“At the first meeting with the Toyota project members, they gave us the kibidango sweets,” says Hirosawa, the project leader. As there is a Japanese folktale in which a boy used kibidango to recruit allies in his fight against ogres, the sweets meant the Toyota members’ humorous suggestion that the SoftBank members eating them must fight against “ogres” together. Upon receiving the sweets, all of them got the meaning and laughed. As the two companies primarily assigned their younger employees to the project, the meeting was participated by those in the same generation, proceeding in a friendly atmosphere in spite of the difference in their corporate cultures.
The automotive industry is in the midst of a once-in-a-century transformation. Hirosawa recalls that, seeing overseas mobility markets changing dramatically, SoftBank had the sense of crisis that Japan must start working on mobility services right away. It was around then that Toyota proposed the two companies work together, acknowledging SoftBank’s foresight to identify businesses with growth potential. Toyota has the Mobility Services Platform and a wealth of knowledge about automobiles, while SoftBank possesses information and communications technologies, big data, and expertise held by Group firms. The two companies believed that effectively combining their strengths would produce innovative mobility services for the future.
In February 2018, the project started with a small team—around 10 members in total from both companies. The members discussed time and again on what mobility services should be like in the future and what they could do to achieve that. Through these discussions, they came to share visions, shaping a concrete plan by May. Ultimately, they agreed on the need to establish a JV and proposed the idea to the heads of their respective companies. As both heads gave the go-ahead immediately, the project moved forward speedily, culminating in the October 4 announcement mentioned above.