When Katsumi Kubota came to Manila in 2013, he had under his belt 25 years of experience living and working in eight countries. The chief operating officer of Fast Retailing Philippines and country head of Uniqlo Philippines was still caught off-guard, however, by how much the Philippines had set itself apart from the rest of the world—so much that, without batting an eyelash, Kubota will tell you he plans on staying here for good.
“Definitely,” Kubota answers when asked if he is choosing the Philippines over Brazil, where he lived for a decade. “Actually, I’m surprised that this is the best among all those countries,” says the 52-year-old Japanese, who has been to the United States, Mexico, Singapore, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Russia before his post in Manila.
Like most foreigners who fall in love with the country, Kubota attributes his fondness of the Philippines to its people. “Filipinos are very strong in communicating with any nationality in the world. They are very kind, very family-oriented, and some of the culture reflects parts of Latin America—which I like,” Kubota says.
Uniqlo had it easy entering the Philippine market. The brand now has 23 stores in the country, attracting more than 200,000 customers every week. But while Filipino consumers know Uniqlo, the knowledge is limited to the basics. “Here in Manila, many people know us already. In Makati or in Ortigas, almost 80 percent of people know us, they would say, ‘Oh, Uniqlo! I like that brand.’ But can you tell me how or why my product is good?” he asks.
Case in point is the pair of jeans Kubota is wearing for the day’s photo shoot. “For this pair of jeans, we use genuine material from the company called Kaihara, which has been manufacturing fabric for jeans for 120 years,” he says, calling it “the best denim manufacturer in the whole world.”
It all boils down to effectively communicating the brand, most importantly, the technology behind it. Some would agree that Uniqlo is an innovation-driven fashion product. Fast Retailing Founder and Chief Executive Tadashi Yanai has said, more than once, that “Uniqlo is not a fashion company, it’s a technology company.”
Follow Uniqlo’s story inside Asian Dragon Magazine’s July-August 2015 issue. Grab a copy from all leading bookstores nationwide or purchase the issue from the Asian Dragon Magazine App for Android and Apple.
[Photographs: Kai Huang]