It is a very small company. Few knew about it, until the Japanese earthquake. It is called Kureha and is a Japanese firm. In a way, it is a global innovator. Kureha controls 70% of the global market for a polymer, polyvinylidene fluoride, used for the production of lithium ion batteries. The earthquake affected one of its factories where this resin is made thereby disrupting the supply chains of many global companies like Apple and HTC that require its niche products to build their consumer electronics products. If this company does not get up to speed and supply, we could have a disruption in global supply of some batteries and consequently tablets and phones.
Japan supplies lightweight but very special products that cannot be easily substituted. The earthquake brought the world to the attention of Kureha as its products are extremely differentiated. It is a typical Japanese firm in the electronics industry – niche and lightweight. In the US alone, Japan supplies 33% of all the capacitors, an electrical part. The same applies to other products that are very important in sustaining the modern way of living.
Japanese companies pursue innovation and operate in the domain of high niche products, especially in the semiconductor and microelectronics industry. They play their games at that spot where few could participate. And they do that with foresight, vision, creativity and determination.
It is interesting to know that small companies are keeping some global behemoths hostage due to lack of inventory of Japanese parts. And for the fact that these products cannot easily be re-sourced, many are shutting down plants. Ford is running low on the supply of black paints for some of its products. GM and other companies have concerns as well.
Innovation must be a way of doing business. African companies must develop that capacity and embed it in their business culture. Pursing that is the only way to succeed . It is just as Kureha has it on its site…pursuing excellence. This company is teaching the world what it means to differentiate and innovate, even when small.