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TKP: Conquering the Japanese Rental Market


As far as overpopulation in big cities goes, Tokyo takes the cake as the most populated city in the world, with almost 30% of Japan’s population living there. Doing some quick math will show that this population density times the rising demand for real estate in Japan does not equal effective living quarters.

Surprisingly though, even though the city itself is overcrowded, there are still hundreds of unused rooms and spaces across the city.

Takateru Kawano decided to create a profitable business by renting empty rooms as office and event spaces. And unlike anyone in the market before him, he used the power of the internet to his advantage.

He created TPK - a company aimed at leasing empty spaces, renovating and customizing them, and renting them to a client for a conference or other event while also providing additional services, like catering.

Young Ambitions

Takateru Kawano was born on October 13th 1972, in Oita, the capital of the Oita Prefecture on the Kyushu Island, one of the five main Japanese islands. While his dreams weren’t exactly in the real estate business when he was young, he had a knack for analytics, logic, coupled with a strong determination and drive.

Having perfectionism as a personality trait served him well, as he was never satisfied with anything less than the absolute best. He knew that he wanted to leave his village to reach for his ambitions somewhere in the big city from his early days.

That’s when he decided to join Keio University in Tokyo - one of the most prestigious universities in Asia. This was the first step towards making the most out of himself and accomplishing whatever he’ll set his mind to.

Over (to) the Sea, Full of Opportunities

After leaving his hometown and moving to Tokyo, Kawano studied at the Business School at Keio University, where he excelled. Business was an obvious choice for Kawano, since he has always been interested in finding ways to put his mind to good use.

He graduated in 1996, which is also when he began working at Itochu, one of the biggest Japanese trading companies. He was part of the stock exchange department as a currency trader. But this adventure did not last long, as he saw the opportunity for a better and more exciting one.

He gained some experience in the online brokerage venture at Itochu corporation, so he decided to leave and be part of a new start-up in the field of internet banking.

It was here when he noticed a problem. Specifically, how difficult it was to conduct company meetings. He also saw how much money a company spends on monthly fees and rent when using a conference room even though they were using it regularly.

This is where the proverbial light dawned upon him - and where the idea for his business began. He figured that having the option to book a conference room was better than flat out renting one for a longer period of time, which would also cost a lot more money.

Once he started browsing the market, he noticed an immediate lack of businesses offering this service type. Even more so, the conference rooms that were on offer were away from the center of the city, and the people providing them were not cooperating.

Kawano saw this as an opportunity. He decided to try and combine his online trading experience with the evident lack of appropriate renting rooms. In 2005 he founded TKP, a company that would later change his life.

Knock, Knock

Starting this business in an overcrowded and conservative rent market in Tokyo proved to be quite the challenge on the outset. Kawano faced many obstacles, but quitting was never an option for him.

He began his work by renting two floors of an old building that was soon to be demolished. He offered the space for anyone who wished to use it online - which was rare compared to other competitors on the market.

He saw this as an opportunity to stand out. Unlike every other business renting, he opted for an hourly price on the room, rather than a usual monthly rent. It wasn’t long before the booking requests started pouring in which gave him a great deal of confidence - and an acknowledgment that all the hassle was worth the effort after all.

While he continued leasing rooms from various building owners, he also had a different idea to just renting them. Knowing how busy the business climate is in Japan, he knew that different companies appreciated different styles, which is why he decided to offer renovations for anyone looking to rent the room.

On top of this, he also kept the prices relatively affordable in order to gain more customers - all in the name of bringing in more customers to the table.

He worked tirelessly to make it work, often going to stores on his own and buying lunches and beverages to sell to his clients. He was determined to cover all bases - and give the best service possible to anyone using his rooms.

It was a hard beginning since Kawano needed to limit costs to find his financial footing. That’s why he was involved in cleaning and renovating the rooms by himself on top of taking care of maintenance and management. He even made sure to personally welcome and serve any clients who opted for his service.

Rising to the Top

The result of his determination, diligence and persistence was an extremely successful company.

What started as a simple conference room renting company, expanded to providing many more services for any potential customers. This went beyond simple catering and a cleaning service. Kawano’s creativity and ability to think outside the box made TKP one of the most versatile companies at the time.

It wasn’t long before he established a nationwide network. This is what gave TKP the boost to go beyond just simple room renting. Aside from the standard conference room, TKP quickly began covering hotel banquet hall events, renovating restaurants, compact hotels and in some places - even offered lodging facilities for accommodation near the conference rooms.

The Big Financial Boom

Kawano’s readiness to give his all for the company, as well as his sacrifice and persistence were not enough on the outset. Like any other company, TKP needed money and investments in order to grow and achieve its goals and it was proving to be fairly challenging to acquire them on short notice.

That is also why Kawano invested a lot of his personal money into the company before he could take in any investors.

After more than a year of TKP working, Itochu Technology Venture saw potential in his ideas. As a company working to give start-ups in Japan some well-needed funding, they invested some early capital into TKP.

This was the push that TKP and Kawano needed to continue on the road of conquering the rental business in Japan - and also revolutionize it.

TKP Today

All of Kawano’s work seemingly paid off since TKP Corporation is now one of the leaders in the rental sector in Japan. For his hard work, in 2017 he managed to win the Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Japan.

TKP now manages 427 facilities, 14 of which are overseas - with over 1,400 employees. With a total capital of over $100,000,000, it is currently one of the most successful Japanese corporations.

In addition to this, TKP has expanded by having several subsidiaries across the world, including Regus JP, Taiwan Regus, Conveni Station, TKP Communications, TKP Medicalink, and TKP New York.

Takateru Kawano’s story is an inspiration to most in many ways.

From his humble beginnings in rural Kyushu to making his way into one of the busiest markets in the world, Kawano has had a long and hard journey, full of ups and downs - with one of the most important Cinderella stories in recent times.

His ambitions and drive alone were enough for him to push through many obstacles throughout the years, making him one of the people who forever changed the Japanese rental industry.