Smartphones and tablet devices have become an indispensable part of our lives. While many people use multiple devices for personal and business reasons, due to prevalent teleworking amid the coronavirus pandemic and the semiconductor shortage, the market for corporate used smartphones has been expanding.
Against this backdrop, Tokyo Century launched Belong One in 2021, a smartphone and tablet device rental service for companies, in collaboration with Belong Inc., which sells used smartphones. We interviewed Tsuyoshi Shimizu, Executive Vice President and COO of Belong, and Yu Miyazawa, who is in charge of this project at Tokyo Century, about the outline of their service and background of its launch.
Belong Sells Used Smartphones and Tablets and Operates a Leasing Business
――Could you give us an overview of Belong’s business?
Shimizu: Belong’s primarily business is sales of used smartphones. We offer two main services, one for individuals and the other for companies. For individuals, we sell used smartphones and tablets on an e-commerce site called Nikosma and offer a buyback service called Belong Buyback. For companies, we provide the used smartphone leasing service Belong One and the buyback service Belong Buyback for Biz.
We boast two strengths: owning Japan’s largest operation center in Zama City, Kanagawa Prefecture, and having advanced procurement capabilities that enable us to collect used devices from all over the world by taking advantage of the power of the ITOCHU Group network.
The operation center in Zama in particular is characterized by its rigorous inspection system, and about 200 staff members are on duty at all times to provide high-quality services, including the inspection, kitting, and maintenance of devices.
――Belong’s mission is to deliver the next value that you can be proud of to your loved one. Could you tell us your thoughts behind this?
Shimizu: Some customers may be worried about whether used devices can really be depended upon, and in fact, more than a few defective devices have been shipped due to inspection errors and delivered to customers in the used device market.
In order to address these concerns, we always keep in mind that since we sell used products, they must be thoroughly and accurately inspected so that we only deliver reliable products to customers.
To this end, we utilize the strengths of our operation center and advanced procurement capabilities to consistently and rigorously inspect devices and deliver those in good condition to customers at reasonable prices. We respond as much as possible to the various requests of individual customers, including kitting.
New Type of Leasing Service that Combines Kitting and Operation
――Could you tell us what motivated you to launch the corporate services Belong One and Belong Buyback for Biz in October 2021?
Shimizu: We have sold used smartphones to corporate customers for some time. Recently, however, a subscription system to pay monthly fixed fees has come into wide use, and demand for rental or leasing services for smartphones and tablets had been increasing for a long time.
In addition, teleworking became widespread during the coronavirus pandemic, and various companies have begun to engage in DX. In light of these factors, demand has been rising for smartphones and tablet devices from corporate customers, with additional impetus due to the global semiconductor shortage that is hindering the mass production of new devices. Under these circumstances, used devices have been attracting greater interest.
Therefore, in response to the many inquiries we have received from corporate customers, we have decided to develop new types of services such as leasing and rental.
Miyazawa: Belong first contacted us about leasing several thousand devices. After talking with them, we came up with a proposal to offer an all-in-one monthly package for a used device, including meticulous after-sales support such as kitting, installation of a delivery application, and personal delivery. This proposal was so well received that we decided to launch the Belong One service.
Shimizu: In terms of the division of roles between Belong and Tokyo Century, Belong is mainly responsible for cultivating new customers and procuring used devices that are optimal according to each customer’s requirements. Meanwhile, Tokyo Century mainly supports us in managing leases, drawing upon its wealth of experience and knowledge gained in leasing.
Miyazawa: For many years, Tokyo Century primarily dealt with PCs and other IT devices. As we responded to customer inquiries for a vast number of mobile devices, however, we became convinced that smartphones and tablets now represent infrastructure products, and we would be able to definitely grow the services related to them. We have been highly appreciated by our customers who take advantage of our kitting, maintenance, and operation support to reduce their workload and resource shortages.
Strengthening Synergies Between the Two Companies to Expand Services
――Could you share your plans for developing your services and what new things you want to try going forward?
Shimizu: The more terminals a company installs, the greater the cost in time and money for the information system and the administration departments to manage them, so more companies are experiencing not having sufficient resources. Therefore, we would like to put more effort into after-sales support as well as leasing going forward. While we have already been providing kitting service along with post-kitting terminal management and operation services, we want to further enhance these and develop an all-in-one support service to reduce the burden on our customers.
In another noteworthy development, Belong One was certified in February 2022 as an authorized Android Enterprise Device Reseller by Google™, so we would like to offer a wider variety of devices, including Android™.
Miyazawa: As I mentioned earlier, smartphones and tablets have become so widely used that individuals including employees at corporations each use one device. We feel that Belong One can be used by a broad range of customers, regardless of industry, as a service that provides such an infrastructure. Looking ahead, we want to further expand the scope of our proposals to meet the various needs of our customers. Moreover, we would like to continue deepening our communication and collaboration with Belong to be able to address more service-related challenges.
Executive Vice President and COO, Belong Inc.
After graduating from Kyoto University Graduate School, joined ITOCHU Corporation in 2012. Since 2016, he has been stationed at ITOCHU’s Silicon Valley office. After returning to Japan in 2018, he established Belong in February 2019 as an in-house venture of ITOCHU Corporation.
Corporate Business Division III, Tokyo Century Corporation
Joined Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation in 2009. After working in Business Process Planning Division, Metro Tokyo Business Division, he was seconded to a major retailer. Currently working in a Corporate Business Division