The International Franchise Expo (IFE), one of the world biggest international franchise expos, will be held on October 18 and 19, 2016, in Tokyo for the first time. The IFE was born in the U.S., the birthplace of the franchise, and invites exhibitors and participants from various countries around the world. Japan was chosen as the site for its milestone 25th anniversary. We have interviewed the three people responsible about the background and aim of hosting it in Japan. The first person is Mr. Naoki Shimabukuro, the president of Idealink Co., Ltd. The company is the main sponsor of the IFE Japan and administers one of the biggest industrial matching site called Franchise no madoguchi (Franchise window). Next is President Thomas Portesy of MFV Expositions that created the IFE and serves as the organizing company. And the third person is Mr. Ichiro Fujita from I. Fujita International, which has introduced various American franchises to Japan. These three are helping guide the franchise industry in Japan and the U.S.
―First, please tell us the outline of the IFE (International Franchise Expo).
Shimabukuro: The IFE, administered by MFV Expositions, is one of the biggest international FC (franchise) expos, and is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. More than 20,000 people from over 100 countries and areas participate, and many FC contracts are created at this expo every year. As it is a representative expo of the industry, many powerful FC member applicants from various places around the world visit, and it is characteristic that both exhibitors and participants are quite serious. In this expo, serious negotiations are taking place in many places and you can have solid business talks. It has previously been held in New York, Los Angeles, Mexico, and the U.K., and in 2016, it will be held in Tokyo for the first time.
―Tell us the aim of holding it in Tokyo.
Portesy: It is a known fact that the whole world is paying attention to the Asian market, which enjoys striking economic growth, and the IFE has been expected to be held in Asia. Meanwhile, when a largescale expo like the IFE was decided to be held in Asia, Tokyo was a natural candidate city to choose. Tokyo is always ranked within world top 5 on criteria such as economic scale, population density, and market size of FC. However, what is more diffi cult than choosing the place is choosing a partner to help hold the IFE.
When looking for a partner, President Fujita of I. Fujita International, that had positive results in introducing various American FCs to Japan, told us that there was an ideal person and introduced him to me. That was President Shimabukuro of Idealink.
Fujita: I myself have supported American FC companies to support Japan, and I am confident in my knowledge of FC industries both in the U.S. and Japan. When, through my network, I heard that they were looking for a partner to make the IFE held in Tokyo successful, I felt that introducing President Shimabukuro to them would be ideal. Idealink, led by President Shimabukuro, manages one of the biggest business matching sites in the FC industry called Franchise no madoguchi (Franchise window), and has the highest number of total customers for corporate FC members.
―I see. So specialists from the U.S. and Japan join forces. For this IFE Japan, what kind of programs are you planning to hold?
Shimabukuro: For the IFE Japan in 2016, international FC brands of 100 to 110 companies from Asia and Europe as well as Japan and the U.S. are planning to participate. We hope it will help introduce Japanese brands to participants from other countries and provide chances for Japanese companies to expand overseas, as well as attract foreign brands to Japan. The industry types vary, including food, retail and service. We will support FC business both in Japan and overseas.
Portesy: For the IFE Japan, it’s not only exhibitions; we are also planning to hold other interesting programs. Since we have a chance to hold it in Tokyo, we are discussing if we can also hold a summit where both American and Japanese FC headquarters can talk about a common theme.
Fujita: There are more than 1,200 FC headquarters in Japan, and they continue to grow very fast. However, the FC business which has 100- year history in the U.S., the birthplace of franchise, has only a 30- year history in Japan. In the U.S., the country where FC developed, the IFE is the major event that represents the industry and has excellent results and a long history. It is meaningful that the IFE will be held in Japan for the first time this year, as it celebrates its 25th anniversary.
Shimabukuro: Indeed. That's exactly why I want to make it successful as an event, where everyone related to FC in Japan can improve their awareness and find business chances. Also, I want to build it up as a bridge linking to the world for the FC industry.