• Business

Index Corp.: YOSHIMI OGAWA/Tokyo

2 minute read
Jim Frederick;Hanna Kite/Tokyo

As a female executive in the men’s club of Japanese business, Yoshimi Ogawa has to watch her step. “It’s difficult to do business when so many meetings are conducted in cabaret bars,” she says, referring to the Japanese propensity for after-hours schmoozing and boozing.

Fortunately for her company, Tokyo-based Index Corp., she has not completely abandoned her female intuition. Five years ago, Index was struggling; the website-design firm’s founders were dipping into their personal savings just to make the payroll. Index thought salvation might be found in a different line of work–collaborating with cellular giant NTT DoCoMo, which was developing Internet-enabled mobile phones and needed partners to provide new content and services. Ogawa, 37 and single, focused on the one subject she knew mattered most to the young women who were–and still are–Japan’s heaviest cell-phone users. “What are university girls most interested in?” she asks in her Tokyo office. “Love.”

Ogawa, Index’s president, created the God of Love, the mobile-data equivalent of a women’s magazine–an ever mutating mix of horoscopes, advice columns and multiple-choice interactive questionnaires aimed at unlocking your “Love Style” or “Tendency to Cheat.” Launched in February 1999, the God of Love started slowly but grew to be a smash hit, now attracting more than 350,000 subscribers at $1.45 per month. Index provides a wide range of cell-phone-delivered content to some 7 million users. The company made profits last year of $9 million on revenues of $85 million.

A crisp, efficient manager who holds a law degree, Ogawa is matter-of-fact about the company’s success. Her first rule of product development? “I always ask myself if I would use it.” New projects include online perfume stores and a home-security system that automatically calls an owner’s cell phone in case of a fire or break-in. “Everything is changing so fast,” she says. “We have no idea what Index will be selling three years from now.” Something for the ladies, certainly. –By Jim Frederick. Reported by Hanna Kite/Tokyo

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