It looks like the perfect business opportunity. Every house has one. Everyone uses them. And one Japanese company is making the most technologically advanced products of their kind. \nBut while the world may beat a path to your door for building a better mousetrap, Toto Ltd has found that selling a better toilet requires more patience. \nToto, the world's dominant maker of high-tech loos, made toilet history in 1980 when, improving on a US model that combined the bidet and the toilet, it produced the "washlet" -- bringing warm water to the user's nether regions. \n"We did what others were reluctant to try -- we brought electronics into the water closet," said Hiroshi Kobayashi, Toto's general manager of restroom product research. \nSometimes dubbed "super-thrones," top-of-the-line washlets now come with wall-mounted control panels as sleek and complex as those of stereo systems. \nTheir manifold buttons allow adjustment of the nozzle position, water pressure and type of spray, plus blow-drying, air purification and seat warming for those cold winter mornings. Water and seat temperatures are adjustable. \nThe controls can also be set so the lid rises as the toilet is approached. \nJapan has embraced the high-tech toilet. Government statistics show that combined toilet/bidets are now installed in 52 percent of Japanese homes compared to just 14 percent in 1992. \nToto -- which employs around 1,500 engineers -- dominates that market with a 65 percent share. Its closest rival, Japan's Inax Corp, trails at 25 percent. Numbers for Japan's overall toilet market share are similar. \nBut where Sony's Playstation, Toyota Corollas and Pokemon have all blazed paths into western popular culture, Toto's high-tech thrones have not traveled well. \nToto officials blame matters both cultural and practical. \nA relatively long history of flush toilets in the US and Europe -- around 100 years -- has resulted in many competitors and cheap toilets. \nWesterners just aren't used to shelling out hundreds or even thousands of dollars for high-tech versions. \nMost Western bathrooms also lack an electric socket near the toilet, something that people in Japan, where central heating is rare, were keen to install when the seat-warmer was introduced. \nBut after making some inroads in the US with more standard models, especially with the advent of low-flow toilets in the 1990s, Toto's washlets are starting to make an impression. \nIts US washlet sales, which began some eight years ago, have risen to over 1,000 units a month this year from 600 two years ago. \n"It's not the same amount of numbers but the trend is very similar to what we saw in Japan 20 years ago -- low figures for about five years and then a sharp J-curve. We have great expectations for US sales next year," Kobayashi said. \nBut marketing toilets is not easy. Building showrooms is expensive and some analysts estimate it will take another five years before overseas revenues, now only 5 percent of Toto's total sales, climb to 10 percent. \nAnd some cultural barriers seem to be just too hard to break -- witness the European market, where Toto has only one distributor and sells a mere 5,000 washlets annually. \n"You'd think that because Europeans are used to the bidet, they'd be more interested. We just don't know why they aren't," said Kobayashi. \nSome analysts even argue that tackling cultural norms isn't worth the effort and that Toto would be better off pulling its washlets out of the US and Europe altogether and concentrating on more receptive Asian markets like China.
Polytronics Technology Corp (聚鼎科技) yesterday announced that it is buying Henkel AG’s thermal clad dielectric material (TCLAD) business division for US$26 million as the Taiwanese firm aims to improve its technology, product portfolio and revenue performance. Polytronics, headquartered in the Hsinchu Science Park (新竹科學園區), is a supplier of protection components and heat dissipation materials. The firm entered the metallic heat-dissipation substrate market in 2007 and developed a unique solventless production process. Its board of directors approved signing an agreement with Henkel to acquire the German chemical firm’s TCLAD division in the US. The purchase includes all assets and business interests, including equipment,
SIZE MATTERS: Medium-sized hotels that do not have the support of parent groups are more vulnerable and are forced to take action, a REPro Knight Frank researcher said About 50 hotels across Taiwan are seeking to exit the market as they succumb to the bleak business outlook amid international travel restrictions imposed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Yomi Hotel (優美飯店) on Minsheng E Road, Sec 1, in Taipei is seeking to transfer ownership with an asking price of NT$950 million (US$32.15 million) and a pledge for a lease contract that guarantees a 3 percent return. The budget hotel, with room rates that start from NT$1,400 per night, maintains normal operations, but has been struggling since March, when the government placed restrictions on inbound and outbound travel. Occupancy rates for hotels in
‘SENSITIVE MARKETS’: The previously unannounced project would involve the company handing over control of data to a third party to sidestep privacy concerns Google has abandoned plans to offer a major new cloud service in China and other politically sensitive countries due in part to concerns over geopolitical tensions and the COVID-19 pandemic, two employees familiar with the matter said, revealing the challenges for US tech giants to secure business in those markets. In May, the search giant shut down the initiative, known as “Isolated Region” and which sought to address nations’ desires to control data within their borders, the employees said. The action was considered a “massive strategy shift,” said one of the employees, who added that Isolated Region had involved hundreds of employees
GOGOROS TO GO: The scooter maker’s CEO said that the electric vehicles ‘are the perfect complement to a program designed to stimulate the Taiwanese economy’ Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花) yesterday announced a draw to encourage people to claim their Triple Stimulus Vouchers digitally. The prizes include movie tickets and 25 electric scooters donated by Gogoro Inc (睿能創意), Wang said. The Ministry of Economic Affairs said that it would hold a scooter draw every day for the next 10 days, beginning yesterday, after which there would be a draw every week for 15 weeks. The first winner was a Taiwan Cooperative Bank (合庫銀行) credit card user, the ministry said. The benefits of claiming the vouchers digitally extend beyond the draws, with many businesses offering special deals for