Galapagosization

If you studied Japanese market or majored in business, you might have known the word. Many called one of early Japanese cellphone system 'Galapagos Syndrome'. It is referred one of typical example of failure in business. You could learn something from the tale when you do business in Japan as well.

Why it is called Galapagos Syndrome?
The system was once strived the world with its domestic popularity. There was no smart phone at that time and, even so, people could send and receive emails and browse internet homepages dedicated for the system.
It had also solved a classic problem of inputing Japanese complex letter system while introducing emoticons as well. Japanese language uses several different types of letters, Chinese Kanji (ideograph), phonetic symbols, Hiragana and Katakana, Arabic numerals and alphabets. Input method of those letters was realized in the system with combination of cellphone 12 keys, simply expanding alphabetical input method. Teens could type without watching its screen as western ones do but it is much harder.

Alvaro Sevilla Design foto de la Tortuga Galapagos Isla Santa Cruz

The system evolved so uniquely that the phenomena was named after the same situation that Charles Darwin, famous for theory of natural selection, watched and studied in Galapagos Islands. It had never been accepted other countries and foreign makers did not enter Japanese cellphone market. It was too obvious not to be accepted widely because of many limitations because of stuffed functions and, now, smart phones are spreading world wide including Japan, leaping over all the problems and limitaions once.

Why did Galapagosization often happen in Japan?
It was usual practice in Japan to put as many functions in a single product. Makers have to do to get user interest and Japanese prefers expensive complicated systems to cheep simple one function units just to show off.
For example, home appliance manufactures used to model-change every 6 months for every products and models. They naturally adopt changes of domestic popularity and slightest needs in local, like living species. The products get high quality with so many functions as time goes by. Once that kind of products are in the market, it requires much effort to introduce new one because of the similarity of the products. It protects the domestic market form outer new comers, especially foreign makers. They have to put everything just to get small share in the Japanese market form the beginning.

Why does Japanese like expensive ones than cheep ones?
As the old saying, Penny wise and pound foolish, people in the world knew the more expensive was the better. Before era of mass production and disposable goods, it was true and the price simply reflects its material cost and work load of craftsmans.
It is not always true nowadays. If you go to 100-yen shops, where they sell every thing like kitchen ware, gardening and DIY tools in 100 yen, you would be surprised how they make those goods with affordable quality.
In 1960's, it was a trophy to buy a new home appliance. They could proud by themselves how hard they had worked to get it. The more expensive one expressed harder work. Thus, they tended to buy higher price products than regular ones.

Will Galapagos Syndrome happen continuously?
Younger generation has no eagerness to have home appliances and cars, even desire itself. With reducing population and shrinking markets, makers have to choose globalization or globalization to survive. It seems it will be not happening again but there is another factor, raze. Japanese people still likes to be others. Once a product gets popular, it spreads widely with amazing speed in Japan.


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