Tag Archives: Asia’s entrepreneurs

Fuji Bokujo Dairy Farm: milking the best of the internet


As part of our series of interviews with Asia-Pacific entrepreneurs who use the internet to connect, create and grow, we chatted with Yuichiro Fujii, President of Fujii Bokujo Inc., a dairy farm based in Hokkaido, Japan. Founded in 1904, Fujii Bokujo runs the entire process of dairy product production—from milking, to breeding, to feed production—and needs a regular supply of seasonal workers to keep the farm going. In 2016, Fujii Bokujo was ranked as the third most popular company in Japan for employee welfare.

Can you tell us a bit about your farm and how your business works?

We have 900 cows at our farm in Furano, Hokkaido. We use the most cutting-edge technology and practices available in the dairy industry, such as fully automated milking machines. And we’re proud to export our homemade cheeses and ice creams worldwide. Business is booming and we’re eager to hire new employees each year, but farming isn’t everyone’s first choice of career. Each year, it gets harder and harder to attract new graduates. Most young people want to move to the cities and there’s a shortage of talent in the countryside.

What’s it like working on the farm?

Working life on the farm is fun, but it takes a lot of energy! Most of our 24 employees are in their twenties. Many come into the business with no experience of farming, but our motto is “We nurture our cows and our people.”  We’re constantly trying to create an environment where our people can grow professionally, and maybe personally too.


One of the residents of the Fuji Bojuko dairy farm.

What difference has the internet made for your business?

We are the descendants of pioneer dairy farmers in Hokkaido. A man named Edwin Dan, considered to be the father of modern day dairy farming in Hokkaido, coined the phrase, “Kaitakusha tare” (meaning “the pride of the pioneers”). We continue to practice the pioneer spirit today by always trying out new things.

So this year, to deal with our manpower crunch, instead of waiting for responses to wanted ads in newspapers and magazines, we decided to go online. To drive interest and awareness of Fujii Bokujo and the dairy industry, we used YouTube video ads and banner ads on the Google Display Network. In particular, we hoped that young people attending universities near us that had dairy farming courses would see our ads.

We got 260 enquiries for the three positions we had open and attracted 80 participants to a seminar we held to introduce our company. I was surprised by how far the message reached—we got responses from students not just from Hokkaido but also well-known schools in Tokyo and Osaka. In the end, we offered five students jobs, completing our hiring process three months earlier than last year.

What’s next for your business?

I’m looking forward to meeting next year’s graduates! We are in an age where domestic milk production cannot keep up with demand. In line with the spirit of Fujii Bokujo, it’s my life’s dream to develop and train the next generation for the dairy business.

I am also eager to use video not just for our corporate brand and hiring but also our product marketing efforts in the future. We are developing content that will help to entice the young people to the world of dairy.

Finally, with the Olympics coming up in 2020, nothing would make me happier than contributing to athletes winning medals through food. My dream is to have the athletes of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics enjoy the high quality milk we carefully produce at Fujii Bokujo.  

Experimenting with science education on YouTube

As part of our series of interviews with people across Asia-Pacific who use the Internet as a tool to connect, create and grow, we spoke with DoYoun Han, a science teacher at Hyeongyeong  Elementary School in South Korea. In addition to his day job, he runs the YouTube channel 3-Minute Elementary School Science, which shares videos of science lessons and experiments to students between 9 and 13 years old.

Why did you become a teacher?

My parents are farmers and I grew up in the countryside. Unlike the cities, you won’t find private education academies and big libraries here. I was quite playful when I was younger and the lack of interesting educational resources in the countryside didn’t help! I didn’t perform well in examinations, and lost interest in studying. But when I got to the fifth grade, my teacher Lee Byung-gi decided to personally tutor me after school, cheering me up whenever I got bad grades. He inspired me to work harder at school and I decided that I wanted to be just like him—helping students living in the countryside. I’m now living out my dream as a teacher at Hyeongyeong Elementary School in rural South Jeolla province.

Why did you become a YouTube creator?

The average South Korean family spends more than 10 percent of its income on after-school education in private academies for its children. Not every family can afford private education and you won’t find such academies in rural areas anyway. So there’s a gap in educational resources for students in urban and rural areas. I thought the best way to close it was to give teachers in rural schools material to supplement their own teaching. And I decided to share this content through YouTube because it’s popular with young people in Korea.

How do you use YouTube to help your students?

Last year, three other teachers and I started making short science lessons on video. The last thing we wanted to do was to make these seem like extra homework for the kids. So we focus on fun experiments, making abstract concepts more accessible with cartoons or songs. Our videos follow the order of the lessons in the national science curriculum. After reading the lesson in their textbooks, kids can watch our videos to get a better understanding of the subject, and hopefully have some fun too. We’ve shared about 300 videos so far.


What challenges do you face in keeping this going?

Right now it takes us about six hours to produce a three minute video. We’re teachers, not social influencers and we’re still learning to write scripts, film and edit our videos. We use our own money to purchase the production equipment and laboratory materials. Our limited funds means that we can’t produce all the videos that we want to. That’s why we were so thankful when Google heard about our channel and decided to support us with a $30,000 funding commitment. We’re going to use these resources to create even better educational videos for kids.

What keeps you making these videos?

I feel extremely fulfilled when I get comments on our YouTube channel from students who the videos have helped. One student said that he went from being a mediocre to an ace science student, getting full marks to their test scores. I’m happy when students get better results, but I feel just as satisfied when students leave comments just expressing gratitude for being able to understand and solve a problem because of our YouTube videos. Some of our viewers have even won prizes in national science competitions!


What are your plans for the future?

I want to keep being a teacher who presents children with the gift of dreams, creating high-quality online content to help children across the world realize their dreams. We’ve grown from a group of four teachers to 29 now, so we are also thinking of improving our videos and making new ones beyond the field of science.

As we’ve gotten a good response from viewers overseas, we also want to start offering English and Chinese subtitles to our lessons to reach more students. Through YouTube, I also want to reach students that face difficult learning environments like refugees. I see our videos becoming an online classroom that they can access anytime, without teachers or books.

PolicyPal: a mobile-first assurance on insurance

Val Yap is the founder and CEO of PolicyPal, a digital insurance broker that lets people buy, understand and organize their insurance on their mobile phones. She’s also a graduate from Start on Android, a program that helps developers perfect their apps with technical support and other perks from Google before launching on Google Play.

Why did you establish PolicyPal?

In 2013, I was working in London when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I left my job, packed my bags, and moved back to Singapore to be with her. Relocating and seeing my strong mother stricken with illness was stressful. The daily grind of dealing with medical appointments and bills made things worse, especially when her insurance claim for her treatment was rejected.

Thankfully, my mother recovered. But we unexpectedly lost my father to a heart attack later that year. We knew he had insurance, but we had no idea what. Even as we were grieving, I had to visit different insurance companies to check. That whole year was a nightmare for my family.

Coping with my father’s passing and my mother’s illness, the last thing I wanted to do was go through insurance policies. But we needed that information and there was no other choice. If we had easier access and better understanding of our coverage, this tough time for our family would have been a bit easier to bear.

We’re sorry to hear about that. How did you go about solving similar problems for others?

Many of us have insurance, but we just pay the premiums and forget about it. When an emergency strikes, we’re scrambling to understand how we’re covered. I started PolicyPal as a digital folder for people to organize and retrieve their policies quickly and painlessly. You just need to take a photo of the insurance document, and PolicyPal stores a digital copy in your mobile phone. It also analyzes your insurance policies and recommends how to fill gaps in your coverage.

As we learned more about the problems faced in the insurance industry, we expanded our product offerings. We set up PALNetwork, an ecosystem which leverages blockchain technology to automate underwriting and claims processing, and empower partners to customize new financial products. We are also the first provider in Singapore to provide insurance for people holding cryptocurrency assets.


How did the Start on Android program help you in launching your app?

With the support and help from Start on Android, we received valuable feedback ahead of time from the community, helping us improve our app’s performance and user experience. We even managed to acquire and retain some early users through the program, which gave us a fantastic head start when it launched.

What are your plans for the future?

We’re focusing our efforts on serving people in more countries in Asia. I think insurance technology will develop very differently in this region from mature markets like the U.S. or Europe. People in emerging Asia will leapfrog from being unbanked and uninsured to getting insurance through novel solutions, for example, mobile apps instead of agents. We’re looking at expanding beyond Singapore to countries like Indonesia and Thailand.

You’re a female startup founder. What advice do you have for other aspiring women entrepreneurs in tech?

Find a mentor. Working with female mentors has been a game-changer for me. We go through experiences that men don’t and it’s essential that you build friendships with people who can empathize.

My second piece of advice applies to all genders! Don’t enter a sector just because it’s fashionable. Think about what problems you want to solve first and who you’re solving for. Go deep into your mission and make sure you feel it’s something you’re still going to be excited by in 10 years.