In 2008, Yasukane Matsumoto was a consultant at AT Kearney who helped businesses to reduce costs. As he gained experience, Matsumoto realized that printing costs were one of the biggest costs to cut. Japan has over 30,000 printing companies but the market is dominated by two giants which gobble up 50 percent of the market. Matsumoto finds this oligopoly market inefficient.
“Why can’t small printing companies get printing orders in a more efficient manner?” Matsumoto thought.
He believed that the internet could change this. While still working as a consultant, in 2009, Matsumoto set aside time to start Insatsu Hikaku, a website that helps users compare prices among printing companies.
“I didn’t take any risk because I was just 24,” he says. “You don’t lose anything when you’re young and I just want to do something by myself – so building a startup makes sense. It’s hard to explain.”
With Insatsu Hikaku set up, Matsumoto spoke with printing companies, one at a time, to convince them to get onto his online platform. Matsumoto made the decision to leave AT Kearney in 2010 to give his startup undivided attention. He didn’t like the consulting job anyway – he always felt the entrepreneurial spirit within him.
In 2012, Matsumoto’s startup received an investment of $2.3 million from Yahoo Japan, Nissay Capital, and Anri fund. With money in the bank, Matsumoto leveraged on Insatsu Hikaku’s database to set up Raksul in March 2013.
Raksul is more than just a price comparison site between printing companies. It’s an ecommerce site focusing on printing. Based on your location, volume of print, pricing, and deadline, Raksul will automatically recommend the most suitable printing company for you. The user then uploads the relevant files. At the backend, Raksul’s staff help to do the sizing and formatting before sending it to a printing company. The printing company will print and deliver the final printed goods to the customer’s doorstep. For every successful printing deal, Raksul gets a cut.
The attitude of the users who are visiting price comparison sites and ecommerce sites is different. A site which has two functions, price comparison and commerce, is confusing to users. That’s why we decided to separate the sites – Raksul.com and Insatsu-Hikaku.com.
The result for Raksul was promising. So promising that it attracted a whopping $15.5 million investment in January 2014 led by WiL and other participating investors including GMO Ventures Partner, Itochu, Global Brain, and Mixi. By February 2014, Raksul hit US$500,000 in sales and in March, last month, sales doubled to US$1 million. It now works with more than 1,700 printing partners in Japan and has about 40 staff members.
“Japan is growing well for us, so Southeast Asia will be our next focus this year. We would like to start a price comparison site for printing companies there soon,” says Matsumoto.
You may have heard of Vistaprint, but Raksul is not the same concept: Vistaprint owns printing machines but Raksul doesn’t.Editing by Steven Millward