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Japanese Firms Expand Products and Services for Elderly in Thailand

BANGKOK – A leading wheelchair maker and a hospital operator from Japan are seeking to expand in Thailand with an eye on products and services for the elderly as the Southeast Asian country’s population rapidly ages.

Matsunaga Manufactory Co., based in the of Gifu, expects to double sales of its premium wheelchair model in Southeast Asia this year from 40 million baht (¥135.6 million) in 2016, with Thailand accounting for half the revenue.

It plans to promote advertising in a bid to approach the local mass market, targeting rising demand for services for senior citizens.

Japan’s leading wheelchair maker, Matsunaga Manufactory Co., operates a flagship shop for wheelchairs and various equipment for the elderly at the Japanese department store Isetan Bangkok.

Matsunaga (Thailand) Co., its local sales unit, established in 2014, offers manual wheelchairs and folding models with prices ranging from 9,500 to 30,000 baht, competing with Chinese products priced around 3,000 baht.

Shinji Hayashi, managing director of the Thai arm, said that the firm is also considering enhancing its product lineup for the elderly, such as pushcarts, walking sticks and shoes imported from Japan, at its two flagship shops in Bangkok.

Apart from supplying high-end products to hospitals, the company aims to “increase retail outlets at department stores while launching an online shop and marketing platforms such as Facebook,” Hayashi said.

Given the business potential amid the rising senior population in Thailand, Ishii International Investment, which operates hospitals, clinics and nursing homes in Gunma Prefecture, has opened a physiotherapy clinic in central Bangkok, its first foray overseas.

Ishii Life Support Physiotherapy Clinic targets clients ages 30 to 70, providing services similar to those available in Japan at a fee of 2,000 baht per hour. These include rehabilitation after injuries or treatments for aging-related ailments.

Daisuke Yamada, managing director of local shop-operating arm Ishii and Partners (Thailand) Co., said the firm aims to disseminate its expertise on physiotherapy to Thais as few locals know about it.

Locals account for 70 percent of all clients, he said, adding the shop is expected to generate monthly revenue of up to 500,000 baht this year and twice as much next year.

The Japanese medical service firm will continue to promote the benefits of physiotherapy for the first two years and invest to open a nursing home in Bangkok, Yamada said.

According to Somkid Somsri, director general of the Department of Older Persons at the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, seniors are becoming more influential in the Thai economy as people ages 65 or older will make up more than 20 percent of the total population of about 66 million in 2021, forecasts show.

Thailand will soon be the third fastest aging nation in Asia, after Japan and Singapore, he added.

By Silpchai Prasarnsuklarp
Nna/kyodo

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