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Success Stories

SF Express Co., Ltd.

Industry: Service/Others

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SF Express of China, an international courier service provider, has been expanding its Japan business steadily since its incorporation in Tokyo, boosted by booming online sales beyond borders and increased overseas travel and shopping opportunities among tourists to Japan. We interviewed Mr. Shigeyuki Tanaka, Representative Director of the Japanese subsidiary, on the company’s business situation in Japan.


SF Express of China (“SF Express”), an international courier service provider, has been working hard on the expansion of its business in Japan. SF Express’s Japanese subsidiary, SF Express Co., Ltd., has been steadily growing by riding the booming waves of the e-commerce business beyond borders and also through the increasing shopping opportunities for tourists visiting Japan in purchasing goods.

Reasons for incorporation and expansion of business in Japan

SF Express was established in Shunde, Guangdong Province in 1993. Since its inception, the company has continued improving its service quality, investing in facilities and vigorously developing and introducing IT technologies and equipment to realize automatic operations. Currently, it has set up a network of branch offices and a service network within and outside China to support information collection, market development, logistics and express services. The company’s express service area covers nearly all of China. SF Express has been continuing to strengthen its international presence since 2010, with its services extended to the United States, ASEAN, South Korea, Australia and Mongolia.

SF Express established SF Express Co., Ltd. as its Japanese subsidiary in Tokyo in 2011 and opened an additional branch in Osaka in 2012. Since then, it has engaged in the international courier services, in delivering cargo from Japan to China, the US and other countries in Asia.

Shigeyuki Tanaka, Representative Director of the Japanese subsidiary, cited “the market size of Japan and the increasing trading volume between Japan and China” as well as “increased opportunities of foreign consumers for purchasing goods in and from Japan” as being reasons for its incorporation and business expansion in Japan.

Japan is one of the largest markets in the world, being ranked third in terms of GDP, as of October 2015. Looking at Japan’s trade partners in terms of volume, China has continuously ranked first from 2007 to 2014. Given these impressive figures, SF Express considered that business in Japan would carry great potential for growth.

Another factor behind the expansion is the fact that foreign consumers have had more opportunities to purchase goods in and from Japan, which has resulted in the increasing demand for international courier services. The emergence of e-commerce business has provided a platform and opportunities for Japanese merchants to sell their products overseas.

The increasing number of tourists visiting Japan has also led to rising demand in shipping products abroad. These factors serve as an accelerator of SF Express’s business growth. With the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games on the horizon, an even greater number of tourists are expected to come to Japan, and SF Express sees this as a great business opportunity.

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Advantage of SF Express

Mr. Tanaka cites its “responsiveness to market” as an advantage of SF Express. To differentiate itself from others, the company has been putting its resources into the creation of new business in addition to its international courier service. The package forwarding service of SF Express is an example of this initiative, in which SF Express conducts procedures for receiving shipments on behalf of customers in Japan and forwarding shipments to the consumers’ addresses in China. Mr. Tanaka says, “We are responsive to changes in the market and customer needs, and therefore we can more easily undertake new business models.”

Future initiatives

Mr. Tanaka underlines its future business development in Japan, saying, “We will work harder to expand our business further.” Japan is known as a mature market, and therefore consumers demand higher levels of services. SF Express therefore focuses on increasing sales in the market and improving the visibility of its brand. SF Express will be further investing in infrastructure and bringing in advanced technology. It will enhance its level of services by sharing the knowhow gained through the success it has found in other countries.

The company also devoted its effort to forming tie-ups with business partners. An example of this is a business partnership with Rakuten, Inc. announced in October 2015 to collaborate in creating more efficient e-commerce operations. In the future, SF Express will aim at enhancing its price competitiveness by leveraging its scale, expanding its service network , optimizing its operational capability as a whole and enhancing its overall service quality.

Support from JETRO

At the time of incorporation of SF Express’s Japanese subsidiary, JETRO’s Invest Japan Business Support Center (IBSC) provided support which included lending a temporary office; consultation on company registration, application of approvals and permits for incorporation, visas, taxation and personnel management; referral to HR agencies and real estate agents; and sharing market information. Regarding the services provided by JETRO, Mr. Tanaka says, “It helped a lot because JETRO not only lent us a temporary office but arranged meetings with business partners such as staffing agencies and accounting firms. Before we opened our Japanese subsidiary, we considered it would be extremely difficult to enter the Japanese market. Thanks to the support from JETRO, the process went without a hitch. We would like to express our thanks to the JETRO staff that helped us.”

(Written in October 2015)


Corporate history

1993 SF Express established in Shunde, Guangdong Province, China
2011   SF Express Co., Ltd. established in Tokyo
2012 Branch of SF Express Co., Ltd. established in Osaka
2015 Business alliance with Rakuten, Inc.

SF Express Co., Ltd. (Based in Japan)

Establishment: February 2011
Business: International Courier Service
Parent company (group): SF Express (China)
Address: (Tokyo office) MK Building, 2-2-10, Shiohama, Koto-Ku, Tokyo, 135-0043, Japan
(Osaka office) 1-4-16 Kawaguchi, Nishi-Ku, Osaka-City, Osaka, 550-0021, Japan 
URL: http://www.sf-express.com/jp/ja/External site: a new window will open.

JETRO’s support

  • Provision of IBSC temporary office    
  • Support with finding local staff
  • Support with procedures for incorporation 
  • Support with finding real estate
  • Provision of information on permission and authorization     
  • Provision of market information