100 Next-Era CEOs in Asia 2014 -The region's best brightest, most promising-

Aoki Holdings, Inc.

CEO (Chairman & Representative Director)
Hironori Aoki

1938
Birthplace
Nagano Prefecture
Message to young people
People flower as human beings after going through various sorts of hardship. Do not run away from pain or suffering, but overcome it and you will develop your own abilities.

My father was a rice dealer. Amid inflation and food shortages after the war, my father borrowed money and opened a pawn shop while holding to his belief to help vulnerable people. But the pawn shop went bankrupt and we lost all assets except our house in a foreclosure. After graduating from high school, I started selling used suits, which were pawned, to pay the remaining debt.

Through seven years of sales experience, I came to understand what business was. As a result, it made me start my suit business. I was about 20 years old at that time. With the money I had steadily saved over seven years, I opened the first shop in 1965. It was a tiny shop but was located in front of a station, so I could earn customers' trust. Afterward, I launched new shops, one after another. But all of them suffered from poor sales and growing deficits. To get out of this pinch, I kept thinking positively and worked hard, aiming to launch the best shop in the community and finally opened a shop in front of Nagano Station. It was a big success. Over time, I transformed my style from a survival-oriented business to one serving customers, establishing my management philosophy and embarking on my way in pursuit of it.

From 1977, we made a plan to increase the number of stores and ordered 28,000 suits. However, the plan did not go as scheduled and I ended up with a huge inventory. At that time, I met a Buddhist monk in Nagano who saved me with these words: "People are born with nothing" and "Devote yourself single-mindedly to your work." Thanks to these words, I became humble and went to meet the suit makers to apologize for my failure. Then, over 20 years, we came to establish an innovative distribution system for suits. But in the late 1990s, I realized that our business would reach a deadlock soon due to deflation and a shrinking market. I thought this would be a good opportunity to come up with a breakthrough and grow with a new business.

The goal of the company is to build about 20 midsize companies. My own goal is to nurture excellent leaders in Japan. To achieve that goal, I have organized a Chinese classics study group and made DVDs for children to learn the basics of being a human being. I'm also engaged in a project to develop future leaders of this country in conjunction with my hometown of Nagano.

Company Profile

Name
Aoki Holdings, Inc.
Headquarters
Yokohama, Japan
1976
employees
2,691 (as of March 31, 2011)
business
Fashion, special occasion and entertainment business
url
www.aoki-hd.co.jp