pointed out that Pocket Marche has a lack of information. 

Pocket Marche is a system in which sending and receiving information is done by the producers themselves.

There was a limit in the number of producers and produce that the “Tohoku Taberu Tsushin” model could connect with, but the best part about Pocket Marche is that you can connect with 46,000 farmers and fishermen and have the opportunity to develop deeper relationships with them. We are saying that you can get to know and communicate with more than 46,000 farmers and fishermen if you want to.

About Pocket Marche

How has the market changed since COVID-19 started?

Our business performance was affected by COVID-19. As the infection spread, schools were closed, and we received an SOS from producers who are specialized in producing  food for school lunches. In response, we set up a tag that producers could use when selling their products saying “We are having difficulties due to COVID-19”. 

The holidays in early May were a particularly good time for many factors to come together, including the desire to help producers even though they could not go outside due to the emergency declaration. The good news was that the retention rate was the same for both customers who had been using our service before it became popular and those who started using it after learning about it through the COVID-19  disaster. This gave me confidence that if people knew about the service, it could become a highly regarded service.

Please tell us about the business development.

The core style will not change but we will continue to change and evolve our products to become a platform that connects individuals. What is important is to be able to overcome the distance between the producers and the individuals, and the ideal is that people who have never met each other will be able to create relationships and help each other. If the number of both producers and customers increases with the current platform, it will become a more fine-mesh network, and a better way of food distribution will be established.

If we replace blockchain with food distribution, currently the major companies have distribution centers and distribute their products according to demand. This is cost effective, but therein lies the energy efficiency and vulnerability to disasters. If we can create a state of self-reliance, it will be disaster resistant, energy efficient (local production for local consumption), and economically efficient. 

What kind of overseas expansion do you envision?

At the moment, I’m not sure what direction I want to take in terms of overseas expansion, and I’m considering various possibilities as I go. Basically, I would like to provide a system that overcomes division and connects individuals to individuals overseas. This is true for both the interactions within each country and the relationship between Japan and other countries.


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