Case study - Abbeal

Abbeal is a French start-up specialized in web and mobile development consultancy. They have four branches in France (Paris, Lyon, Lille and Bordeaux) as well as two subsidiaries in Canada (Toronto and Montréal) and one in Tokyo, Japan. They recently expanded their business in Japan and met quite a big success in the country of the rising sun.

With the purpose to showcase EU companies’ successes in Japan, Mr. Mohamed Elwageeh, Abbeal’s country manager of Japan, is answering some questions by the EU-Japan Centre. 

abbeal logo

An Introduction

At the moment Abbeal offers two services: one where they work as consultants and meet their clients with engineers so they can advise their client and help them develop alongside an existing development team. The second service is about application development, and in this case Abbeal will take charge entirely of the whole development of the application.

So, for instance, if a company doesn’t have an engineering department and would like a digital transformation for themselves or their clients, then they can count on Abbeal.

Why Japan ?

The story of why we came to Japan is quite an interesting one. [..] there wasn’t a specific plan that Japan was the next market we would expand to.

In fact, when Abbeal started to hear that some of their employees were wishing to experience Japan, they decided to enter the Japanese market. They then decided to explore new opportunities and set up an office in Tokyo starting in February 2022. But entering a new market is never an easy task and means encountering some drawbacks.

Challenges and difficulties

I think the biggest difficulty for a Western company entering the Japanese market [...] is localizing.

Adapting Abbeal’s services to Japan was for sure their biggest challenge. The language barrier was the most difficult one to overcome. Indeed, no one was speaking Japanese when they developed their business in Japan and still, nowadays, some employees need to improve their Japanese language skills. Mr. Elwageeh was by far the first employee to speak the local language fluently.

Abbeal had to understand Japanese language, culture, and work environment in order to adapt their services, and they succeeded by starting to pay Japanese language lessons to their employees and organizing group classes for exchanging in Japanese or about Japan. They even recently found a Japanese language school specialized in IT and gaming space, which better fit to Abbeal's purposes.

Competition in the Japanese Market

The project’s success is Abbeal's success.

The Japanese market is highly competitive in Abbeal’s sector of activity, and this aspect must be carefully considered when planning a business strategy, however Abbeal has advantages: they give very high output and they are ROI focused according to Mr. Elwageeh. These have helped Abbeal to develop partnerships in Japan. Last but not least, the fact that they are trustworthy, flexible and caring about their projects helped them to pull ahead of the competition.

We give an open space for all of our developers to pitch an idea, to change the way the company is moving and to have a big impact.

The human factor is therefore important to keep in mind.

Future expectations

In the future, Abbeal would like to expand their team and their structure. They would like to find new lines of business and avenues. They also hope to widen their offer of development services in addition to the actual consulting services. Showing to the Japanese market that Abbeal is flexible and a multi-faceted company is also part of their plans.

Lastly, Mr. Elwageeh is advising other European SMEs which want to develop their business in Japan to focus on localization and to hire someone who can speak Japanese and know the Japanese culture.

Text based on an interview with Mr. Mohamed Elwageeh, Country Manager of Abbeal
Date of publication: 22 May 2023

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