Mr. Ozaki wanted to help Osaka progress and decided to join the Osaka Chamber of Commerce.
In that regard, his position at the head of the Chamber will allow him to help Osaka businesses thrive.
Mr. Hiroshi Ozaki
President of the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Mr. Hiroshi Ozaki is the Chairman of Osaka Gas Co., Ltd. He was elected as the President of the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry in December 2015. He aims to pioneer a bright future for Osaka by implementing a three-year action plan to promote growth for the region as well as campaigning actively to host the World Expo 2025.
—How Did You Become President of the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry?
Osaka Gas is supported by its customers, and always has its customer’s best interest in mind. Development of the region means that we can expand our business too. Energizing and developing the region means that, more than making Osaka Gas prosper, we can contribute to society as a whole, and that’s why former president Shigeo Sato asked me to work with him to develop Osaka’s economy. Since its foundation in 1878, the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry has worked hard to reach this goal. The Chamber and Osaka Gas share some characteristics, but finding a balance between the two is difficult, since Osaka Gas is a for-profit enterprise whereas the Chamber is a non-profit body. However, both work towards the same goal–rejuvenating the region–and I decided to accept the position of President of the Chamber after thinking of what I could do for Osaka.
—What is the Chamber doing to invigorate industries and the region?
Osaka and the Kansai region have been the political and economic center of Japan for over 1,500 years, and Osaka is a place with a great deal of freedom.
1. Osaka is Rich in Culture and Traditions
Osaka and the Kansai region have been the political and economic center of Japan for over 1,500 years, and Osaka is a place with a great deal of freedom. Osaka is rich in culture and traditions, and it retains what other parts of Asia have lost. Osaka is attractive not only because of its historic buildings, but also because it has preserved traditional entertainment and other forms of amusement. We want to build on these tourism assets and create momentum, helping visitors from other Asian countries get to know us better and discover new things in Osaka too.
2. Osaka wants to Prevent Incipient Illness
Osaka has always been known for its many health and medical care related businesses. Over the past several years, we have partnered with a few universities and research institutes to develop new medical devices and equipment. We will work to further develop technologies to create a new medical care industry. Japan’s population is aging, and many people want to remain healthy and active, so our motto is “preventing incipient illness.” Exercise is important to prevent illness as much as possible and to stay healthy, and this is why we are trying to develop the wellness industry and promote sports. Kansai has several professional sports teams, and many businesses sell products for athletes—footwear, sportswear, supplements and so on. We think that new businesses can sell similar products adapted to the general public. Japanese cuisine is acknowledged as healthy food and can play an important role in preventing health issues and diseases. Many healthful Japanese dishes are from the Kansai region, so we will conduct scientific research on food and promote healthy cuisine from Osaka.
3. Osaka is Home to Numerous SMEs
We will focus on nurturing small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs). Osaka is known for manufacturing and is home to numerous SMEs, and many of them are amongst the best in the world in their respective field of activity. To help these companies succeed in global markets, we will set up a framework to encourage innovation by organizing forums and providing networking opportunities for people from different industries. The Chamber views supporting SMEs as one of its major roles, and we will devote more resources to this. Tokyo is Japan’s capital and a major global financial center, but Osaka also drives the domestic economy and we intend to communicate directly to the world. While maintaining a friendly rivalry with Tokyo, we will give shape to creative approaches to business and prosper.
—Do you provide special support to SMEs, venture businesses and start-ups to revitalize the region?
Many companies offer good products but haven’t been able to find the best markets for them. To solve this problem, the Chamber holds about 10 events every year to bring together large companies and SMEs in order to expand SME’s sales channels or support new innovation projects.
SMEs also have issues attracting workers. The Chamber is involved in activities meant to overcome this challenge as well. For instance, we coach SMEs to become more attractive to prospective employees, and we introduce them to organizations supporting the employment of students or older workers, to help SMEs find the most suitable personnel for their businesses.
The 2025 world exposition is an important event both for Kansai and for Japan. Given the exposition theme—“Designing Future Society for Our Lives”—this is a great opportunity for Japan, a country where the life expectancy is long, to act as a beacon of healthy lifestyle practices for the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, we are also thinking of ways to boost productivity through technology like Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automating work (using robots) to reduce manpower. SMEs don’t have IT experts on hand, so they don’t know where to start. Accordingly, the Chamber has set up a research committee and is involved in other activities to promote the 4th industrial revolution technologies. We also work to promote the growth of SMEs through international exchanges with chambers of commerce and industry or business groups in other countries.
—What is the Chamber’s stance on Osaka as a candidate city for the 2025 world exposition?
The 2025 world exposition is an important event both for Kansai and for Japan. Given the exposition theme—“Designing Future Society for Our Lives”—this is a great opportunity for Japan, a country where the life expectancy is long, to act as a beacon of healthy lifestyle practices for the rest of the world. An international exposition is a platform to showcase our experience and I hope that Osaka can be the place where these ideas become reality. New technologies and new businesses will most likely challenge many existing laws and regulations, so in those cases, the government could identify some special zones where the regulations would be suspended. I believe that this can be done because Osaka is the place where this is possible.