PayPay Leader Interview is a series of interviews with PayPay top executives that show a glimpse into their personalities and perspectives. In this issue, we sat down with Takayuki Okuma, Division Head of the East Japan Sales Division.
Division Head, East Japan Sales Division, Sales Group
I joined Softbank in 2004 as a mid-career hire and was in charge of agency sales. Then I got seconded to PayPay in June 2018 expanding the number of PayPay merchants as a Senior Manager. I assumed my current position as Division Head in 2021.
Please tell us about your career until now
I joined SoftBank in 2004 mid-career and was in charge of agency sales for products such as Yahoo! BB and Yahoo! Mobile. I was then invited to work at PayPay and got seconded in June 2018, where I expanded the number of merchants as Senior Manager of the Nagoya and Kanto areas, and became the current Division Head in 2021.
What did the initial phase of PayPay look like to you?
As soon as I joined PayPay, I was told to go to Fukuoka for about three days to hit the pavement because we were opening an office in Fukuoka. I vividly remember that one store decided to adopt PayPay on my first day. It was a rice shop where the owner was a Yahoo! JAPAN user. The service was not yet ubiquitous back then so many people were rather suspicious, but I always told them, “Don’t worry! This service was started by Yahoo! JAPAN and SoftBank!” and moved on to the next shop (laughs).
In 2019, with the introduction of the government’s cashless promotion project and our immense promotional campaign, we were inundated with so many applications that it was difficult to arrange my schedule.
What is the mission of your team?
We have repeated to each other in PayPay the words “PayPay anytime, anywhere” like a mantra, emphasizing the importance of having our service available in any rural area or remote island. We are helping to revitalize communities by promoting PayPay as a community-based service, and working closely with small to medium-sized independent stores and merchants to increase their revenue. In addition to sales activities for acquiring new merchants, we also provide various support to existing merchants including solution selling, pitch to local governments, and manage and operate our offices.
I believe the East Japan Sales Division is a particularly large organization within PayPay
There are a total of about 500 employees divided across 15 offices and five blocks in an area ranging from Hokkaido to Yamanashi. Each office is divided into three teams: a new acquisition team that promotes the introduction of code payment services, an account team that conducts sales promotion support for merchants via coupons, stamp cards, e-flyers, etc., and a dedicated contact desk for local governments.
Our employees will not be assigned to the same role the entire time after joining the company, but will gain various work experience by changing the scope of their work, first by focusing on acquiring new merchants, then moving on to solution sales to merchants, and sales to local governments. I am confident that they will acquire a broad perspective and skills as salespeople.
What is the culture like in the East Japan Sales Division?
We are expected to reach lofty goals as sales reps, but that is we have a culture of adopting multiple methods and trying them out in an A/B testing-esque way. If something works, we quickly spread the know-how throughout the organization. Everyone works together as a team, actively sharing wonderful ideas with each other to achieve our goals. We also make it a point to imitate successful ideas and further improve on them.
What are you currently working on?
We are working on the introduction of a new commercial product called “PayCAS Mobile,” a multi-payment terminal. A single terminal can accept multiple payment services, including credit cards, e-money, QR code payment, and transportation IC cards.
As a result of our efforts over the past five years to expand and educate our merchant base, we have seen a deepened understanding of cashless payments among merchants. At the same time, we have also observed a growing need to introduce credit card and public transportation-related payments going forward. In order to meet these demands, we have launched PayCAS Mobile. There is a lot of knowledge we need to catch up on and this is not a product that can be casually introduced, but we are trying to figure out solutions as a team.
Currently, the cashless ratio in Japan is about 36%, but we want to increase the number of merchants one store at a time, so we can contribute to the government’s target of 40% by 2025.
What has been most challenging for you in PayPay?
The transition from providing our payment system for free to charging a 1.6% fee in 2021 was an immense challenge, because there was a great danger that merchants who have been using PayPay would stop using our service. As it turned out, 99% of our merchants continued to use PayPay even with the fee, and only 1% terminated the contract. I believe this happened because we placed importance on providing value to users and repeatedly communicated this idea to merchants, that they believed in PayPay and continued using our payment system despite it no longer being gratis.
Although we sometimes receive tough comments about fees, we always strive to understand the needs of both users and merchants and continue to provide value so that more people will use PayPay. And we hope that those who have stopped using PayPay use it again thanks to the new value we provide.
How do you want your members to grow?
I want them to use this environment to improve their skills and sensitivity, establish a wide network of contacts, and take on any challenge when the opportunity presents itself. It is hard to find a business that attracts as much attention and buzz as PayPay does, and since the service has only been around for five years, there is still a copious amount of room for growth. In addition, PayPay boasts a large number of experts from around the world. I hope that they will learn a lot of things while working on the ground and become someone who can play an active role in any company.
Plus, I think this work environment is filled with opportunities. We take each member’s ability and motivation, as well as timing into account, and may ask someone to do enterprise sales or some other activity to pursue a career outside of pitching to independent stores. It is my sincere hope that each person will leverage such opportunities.
Which of the PayPay 5 Senses speaks to you the most?
“Speed is our bet on the market” and “Ego is not welcome, communication is necessary.” Our goal is to achieve results with breakneck speed, serve our users, and contribute to both team and company. At PayPay, we are asked to scale a different mountain every year and the goals keep getting higher, but we don’t just clamber up, we conquer the summit by taking shortcuts up precipices.
Despite the speedy environment, we nonetheless emphasize communication and respect for the diversity amongst colleagues. And for whatever is decided, we work as a team to make the plans come to fruition. This mindset of working as one team was a significant factor during the transition period I mentioned earlier, where 99% of our merchants continued using PayPay’s payment system despite us charging fees.
Tell us what you hope to accomplish in the future
We will continue to increase the number of places where PayPay is available by closely communicating with merchants and explaining the benefits of introducing PayPay, aiming for nationwide penetration that PayPay can be used anytime, anywhere. We would also like to contribute to increasing store revenue and the revitalization of local communities by providing sales promotion services and other support to merchants that have already introduced our services. To this end, we aim to create an organization that people remember as the “go-to place” if somebody needs any advice.
What kind of person do you think is suited for PayPay’s independent store sales activities?
The successful people are those who are able to set bold goals and dare themselves to achieve them, and who roll up their sleeves to tackle unknown areas and challenges. Also, people who persevere and persist in solving problems by taking action and do their best to succeed even if they do not get immediate results are likely to be a great match for PayPay. Anyone who has these qualities will be able to deliver results and further grow PayPay’s independent store sales.
Do you have a message for our readers?
PayPay is in the process of expanding its services. Creating and spreading value that does not yet exist anywhere else is quite a unique and valuable experience. If you have the desire to change society for the better, we invite you to join us in supporting the evolution of PayPay’s services and making an impact!
Current job openings
*The recruitment status is current at the time of the interview.