Masahiko Miyata, President and CEO, Asahi Intecc
Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan since December 2012, has proposed the three “arrows” of what has become known as Abenomics in order to reform and recover the Japanese economy: monetary stimulus, fiscal flexibility, and structural reform. The first arrow would mobilize Japan’s production powers and the third would expand them, allowing the second arrow to hit an ambitious fiscal target. The prevailing view is that there have been too few structural reforms; however, in the health sector we have seen the introduction of an act to promote healthcare and medical strategy, the revision of regulatory affairs laws, and the “Sakigake Package strategy,” all part of the Japanese revitalization plan.
Could you walk us through which have been the most relevant reforms in your opinion and comment on their success?
We are a company which develops, produces and sells medical devices. We are in the medical industry which is regarded as a growing one in the Abenomics policy. Let me first highlight that in Japan, machines such as CT scans and MRI are produced by large Japanese companies, whereas surgical and nursing care machines are generally produced by medium size companies.
Until now, regulations for medical devices were included in regulations for pharmaceuticals. However, due to Abenomics now they have created specific regulations tailored to medical devices. In fact, Prime Minister Abe has stated that medical devices are one of the areas that Japan should focus on within the healthcare sector.
Many say that Japan is extremely reliant on foreign medical devices. For instance, US exports to Japan of medical technologies account for 23% of the market share, and when it comes to advanced medical technologies, this percentage rises to 60%. You are an example of a company that not only provides the domestic market but is competitive internationally.
How do you believe that this dependency on foreign medical devices has started to change, and in fact is it turning around completely?
Overall, roughly 50% of medical devices are being imported but this is beginning to change. Our company was established in 1972 as an industrial wire rope manufacturing company, and then 20 years later we entered the medical industry by opening a Medical Development Headquarters to start R&D within the medical devices industry. Various wire products are used in the medical and industrial device fields. Asahi Intecc develops, produces and sells PTCA guide wires, PTCA guiding catheters and PTCA balloon catheters.
Our products are used for minimally invasive treatments. Cardiovascular products are our main products. The catheter markets continue to expand significantly with the spread of minimally-invasive treatments. Now, with guide wires as our main product we have extended to 108 countries and have a 40% of the international market share.
When we first began in the medical field in 1992, the majority of treatments for CTO (chronic total occlusion) depended on surgery. A Japanese physician asked us to develop guide wires that could be used in CTO treatment. He initially asked overseas medical device manufacturers, but it was difficult for them to respond to his request with the technology available at that time.
Since its foundation, Asahi Intecc has continuously been evolving, adapting and helping to provide high quality medical devices to the entire globe. Asahi Intecc has not only become a key player in Japan but also a key partner for many foreign entities.
What have been the main challenges that you have faced when competing in the same market as more established players, such as Johnson & Johnson and Abbott?
We were the first company to provide PTCA guide wires that can be used in CTO treatment to the international market. As you know Japan is quite reliant on imports and most of those medical imports have come from the U.S. As a result it meant that we had to rely on them. However, now, Asahi Intecc produces its own CTO wires which are more than capable to supply the domestic and international market.
Furthermore, we are striving to position our brand globally not only through our own sales network but also through partnerships with other companies. In fact through this collaboration, we were able to penetrate the American market. Having a well-known name brand is the first stage of Asahi’s branding plan. The second stage would consist of establishing business bases in Europe and expand our operations all over the continent.
What makes Asahi Intecc so unique, not only in terms of technology but also in terms of core values?
Well, since I became president of Asahi Intecc there have been three key points that have turned the company to our current direction; the first is our global vision, the second our innovative technology and R&D efforts, and last but not least the company’s practical competence. For a Japanese company, it is important to have efficiency, reliability and constant communication within the firm, whether it is a factory or a laboratory.
What have been your biggest achievements across your journey at Asahi Intecc?
My father first established this company – after I took over, we have strengthened global expansion. That success has been my biggest achievement. Furthermore, due to our international recognition, leading doctors have been personally asking us to develop further technologies and we have responded with innovative product development.
What can our audience learn from Asahi Intecc?
Well, we started as an industrial company and later turned towards the medical device company; therefore, we would like people to know that we can adapt to the current and ever-changing environment, to the prevailing situation and its necessities. Furthermore, for instance, when I go to hospitals and get all this praise about our products from doctors stating that thanks to Asahi Intecc they were able to carry out certain procedures, especially when it comes to CTOs, it makes our researchers and all my employees very pleased and motivated.