When people talk about Japan, they often do so in the context of ‘lost decades’ and warnings of limited growth opportunities. Nearly one-third of the population is over age 65, inflation is stubbornly low and predictions for future economic growth are not encouraging. While talk of demographic doom often dominates headlines about Japan, a recent visit with my research team assured me that it also contains some interesting investment opportunities.
For example, some Japanese companies are coming up with creative solutions to a relatively low-growth domestic environment. Perhaps the best example is Recruit, which Bloomberg recently dubbed “Japan’s Top Contender for Global Internet Domination”*.
Recruit, which has staffing, online human resources and legacy media businesses, is buying growth outside Japan—and by all appearances, doing so successfully. The company has invested heavily in Indeed.com, a Houston-based online job listing company it purchased in 2012, and Glassdoor, a Silicon Valley firm it bought in 2018. In addition to job listings, Glassdoor allows employees to anonymously post reviews of current or former employers, as well as salaries for comparison purposes.
Indeed has snatched market share from Monster, another American job listing site, and is the number-one source for job listings in every developed market except Australia and Germany. Glassdoor, too, is making an international push.
As a corporate parent, Recruit has maintained a remarkably hands-off approach to management, preserving the innovation and growth that made Indeed and Glassdoor attractive businesses to begin with. Only LinkedIn poses serious competition to the two companies in the online recruitment and job-seeking businesses.