E-commerce operators urged to improve customer experience

E-commerce operators urged to improve customer experience

Austin Okere

Unless, Ecommerce firms invest in their back end to grant buyers a satisfactory customers experience, the sector may continue to wan in comparison with global players.
This was the submission of the Founder, Computer Warehouse Group (CWG), Austin Okere, at the Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association (NITRA) organised conference in Lagos, at the weekend.
 
Indeed, prior to the advent of e-commerce, customers enjoyed hospitality from the attendants when they purchased goods at the frontline.  This hospitality is reflected by e-commerce global players, who have imbibe this hospitality in their back end. However, analysts, claim this has been left negligent by the Nigerian e-commerce players and subsequently, led to a disparity in the impact of these technological firms which is reflected in them not listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE).
   
Speaking on the theme: Digital Payment: Prospects and challenges of a financially Inclusive Nigeria, Okere, an Enterpreneur in Residence, Columbia Business School, New York, noted that there are practically three ICT companies listed in the NSE whereas in other climes, technological companies are the most valuable, ‘‘when you compare ecommerce players ike Alibaba, Amazon to those in our country, you see them making a lot of turn-over and profit, unlike our own  ’efritin.com’ which has suspended service, ‘Konga’  is  struggling, and ‘Jumia is not expanding’.

“An oversight of this is the customer-experience, buyers purchase from other climes because they are assured of an adequate response when they receive a wrong or unsatisfactory good or require a refund. This has encouraged patronage. However, in Nigeria people are scared of being put into a loop to talk to an automated voice that proffer no solutions. Despite technology, customers still need to enjoy hospitality therefore, Ecommerce companies need to invest in the back –end, ensure it smiles at people, since customer experience has shifted there.’’
   
Speaking on financial inclusion, Okere highlighted that last mile challenges was limiting the unbanked into the financial system, ‘’I think we have made a lot of improvement in digitizing payment and transactions. Also, we are making banking convenient for our customers but the challenge is to go beyond those that are already bank customers to those that are not yet included, that is the last mile we are yet to surmount.’’

“Take the instance of the market woman, she is not poor, she is excluded because she does not have the time to go the bank so, we have to take the bank to her.

Now, when we talk about online products that when you want to become a customer, you will be requested to provide details like your Bank Verification Number (BVN) and so on which is assumed if you are a bank customer.

“How about the case that you are not a bank customer, we have to look for ways to modernize the social system we already have and create super agents that can do cash-in, cash-out. So, that when people do peer-to-peer transactions, they can approach their agent, who are trusted members if the society,” Okere stated.
 
He however, said the banks need to keep innovating, else they become obsolete like the post office. Okere said the banks need to ensure they have the infrastructure, the customers’ loyalty base to broaden their service and make it more cost effective. According to him, banks need to innovate with Fintech to prevent a dichotomy that can make them lose their customer base.

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Teaching the next billion users

Teaching the next billion users

Godwin Benson founder Tuteria

What will happen if 1 billion Technology teachers get trained in Africa? I asked myself this question a couple of weeks ago after I remembered my conversation with my friend Tunji in San Francisco. We were at the Google Launchpad Accelerator where his startup was one of the very first from Africa at the accelerator.

Tunji Adegbesan is a teacher. He lectures at the Lagos Business School, and he puts what he teaches to practice as the founder of the education startup, “Gidi Mobile.” The startup’s mission is simple, provide education at scale via mobile while making it engaging and exciting. He has generated a lot of interest from investors and partners as well. Google gave Gidi Mobile $1M the week their CEO, Sundar Picha, visited Nigeria.

Tunji and I were discussing how to create higher engagement levels on the educational content, and I asked him why he was not thinking of tackling the teaching problem as well. Tunji could build that startup successfully because he was already a teacher. I believe that teachers are probably the most relevant resource in the education equation, but most ed-tech startups prioritize access and content primarily for students. For Gidi Mobile to scale, Tunji didn’t need only to have engaging content; he needed to replicate himself (or his profession) at scale.

Tuteria
Very few ed-tech startups focus on teachers. Tuteria, a Nigerian startup founded by Godwin Benson is one of those few. I met him at the last TEDx Yaba event where he gave a talk about his startup. It was the highlight of my day at the event. Tuteria is a learning marketplace where experienced and vetted people trade their “knowhow” for income. It is like Uber but for learning. There are tutors on Tuteria who can teach you anything, from dancing and physics, to software development.

Tuteria was part of Facebook’s FBStart program for startups. They currently have almost 20,000 users on the platform with close to 10,000 tutors. They may be just starting, but I believe they may become Africa’s most significant learning platform. All the awards they have won are only the beginning.

What was amazing to me was that Godwin stumbled into solving this problem and kept refining it and growing it without even being aware that he was creating probably one of the most valuable startups in Nigeria. He saw a problem, started solving it and it became addictive to its users on both sides of the marketplace. High usage and customer retention rates are a testament of that.

Ed-tech for teachers may be the key to unlocking and unleashing technology in the emerging markets. A trip I made to India in 2011 convinced me entirely that the next billion technology users will be made possible by people at the street level who have a vested economic interest in making sure people use the technology. The “push” approach to technology learning, using tutors, is far more effective in emerging markets than the “pull” approach where content has to be available online, and people are expected to find and use it. We owe a lot of our early successes in Nigerian technology to the Indian technology training schools who decided to set up shop in Lagos and around Nigeria.

I travelled to India for the first time in 2011 for a course. After the program, I visited Jaipur, Agra and Delhi to see the normal “tourist sites,” but I saw a whole lot of other things that made me understand why India can have a hundred million people coming online yearly.

I saw that digital education was a massive industry on a scale and proliferation that I had never seen. It was as if there were more software training centres around India per square mile, than corner shops in the UK, or fast food outlets in America. It made me understand why software skills were in abundance there and why the technology adoption rate is so high.

Pushing Adoption
My friend Antonia Anni who is UX consultant (based in London) said something to me recently while commenting on a video I had shared on product design. She said, “innovation does not exist without adoption.” It made a whole lot of things clear to me, and I understood why Africa lags behinds places like India when it comes to technology adoption. I realized we might not have enough people making the adoption happen fast enough.

Mobile adoption would not have been possible if there were not people on the streets who made a living from making it happen. The telcos owe the growth of mobile usage more to the street agent and other users than to their marketing efforts. It seems that the customer or consumer education loop is rarely closed entirely in the emerging market countries no matter how intuitive or straightforward a technology product might be.

Google may have trained one million people last year and equipped them with digital skills, but you can imagine the multiplier effect if one million technology teachers get enabled with platforms like Tuteria? Once the thought of “One Million Teachers” entered my head, it could not leave until I tried to do something about it. I started my technology career in training; I was also a teacher, and this means a lot to me. I wanted to start an initiative, the first thing I did was to try to register the domain. I discovered that the domain “onemillionteachers.com” was already taken, it was a Canadian-based initiative. I went to the site to see what it was all about; I found out that a Nigerian, “Hakeem Subair,” was the CEO of OneMillionTeachers.com. Pius Adesanmi was also on the advisory board. I screamed with joy! We are all thinking alike.

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NIPOST restructures into 106 districts for efficiency

NIPOST restructures into 106 districts for efficiency

An old NIPOST facility: Inset, PMG Adegbuyi

As part of efforts targeted at making it more efficient and compete favorably well in the 21st Century postal business, the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) has restructured its operations into seven zones with 106 districts.
   
The districts are to be managed and headed by District Managers. This is just as the newly created Lagos Zone, comprising of Lagos State and Ota in Ogun State, with 12 districts, was officially launched along side the celebration of the 49th anniversary of the world post week in Lagos, recently.
 
The restructuring of NIPOST took effect after its old 38 territorial structures were collapsed into seven zones, to promote efficiency in its national operations.In her welcome address during the duo celebrations, the Lagos Zonal Manager, Mrs. Adebola Ayeni, commended the Postmaster General/CEO of NIPOST, Bisi Adegbuyi, for his initiative to restructure NIPOST for efficiency.    
   
According to Ayeni, the restructuring brought about a lot of internet-based products and services that would engage the youths, who are the millennials as well as the adults who are the digital migrants. “With the restructuring, new products and services have been introduced to make NIPOST more competitive and efficient in service delivery,” Ayeni said. 
   
She listed the newly introduced internet-based products and services to include IPS Track and Trace, E-stamp, E-commerce, E-insurance, Postal and Money Order Online Purchase, Post Office Card approved by MasterCard, NIPOST Agency Banking, Bank of Agric Agency Banking, and Address Verification System, among others.
   
She called on the general public to take advantage of the newly introduced products and services and experience faster and safer delivery of items.Deputy Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Wasiu Sanni, who was represented by one of the assembly members, Gbenle Adeshola, advised NIPOST to become more innovative in order to address the competitionnd threats posed by new technology and the social media. 
 
He said NIPOST must adjust to emerging technology realities, and remain competitive in business. He however commended the restructuring initiative in NIPOST, which he said, would help it to grow its eCommerce business. 
 
The General Manager, EMS/Parcel Nigeria, Dr. Asuquo Abianga, who was the first keynote speaker at the World Post Week celebration, spoke extensively on innovative technologies that would enable postal operations perform more efficiently for better service delivery to customers. He said modern technologies have helped the parcel delivery chain to become receiver-centralised, as consumers are now better informed about the status of their delivery, via tracking. He therefore called for more investments on the part of NIPOST, in the area of Information Technology (IT) infrastructure, as a means of raising its operational efficiencies. 
 
The second keynote speaker, who is Senior Lecturer, Department of Political Science, University of Lagos, Dr. Maryam Quadri, emphasised the need for NIPOST to use modern technology in driving innovation around postal services. 

According to her, “Postal customers today are different from the customers of years back. The needs of today’s customers are changing rapidly with the changes in the social, economic and political world. The emergence of new technologies and trend in digital transformation has thrown up a big challenge for postal service worldwide.”

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Samsung Note 8 bouys Nigeria’s smartphone market

Samsung Note 8 bouys Nigeria’s smartphone market

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung’s newest flagship Smartphone, the Galaxy Note 8 is now available in the Nigerian market, according to an official statement by Samsung Electronics West Africa. 
The Note 8 takes cues from Samsung’s Note and Galaxy S lines, while boasting even more exciting features making the smartphone a stunning device. It is noteworthy that customers who pre-registered will get a free fast-charging battery pack and a free back cover, from the 13th of October, 2017. 
 
Made with Corning Gorilla Glass 5.0, the new smartphone has a 6.3-inch QHD screen, the largest screen on a Galaxy Note phone, a dual camera, two 12-megapixel cameras on the back – a dual pixel primary wide-angel sensor with f/1.7 aperture and OIS, and a secondary telephoto lens with f/1.4 aperture and OIS. The smartphone features the company’s signature Infinity Display, giving the screen more surface area for use with the S Pen.
 
Director of Information, Communication & Technology for Samsung Electronics West Africa, Emmanouil Revmatas, said that the infinity display is a game changer for Note users because where others see more screen, users see more space to do what they love and get things done. 

“The Galaxy Note 8 has the biggest screen ever on a Note device, yet its narrow body makes it comfortable to hold in one hand. With the Super AMOLED technology, combined with a resolution of 2,960 x 1,440, all the typical characteristics featured in previous Samsung phones such as vibrant colors, high contrast, and inky dark blacks are incredibly sharp. The Note 8’s display is absolutely gorgeous with a screen fantastic for all kinds of use such as watching YouTube videos, playing games, casual web browsing, and boosting productivity,” said Director of Mobile for Samsung Electronics West Africa, Olumide Ojo.
 
Built with 6GB RAM, a 10nm processor, and 64GB memory space (expandable up to 256GB), the Galaxy Note 8 offers users more flexibility for internet browsing, video streaming, playing games, and multitasking. Importantly, the device is also water and dust resistant (IP68). Users do not have to worry about getting the device damaged when accidentally dropped in fresh water, as deep as 1.5 meters, for up to 30 minutes.
 
The S Pen, like the Galaxy Note 8 itself, is IP68-rated for water and dust resistance; users can easily jot down thoughts and ideas on a wet screen without interruption. The S Pen can also translate full sentences in foreign languages, depending on the country and region. All you need do is let the S Pen hover above the selected words. Thanks to the “Screen Off” Memo, users can write up to 100 pages of notes, as well as edit and pin them to the Always-On Display, an easy way for users to capture and share their thoughts with ease.

The S Pen also automatically converts units of measurements and foreign currencies. There is also an alarm that will go off once you start moving without docking it away.

The Galaxy Note 8 is equipped with two 12MP rear cameras with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) on both the wide-angle lens and the telephoto lens, allowing users capture crisp and sharp images. For more advanced photo-taking, the Galaxy Note 8’s Live Focus feature allows for control of the depth of field by adjusting the blur and focus of the background in real time. The background blur can be adjusted even after the picture is taken.
 
In Dual Capture mode, both rear cameras take two pictures simultaneously, allowing users save both images; one close-up shot from the telephoto lens and one wide-angle shot that shows the entire background. The wide-angle lens has a Dual Pixel sensor with rapid Auto Focus, so you can capture sharper, clearer shots even in low-light environments. 

“One of the things our consumers look out for when purchasing a device is the camera.. Samsung has clearly set the standard for smartphone cameras and, with the Galaxy Note 8; we are delivering our most powerful smartphone camera yet. The Galaxy Note 8 is also equipped with an industry-leading 8MP Smart Auto Focus front-facing camera for sharp selfies and video chats,” said Revmatas

The Galaxy Note 8 is available in Midnight Black, Orchid Gray, and Maple Gold colours. To purchase the device, customers can visit the network providers, MTN, Airtel, Etisalat and GLO; Samsung Experience Stores, and select retail partners nationwide. Customers are encouraged to purchase their Galaxy Note 8 only in Nigeria and only from authorized dealers so they can enjoy a 24-month warranty.

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Onu urges youths to promote innovative products

Onu urges youths to promote innovative products

Ogbonnaya Onu

Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, the Minister of Science and Technology has called on youths to take advantage of various platforms provided by the ministry to create innovative products and provide services.

Mr AbdulGaniyu Aminu, the Deputy Director of Press in the ministry made this known in a statement on Monday in Abuja.

Onu spoke at the presentation of Mathsoccer Game invented by Mr Princewill Okon, which was invented under the guidance of the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP).

He said that such effort from the youths would help to diversify national economy.

The minister said that Nigeria has a vibrant youths’ population who constituted 65 per cent of the country’s population, adding that Nigeria relied on them to build the future.

“The ministry is ready to support any innovation that will help grow the economy to solve national problems rather than seeking solution outside.’’

He assured that the invention would be commercialised and be made available to all Nigerians because of its potential toward nation building.

Onu said that the invention would help stimulate interest in the sciences to improve the skills of teachers.

He also called on Nigerian entrepreneurial class to invest in the invention because of its great potential, pointing out that “mathematics is the language of all sciences“.

The minister commended Okon for his efforts toward the success of the innovation.

Earlier, Okon said that the Mathsoccer Game has a high economic value and he intended to make it a national asset.

“The estimated cost of production of a set of the Mathsoccer game is N2, 500 for the production of 1,000 units.

“The unit cost of a set of Mathsoccer game compares favourably with other similar games such as chess, scrabble and monopoly whose unit prices ranges between N2,500 and N10,000.”

He said that the invention would improve learning skills and appealed to the government to help in mass-producing it to make it affordable to every child.

The Director-General of NOTAP, Dr Danazumi Ibriahim said that the game was aimed at providing an avenue for students and the public to explore their interest in sports and increase passion for mathematics.

According to him, the invention will enhance the learning of mathematics as a subject.

He said the game was adaptable as an instructional tool for teaching the basic principles of mathematics to the younger ones in primary and secondary schools.
He called on government to purchase and distribute Mathsoccer to primary and secondary schools across the country as instructional tools/materials for use in the mathematics laboratory.

“This should be done to serve as a means of promoting the leaning of Mathematics in both primary and secondary schools, “ he said.

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Onu urges youths to use ministry’s platforms to promote innovative products

Onu urges youths to use ministry’s platforms to promote innovative products

Ogbonnaya Onu

Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, the Minister of Science and Technology has called on youths to take advantage of various platforms provided by the ministry to create innovative products and provide services.

Mr AbdulGaniyu Aminu, the Deputy Director of Press in the ministry made this known in a statement on Monday in Abuja.

Onu spoke at the presentation of Mathsoccer Game invented by Mr Princewill Okon, which was invented under the guidance of the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP).

He said that such effort from the youths would help to diversify national economy.

The minister said that Nigeria has a vibrant youths’ population who constituted 65 per cent of the country’s population, adding that Nigeria relied on them to build the future.

“The ministry is ready to support any innovation that will help grow the economy to solve national problems rather than seeking solution outside.’’

He assured that the invention would be commercialised and be made available to all Nigerians because of its potential toward nation building.

Onu said that the invention would help stimulate interest in the sciences to improve the skills of teachers.

He also called on Nigerian entrepreneurial class to invest in the invention because of its great potential, pointing out that “mathematics is the language of all sciences“.

The minister commended Okon for his efforts toward the success of the innovation.

Earlier, Okon said that the Mathsoccer Game has a high economic value and he intended to make it a national asset.

“The estimated cost of production of a set of the Mathsoccer game is N2, 500 for the production of 1,000 units.

“The unit cost of a set of Mathsoccer game compares favourably with other similar games such as chess, scrabble and monopoly whose unit prices ranges between N2,500 and N10,000.”

He said that the invention would improve learning skills and appealed to the government to help in mass-producing it to make it affordable to every child.

The Director-General of NOTAP, Dr Danazumi Ibriahim said that the game was aimed at providing an avenue for students and the public to explore their interest in sports and increase passion for mathematics.

According to him, the invention will enhance the learning of mathematics as a subject.

He said the game was adaptable as an instructional tool for teaching the basic principles of mathematics to the younger ones in primary and secondary schools.
He called on government to purchase and distribute Mathsoccer to primary and secondary schools across the country as instructional tools/materials for use in the mathematics laboratory.

“This should be done to serve as a means of promoting the leaning of Mathematics in both primary and secondary schools, “ he said.

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Apple slams Qualcomm suit seeking iPhone ban in China

Apple slams Qualcomm suit seeking iPhone ban in China

Apple PHOTO:AFP

Apple has rejected as “meritless” a legal move by Qualcomm to ban iPhone sales in China, the latest salvo in a bitter patent battle between the two US tech giants.

Bloomberg News reported on Saturday that Qualcomm had filed a lawsuit in Beijing seeking a ban on the assembly and sale of iPhones in China — a vital Apple manufacturing base and sales market.

The two California companies are fighting over Apple’s claims that Qualcomm is abusing its market power over certain mobile chipsets in order to demand unfair royalties.

Apple filed a US lawsuit to that effect in January and has joined efforts in other countries where Qualcomm faces probes from antitrust authorities.

Qualcomm has countersued Apple for the royalties.

In response to Qualcomm’s Beijing suit, Apple said in a statement: “This claim is meritless and, like their other courtroom manoeuvres, we believe this latest legal effort will fail.”

AFP was not immediately able to obtain a copy of Qualcomm’s complaint.

Bloomberg reported it was filed on September 29 in an intellectual-property court, and said the suit was confirmed by a Qualcomm spokeswoman.

It remains unclear how much chance Qualcomm’s case has in China, where huge numbers of workers are employed in the manufacture of iPhones.

The Qualcomm patents cover power management and a touch-screen technology called Force Touch that Apple uses in current iPhones, Bloomberg reported, quoting Qualcomm.

Apple dismissed Qualcomm’s claims.

“In our many years of ongoing negotiations with Qualcomm, these patents have never been discussed and in fact were only granted in the last few months,” Apple’s statement said.

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Andela raises $40m to bridge talent gap, develop Africa’s tech ecosystem

Andela raises $40m to bridge talent gap, develop Africa’s tech ecosystem

“Andela is investing in our continent’s future technology leaders, who are already playing a much-needed role in solving both African and global problems,” says Seni Sulyman, Country Director of Andela Nigeria.

Andela has announced that the company has secured $40M in Series C funding to further build capacity of developers towards solving both African and global problems.
The round, which marks one of the largest investments ever led by an African venture firm into an Africa-based company, brings Andela’s total venture funding to just over $80M.

Andela hopes to use the capital to fuel its aggressive expansion plans of launching offices in two additional African countries over the next year and doubling its developer base from 500 to 1,000.

According to the company that builds engineering teams with Africa’s most talented software developers, the investment was led by pan-African venture firm CRE Venture Capital with participation from DBL Partners, Amplo, Salesforce Ventures, and Africa-focused TLcom Capital.

Existing investors including Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, GV, and Spark Capital also participated. Alongside this round, Pule Taukobong of CRE, Julia Gillard, former Australian Prime Minister and Amplo Board Partner, and Omobola Johnson, Senior Partner at TLcom and former Minister of Communication Technology in Nigeria, will be joining Andela’s board.

With an estimated 1.3M software jobs unfilled in 2016 in the U.S. alone, the growth of today’s major technology ecosystems inhibited by a severe lack of talent, has led Andela to invest in high potential pools of brainpower across the African continent to help more than 100 partner companies build distributed engineering teams.

These partners range from industry leaders like Viacom and Mastercard Labs to high-growth technology companies such as Gusto and GitHub.

“Andela is investing in our continent’s future technology leaders, who are already playing a much-needed role in solving both African and global problems,” says Seni Sulyman, Country Director of Andela Nigeria.

“With each new partnership, we are simultaneously proving to the global tech industry that brilliance is evenly distributed irrespective of gender, culture or nationality. As we unleash an entire generation of technologists, we will secure Africa’s role as an equal partner working alongside the rest of the world to advance human potential”, he added.

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Jumia unveils loans for vendors to boost eCommerce in Nigeria

Jumia unveils loans for vendors to boost eCommerce in Nigeria

Jumia Nigeria

• Plans a month ‘Black Friday’ promotion

Electronic commerce (eCommerce) platform, Jumia will be giving loans of various sizes to about 60 of its vendors, as part of process targeted at lifting the sub-sector in Nigeria.

Jumia Global Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Jeremy Hodara, who disclosed this, informed that the online shopping platform has 15, 000 vendors in the country.

Against the usual two weeks of Black Friday sales, Hodara informed that Jumia will be dedicating a month for this year’s promo sales, which start soonest.

The Global CEO, who informed that Nigeria remains the largest market among the 20 countries Jumia currently has its footprints across Africa, said from last year’s Black Friday, the firm had over eight million customers, who patronized the platform during the promo, “but this year, we are targeting doubling that figure. We started preparation for this year’s own since January and we are sure that we have the capacity to do this year’s promo for a month.”

According to him, the demand is still in Nigeria despite the various economic challenges. He stressed that the Nigerian economy has indeed been very tough in the last 18 months, which had thrown up lots of unpredictable behaviour from the consumers.

Hodara, who disclosed that despite Jumia celebrating five years in Nigeria, “we have not been profitable. Despite that, we are still investing in the business in various forms. Jumia is a Nigerian company that will be here for another 100 years. We are on the long term. Nigeria is our biggest market. We are not in a hurry to make profit.

It took Amazon about 25 years before they could become profitable. But we shall remain consistent, serving the Nigerian economy thoroughly.”

He listed professionalism; needs and impact; trustworthiness as some of the criteria that Jumia will be employing to disburse loans to selected vendors.

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Kobe Steel, Nissan scandals tarnish image of Japan Inc

Kobe Steel, Nissan scandals tarnish image of Japan Inc

Embarrassing scandals at Kobe Steel and Nissan have tarnished the reputation of Japan Inc for quality, as once-mighty industrial world-beaters battle fierce global competition and shrinking profit margins.

Once again, the image of a corporate boss bowing deeply in apology before the cameras has been splashed across Japan’s newspapers and sparked a fresh bout of national soul-searching.

Kobe Steel’s chief admitted his firm had falsified quality data in products shipped to about 500 clients, including carmaker Toyota, aircraft manufacturers and defence contractors.

The news that the affected parts were also used in Japan’s “Shinkansen” bullet trains deepened the humiliation for the “Made in Japan” brand that was once a byword for quality.

The revelation wiped $1.8 billion off its share price over the past week — a drop of more than 40 percent — as the scandal deepened and widened to other products such as steel wires, a key company product.

The Kobe Steel news came just days after Nissan recalled more than one million vehicles in Japan after admitting that staff without proper authorisation conducted final vehicle inspections before shipping them to dealers.

“Once the Japanese way of manufacturing won the praise of the world. But now jobs are being outsourced and factories are sent overseas. Things have changed,” said Koji Morioka, professor emeritus at Kansai University.

Intensifying global competition and an unending drive to cut costs have resulted in a situation in developed countries like Japan where workers keep quiet to protect themselves even if they see wrongdoing, added the expert.

“As globalisation continues, companies are expanding local production, and emerging economies are becoming ever more competitive,” Morioka said.

Indian, Chinese pressure

The admissions came as the global industry landscape goes through sweeping transformations, experts said.

Costly workers in mature economies like Japan are directly pitted against cheap factory staff in emerging markets in a competition for jobs.

Experienced workers with stable contracts are being replaced by temporary novices, while management demands higher productivity from all employees.

Meanwhile, industry newcomers are taking market share away from traditional corporate giants.

In the steelmaking sector, for example, Indian and Chinese giants have steadily expanded, pressuring their Japanese rivals.

And the Japanese auto manufacturing behemoths have expanded overseas production, rather than exporting vehicles from Japan.

The Kobe Steel and Nissan scandals are the latest in a string of negative headlines for Japanese industry that used to be the envy of the world.

Airbag maker Takata went bankrupt this year after spending years dealing with defective products that were linked to 16 deaths and scores of injuries worldwide.

Mitsubishi Motors last year admitted that it had been falsifying mileage tests for years.

Sadayuki Sakakibara, chairman of the powerful Keidanren business lobby, said that “global confidence and trust in Japanese manufacturing were based on unrivalled quality that overwhelmed other countries.”

“These acts were so serious that it could have an impact” on trust in Japanese manufacturing.

Spread like mould

Corporate scandals are of course not limited to Japan. The 2015 “dieselgate” affair, where Volkswagen admitted to equipping its diesel cars with devices to evade emissions tests, caused great embarrassment for German industry, also a watchword for quality.

General Motors in 2014 also started recalling millions of vehicles over ignition defects that were linked with 124 deaths, after hiding the problem for more than a decade.

But analysts said that ironically, super-stringent quality controls in Japan could be part of the problem.

Eyebrows were raised in the Nissan scandal when it emerged that checks by more qualified officials were required for the domestic market but not for vehicles destined for exports.

Nobuo Gohara, a corporate compliance lawyer who has helped restore a number of firms after serious scandals, said many such affairs stem from excessive safety or quality standards.

Misconduct begins when employees consider that meeting these standards is a mere formality rather then a requirement and start hiding it from internal audits, he said.

Such a culture can spread like “mould” through an organisation, Gohara told AFP.

“If you leave these situations untreated, the organisation as a whole becomes numb to regulations,” he said.

Younger employees in Japan tend to be more sensitive to compliance requirements, Gohara said, adding that repeated surveys of workers by outside experts can encourage whistle-blowing.

But whistle-blowing does not function properly when the misconduct is routinely and systematically conducted by many people, including potential whistle-blowers themselves, he added.

In addition, there is no formal protection for whistle-blowers in Japan and a culture of respect for hierarchy prevents many workers from speaking out, observers say.

“I suspect many small acts of misconduct happen in many places,” Gohara said.

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