Kyobi Dyeing Co., Ltd.
Kyobi Dyeing Co., Ltd., a dyeing factory in Kyoto, spotted the potential of inkjet printers at an early stage and introduced Konica Minolta's inkjet printer “Nassenger” in the year 2000. At the present time, the company's mainstream business is the sale over the Internet or at department store events of fashion sundries that combine traditional Kyoyuzen dyeing and the cutting-edge technology of inkjet printers. There are many midstream companies that attempt direct sales and repeated failures are common. The success of the business model of Kyobi Dyeing serves as a shining example to such midstream companies. We asked the company president, Haruo Otsuka, about the business image he hopes to achieve in the future since the company introduced Nassenger.
Aiming at business close to consumers
Kyobi Dyeing was founded as a Yuzen dyeing factory in 1925 by the father of the current President, Haruo Otsuka. The factory was unavoidably converted into a munitions factory during the Second World War and manufactured items such as rivets and caterpillar treads. In 1950, the company was reorganized into its present form. Up to 1985, the company was mainly engaged in dyeing for fine patterns and Japanese apparel from formal to casual kimonos and sold its products to customers in Muromachi, Kyoto. Kyobi Dyeing also began manufacturing sundries and weaves for western apparel in 1989. For a while, the company expanded its scale by also producing items such as yukata (light cotton summer kimonos).
However, the Japanese textiles industry subsequently decreased in size and President Otsuka became concerned that “as demand decreased, the training of successors to aging craftsmen would present difficulties.” As the volume of work decreased, handing down technology became ever more difficult. At this point, President Otsuka decided that “it was important to conduct business close to consumers” making use of the company's stock of Kyoyuzen designs.
The company realized that inkjet printing would be an effective tool to achieve this goal and introduced Nassenger to the factory in the year 2000. This was the very first company to introduce Nassenger.
“With an eye to the future, introducing Nassenger at the earliest opportunity and building up know-how ourselves was a prior investment that would enable us to create added value,” reflected President Otsuka. After comparing Nassenger with inkjet printers manufactured by other companies, President Otsuka opted for Nassenger “because of its high average point and the solid maintenance and after-sales structure provided by Konica Minolta.”
Establishment of technology by trial and error – This has become one of our company's strengths
This goes back to the difficulties the company experienced after introducing Nassenger. These difficulties were due to the fact that the technical know-how for front and back-end processing had not been established. “The process of trial and error went on for some time, “reflects President Otsuka. After working with Konica Minolta for two years to establish the necessary technology, the company was finally ready to launch business operations. This is where the company's strength lies.
While many companies engaged in inkjet printing outsource front-end processing, Kyobi Dyeing carried out this processing in-house. Not only that, but the company is able to perform front-end processing of all kinds of grey goods and has established the technical know-how to enable it to implement an integrated production process through to inkjet printing. This is a real advantage.
As well as outsourced processing of textiles, from 2004, the company began selling pure silk aloha shirts over the Internet and at department store events. This proved to be a great success. Even at a price of 24 thousand yen each, these aloha shirts sold, according to President Otsuka. However, failure to expand sales channels led to the company withdrawing from direct sales of apparel in three years. The company renewed its efforts in this direction, but this time with “Inokichi” brand fashion sundries. This Inokichi” brand has grown successfully so that it now accounts for an annual sales growth by 2-digit %.
Inokichi Brand Fashion Sundries
“Inokichi” brand fashion sundries have won acceptance with consumers and are selling well because of the novelty of the motifs based on traditional Japanese patterns that the company has accumulated through its experience with Yuzen dyeing and the “Kyoto brand” materials that are dyed and sewn in Kyoto.
The product concept is that “a dyeing company is uniquely suited to producing items such as these.” The lineup comprises 18 items including canvas tote bags, pochette handbags with clasps, large tote bags, rattan bags, shoulder bags, handbags, canvas book covers, audio cases, cushion covers and sunshade umbrellas.
As well as sales over the Internet (www.kyobiijt.co.jp), sales through TV shopping and mail-order sales, products sold in limited-period stores and at department store events have won the company acclaim. The company once sold almost 500 items at a certain department store in Tokyo. Moreover, Kyobi Dyeing has won the patronage of many repeat buyers over the Internet and has become so popular that visitors to the company are not uncommon.
Use of designs from the time the company was founded
The peony design on tote bags is selling good. Products produced with an inkjet printer with Kyoyuzen designs featuring hydrangeas, morning glories and Chinese lantern plants, for example, may at first glance seem strange, but they give a feeling of tranquility when held. While these products convey a feeling of traditional techniques, consumers often react with comments such as “The colors and designs are adorable.”
The company has accumulated many Japanese designs over the years since its establishment. One of these is a hand-drawn design from around 1897(30s of Meiji era). According to President Otsuka, “We hope to use this wonderful hand-drawn design with our inkjet printers to produce items that our customers will enjoy using.”
Moreover, the company is keen to expand its inkjet printing business in future “by opening a company store in Kyoto or Tokyo” to enhance the popularity of the “Inokichi” brand. Needless to say, the company is also engaged in Kyoyuzen dyeing using its inkjet printers. Kyobi Dyeing is the pioneer of this field.
Aiming to become Number One inkjet printing company in Kyoto
At the present time, the Kyobi Dyeing owns three Konica Minolta inkjet printers. The company expanded its production equipment by adding two new cutting-edge “Nassenger V” printers the year before last. President Otsuka lists “freedom of design and gradations” as the points of appeal of inkjet printers and also includes the elimination of the need for stencils required for screen printing and the ability to handle short-run production as advantages. At the same time, he states that “Unlike conventional printing that consumes high volumes of energy, the environmentally-conscious performance of inkjet printing will become an important consideration in the future.”
While, needless to say, the company is also engaged in screen printing, President Otsuka tells us “We aim to become the number one inkjet printing company in Kyoto. In addition, it is important not only to grow, but also to improve content. This makes it possible for our employees to throw themselves into their work with a sense of enjoyment.” In this way, looking to the future, the company is committed to the expansion of its inkjet printing business.