David Blecken
Aug 21, 2018

Ofo Japan’s marketing head leaves amid business challenges

The bike share company has run into difficulties less than six months after launching in Japan.

An abandoned Ofo bike in Australia. Photo: Shutterstock
An abandoned Ofo bike in Australia. Photo: Shutterstock

Chinese bike share startup Ofo has hit rocky terrain in Japan after establishing a presence in the market in March.

Mikihiko Hashimoto, the company’s marketing director, has left, along with country manager Yoshiaki Hiyoshi and PR manager Yusuke Yamanaka.

Hashimoto was previously at Beacon Communications and is understood to be returning to the agency world. Hiyoshi is a former Goldman Sachs analyst, while Yamanaka worked at Interbrand before joining Ofo.

Sarah Wang, a spokesperson for Ofo, confirmed the departures to Campaign and said the company’s Japan business was “under adjustment”, but was unable to provide further details.

Ofo recently stopped operating in Australia, Germany and Israel, and suspended activities in the US, according to reports. The company has been criticised for expanding too rapidly while failing to address problems caused by an oversupply of dockless bikes. Along with others in the sector, it has become notorious for images of scrapped bikes piled high.

The company’s business model in Japan differs to that in many other markets in that, according to regulations, it is required to install docking stations in the areas where it operates. It does not have a presence in major cities and has instead opted for measured expansion in regional areas including Otsu, Wakayama and Kita-Kyushu.

Domestic competitors in the sector include Docomo Bike Share and Merchari, a spinoff by the online fleamarket startup Mercari. In an interview earlier this year, Hashimoto said a challenge Ofo faced was overcoming Japanese people’s sometimes unfavourable perception of Chinese brands.

Campaign Japan

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