In this article, I would like to write about the background and history of the birth of the KiliMOL business.
In Autumn of 2019, MOL, the parent company of KiliMOL, introduced its MOL Group New Business Proposal System (*1). I (as an MOL employee) was interested in new business development, so applied for the program and was fortunate enough to pass the screening process. This led to a one-year term commencing April 2020 to verify the feasibility of the project.
My initial idea was for a cross-border e-commerce site for used cars. To this end, I studied the business models of Amazon, Rakuten, and others. When first researching Africa as a promising market for used cars, I came across a book that showed that the number of tractors per 100 square kilometers was 13 in Africa, compared to a global average of 200. This was much lower than, for example, the 129 tractors per 100 square kilometers in South Asia. Therefore, in the middle of May 2020, I started researching agriculture and agricultural machinery in Africa.
I learned many new things during my research of agriculture and agricultural machinery in Africa, which very much stimulated my interest in the subject. In the meantime, I contacted people at JICA, JETRO, development consultants, and other organizations working internationally in the field of agriculture to learn more about the challenges of agriculture in Africa and the background behind the lack of widespread use of agricultural machinery. At that time, I began to feel passionate that exporting used agricultural machinery through a cross-border EC site was a business I should be involved in, and a strong desire to commercialize the business formed in me.
I focused on East Africa, where the field area per farmer is small and where Japanese small agricultural machines are well suited. Japanese used cars were popular in this region and Japanese products are highly trusted. Additionally, Kenya, a relatively economically developed and English-speaking country, had a large port where our ships regularly called.
In July 2020, we had a consequential encounter with Mr. Karasawa, President of Karasawa Agricultural Machinery Service, our current business partner. I saw Mr. Karasawa's presentation at a Morning Pitch organized by Deloitte Tohmatsu Venture Support and became interested in what he had to say. I subsequently arranged for a meeting with him. At the first meeting, I suggested working together with him on the business of exporting used agricultural machinery to Africa. Mr. Karasawa immediately responded with a “yes” at a speed of decision-making typical only of a second-generation venture CEO.
In my next article, I will write about my first field survey in Kenya.
(*1) MOL Group New Business Proposal System
This system was introduced in September 2019 with the aim of providing a place where our employees can fully demonstrate their abilities and take on challenges proactively, as well as serving as a receptacle for businesses and services ideas that are not bound by existing frameworks in a changing business environment.