Tomomichi Takahashi became a multimillionaire by focusing on the dullest of white-collar tasks.
The former SoftBank Group Corp. employee was an early mover into what’s called robotic process automation, the use of software bots to automate repetitive operations.
The Japanese entrepreneur stumbled into the business by chance, turning to it as a last resort when his consulting firm was on the ropes during the financial crisis.
It was a winning move. Takahashi’s company — now called RPA Holdings Inc. — listed last year on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The shares surged, and so did Takahashi’s wealth. His stake in the company is worth more than $360 million.
“It was like hell,” the 48-year-old entrepreneur said of the period after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed in September 2008. “We decided to do whatever it took to survive.”
Takahashi’s firm provides so-called software bots for more than 500 companies, including Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., the largest lender in Japan, Nippon Life Insurance Co. and his alma mater, Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Group. It helps them to automate routine tasks such as inputting data and checking invoices.
The company is at the forefront of an industry on the rise. Global spending on robotic process automation software was estimated to reach $680 million in 2018, up 57 percent from the previous year, and is on course to total $2.4 billion by 2022, according to research from Gartner Inc. The new technologies are particularly welcome in Japan, where a shrinking workforce is causing the tightest labor market in decades.
Author: Keiko Ujikane and Shingo Kawamoto
Image Credit: Shiho Fukada/Bloomberg