Hirotake Yano, Founder, Daiso Industries Co., Ltd

At age 29, Hirotake Yano was bankrupt and avoiding creditors. To make ends meet, he began hawking goods from the back of his truck and soon out of circumstance, began charging a flat rate of 100 yen for all his merchandise. In the early stages, he was very reluctant to expand this unique business. By 1977 he had founded Daiso, which translates as “creating something big,” and has since turned it in to a retail giant operating more than 5,300 stores in 28 countries worldwide.

Hirotake’s in-house buyers negotiate directly with manufacturers to buy large quantities at low prices. Daiso now offers 70,000 products, and Hirotake says, “I want to stock products that will delight my customers, even if my profit is only one yen per sale.” The high-volume sales add up: in 2018 the company’s sales volume reached US$4b. Daiso continues to see incredible growth, annually launching 150 new stores in Japan and 100 stores worldwide.

Hirotake’s management style is anything but conventional, relying on instinct and being flexible to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. He has bucked the trend of having defined roles and has a philosophy that everyone needs to pitch in. That includes himself — Hirotake unloaded containers every morning until the age of 70.

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