Benesse Corporation - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Benesse Corporation

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Company Perspectives:

Bringing the Benesse philosophy to a wider world. The Benesse Group i ntegrates expertise from different areas to extend the reach of the B enesse vision. The companies involved are all leaders in their respec tive fields. The businesses in the Benesse group share the common out look that underpins Benesse, while at the same time holding distincti ve traits that have helped them rise to the top of their industries.

History of Benesse Corporation

Benesse Corporation is Japan's leading provider of private educationa l support services, senior care services, translation and interpretat ion services, and, through subsidiary Berlitz International, the worl d's largest provider of foreign language instruction. Education suppo rt remains the group's largest area of operation, accounting for appr oximately two-thirds of the group's annual sales. Benesse provides co rrespondence and in-class course programs for all ages--starting at s ix months old and extending through high school and university entran ce exam preparations. The company is also Japan's leading provider of translation and interpretation services, through subsidiary Simul In ternational. Benesse also provides call center services through Telem arketing Japan, Inc. The company's control of Berlitz International g ives it operations in more than 50 countries worldwide; in the mid-20 00s, Benesse has been focusing Berlitz's expansion on Asia and Europe . Japan's declining birth rate, coupled with the rise in the proporti on of senior citizens in the country has prompted Benesse to develop a new line of business, providing senior citizen care services, throu gh subsidiary Benesse Style Care Co. The company operates more than 9 0 senior care facilities in Japan. Listed on the Osaka and Tokyo Stoc k Exchanges, Benesse Corporation posted sales of $2.73 billion in 2004. Soichiro Fukutake, son of the company's founder, serves as cha irman of the board. Masayoshi Morimoto is Benesse Corporation's CEO.

Correspondence Origins in the 1950

Tetsuhiko Fukutake began his professional career as a schoolteacher, before launching his own printing business in the early 1950s. When t hat company failed, however, Fukutake was forced to find a new career . By then, the Japanese economy had begun its entry into an extended boom that saw the country emerge as the world's second largest indust rial and financial market. A major factor in the national effort to a chieve technological and industrial superiority was the high level of commitment to education. Fukutake recognized an opportunity for comb ining his former career as a teacher and his experience in printing a nd in 1955 founded his own publishing company, Fukutake Shoten, in Ok ayama.

Fukutake launched its first series of educational books and other stu dy materials that year, targeting especially the junior high school s egment. By the early 1960s, the company had extended its range to inc lude the nation's high school students as well. The company enjoyed s trong success with the launch of its Kansai Simulated Exams in 1962. The company later rolled out that service on a national scale in 1973 , changing the program's name to Shinken Simulated Exams.

Fukutake efforts were buoyed by the steadily intensifying competition among Japanese students for the relatively few university openings, especially among the country's top universities. Educational support services soon came under demand, presenting Fukutake with new expansi on opportunities. The company developed its own correspondence course programs. The first of these was launched in 1969, geared toward the high school student market. In 1972, the company added a program tar geting the junior high market as well. The following year, both were rebranded, as Shinkenzemi.

Pressure on Japanese students continued to build through the 1970s. T he competition among students soon extended into the elementary schoo l level, as a population boom made future university spots rarer stil l. Fukutake responded to this development by launching an extension o f the Shinkenzemi program, with courses designed specifically for ele mentary school children, in 1980.

The company responded to the youth market in other ways. In 1977, Fuk utake established a new publishing division and began publishing a va riety of support materials for the junior high and senior high market s. The company's extension into the elementary school segment also le d the publishing division to develop specific products for that marke t, including the 1985 launch of a new series of dictionaries, with a Japanese dictionary and a Kanji-character dictionary specifically for the elementary grades. Tetsuhiko Fukutake died in 1986, and son Soic hiro took over as the company's head.

By the late 1980s, the pressure on Japanese children to perform had b ecome so intense that Fukutake was able to extend its Shinkenzemi con cept to the preschool segment. The company continued to develop the c oncept, launching a new course for toddlers aged two to three in 1994 . By the mid-2000s, the company had extended the Shinkenzemi program to include children as young as six months old.

New Corporate Identity in the 1990s

Japan's changing demographics, however, had by then forced the compan y to redefine itself. By the late 1980s, it had become clear that the country's birthrate had entered a period of serious decline; at the same time, the population in general was growing older, as people now lived longer than ever before. The drop in birthrate represented a c lear challenge to Fukutake's core youth market.

In 1990, therefore, the company adopted a new philosophy, called "Ben esse"--derived from the Latin "bene" and "esse," or "living well." Th e company now set out to expand its range of operations into other ag e segments, extending its educational services from a focus on schola stic achievement to a wider target of lifestyle enhancement. The chan ge in philosophy led to a change in the company's name, to Benesse Co rporation, in 1995. In that year, as well, Benesse went public, listi ng its shares on the Osaka and Hiroshima Stock Exchanges.

By then, Benesse had begun putting its new corporate identity into ac tion. Language instruction and interpretation services appeared to be a natural market for the group's extension. In 1990, the company pur chased a 20 percent stake in the Japanese branch of the United States ' Berlitz International. That company, founded in Rhode Island in 187 8, had grown to become the world's leading language education group, targeting especially the U.S. and European markets. By the late 1980s , Berlitz had come under the control of Maxwell Communications, which launched Berlitz as a public company in 1989.

The death of Robert Maxwell and the collapse of Maxwell Communication s in 1991 provided Fukutake the opportunity to take control of Berlit z International itself. By 1993, Fukutake had acquired fully two-thir ds of Berlitz's stock. The company then began reorienting Berlitz's f ocus, targeting the high-growth Asian region, where the learning of f oreign languages in general, and English in particular, was experienc ing a boom in demand.

Meanwhile, the company had begun to explore other areas of expansion. Magazine publishing became a natural extension of the group's publis hing operations and led to the launch of titles such as Tamago Club a nd Hiyoko Club in 1993. The company, which had traditionally provided correspondence courses, now began investing in a new range of on-sit e operations. In 1994, for example, the company opened its first dayc are center, called La Petite Academy, and later rebranded as Benesse Childcare Center.

The company also began investing in on-site career training, targetin g specifically the growing demand for in-home nursing services (known as home helpers). In 1995, the company launched its first Home Helpe r training course. In that year, as well, Benesse began offering its own Home Help services program.

This led the company to extend its operations once again, into the ma nagement of senior care facilities. The first of these, Benesse Home Clara, opened in Okayama in 1997. The Clara chain grew into a nationa l network of facilities, with more than 30 in operation by the mid-20 00s. Benesse began developing other senior care facility brands, targ eting different segments and price points, including the Madoka and G ranny & Granda formats. In 2003, the company added a fourth brand , Aria, which featured on-site medical care as well as its own nursin g capacity. In addition, in 2000, the company extended its senior ser vices with the launch of nursing care subsidiary Benesse Care Corpora tion. In that year, too, Benesse added its listing to the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Shifting Focus in the New Century

By the early 2000s, the company's educational services wing, while st ill the largest part of the group's operations, accounting for some t wo-thirds of the company's sales, appeared to have peaked. Although t he division's revenues had continued to climb through the 1990s, into the mid-2000s, the division began to decline. Demographics played a dual role in the shift in the group's core market. The declining birt hrate in Japan also meant that competition for entry into the country 's universities was not nearly as fierce as before. Indeed, by 2009, all students wishing to enter university were expected to be assured of a place. As a result, children's motivation to study had begun to decline, which in turn placed pressure on Benesse's revenues.

Benesse continued, therefore, in its effort to diversify its base of operations. The company made a number of strategic acquisitions, such as its 1998 purchase of Simul International Inc., the leading provid er of translation and interpreter services in Japan. That company had been founded in 1965 and had first captured the attention of the nat ional market when it provided live televised interpreter services for the 1969 Apollo 11 moonwalk. Following its acquisition by Benesse, S imul began its own diversification drive. In 2000, for example, Simul began offering temporary job placement services. This was followed b y the launch of permanent job placement services in 2001. Simul also opened its own training academies, including a new school opened in Y okohama in 2004.

Benesse acquired 100 percent control of Berlitz International in 2001 . Following that purchase, Berlitz stepped up its effort to shift its focus of operations from the United States and Japan to more dynamic markets, including Europe and, especially, Asia.

With the approach of the middle 2000s, Benesse began to develop an in terest in expanding its own operations into the international market. As such, the company launched a subsidiary in Hong Kong in 2004. The new operation began sourcing products, including toys, tools, and ot her supplements for use in Benesse's Japanese operations. Yet a major purpose of the new subsidiary was to begin preparations for a later entry by Benesse into the Chinese educational support market. Similar ly, Benesse established a subsidiary in South Korea in 2004, as well. Benesse hoped to reproduce its success in Japan on an international scale for the new century.

Principal Subsidiaries: AVIVA Co., Ltd.; Benesse Hong Kong Co. , Ltd.; Benesse Korea Co.; Benesse Style Care Co., Ltd.; Berlitz Inte rnational; Berlitz Japan Ltd.; Learn Co. Ltd.; Shinken-AD Co., Ltd.; Telemarketing Japan, Inc.

Principal Competitors: Kumon Institute of Education Company Lt d.; Eikoh Inc.; Ichishin Company Ltd.; Nagase Brothers Inc.; WAO Corp oration; Jeugia Corporation; Wish Us Corporation; Shuei Yobiko Compan y Ltd.


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