TOKYO -- Twelve industry leaders in 36 Japanese corporate sectors tracked by Nikkei fell from their perches over the past five years, making way for contenders that figured out how to skillfully market their goods and services.
One of the biggest upsets occurred in the machinery industry, where Komatsu rose from second place to leapfrog Mitsubishi Heavy Industries at the top. Komatsu's bottom line jumped 31% to 256.4 billion yen ($2.36 billion) in the fiscal year ended March, up roughly 100 billion yen from fiscal 2013. Mitsubishi Heavy, which held the crown that year, has fallen all the way to sixth place in the sector.
Mitsubishi Heavy's woes are tied to the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, the long-delayed aircraft that has eaten up development funds and frustrated clients. Komatsu, meanwhile, has boosted its competitive advantage among customers by pioneering the bundling of services along with its heavy machinery. Komatsu can track the activity of construction equipment via GPS, and supplies driverless dump trucks to miners.
Elsewhere, Bandai Namco Holdings stole the top spot from Dai Nippon Printing in the sector reserved for miscellaneous manufacturers. Like Komatsu, Bandai invested in strategies to market itself to customers.
The video game and toy maker ran sales promotions aimed at adults, which widened profit margins for its product lineup. Bandai Namco took a chance by broadcasting its Gundam anime series in China, but that eventually paid off when the children who watched the shows grew into adults with buying power. Its iconic Gunpla plastic models also took off in China, helping Bandai Namco boost profit more than 150% in five years to 63.3 billion yen.
In the land transport industry, Nippon Express took back the lead from Yamato Holdings. In 2015, Nippon Express reorganized its domestic business structure -- which had been split into land, air and sea transport domains -- and transformed itself into a one-stop shop for shipping. This change drew praise from customers, and the company expanded market share in both air and sea transport.
Maruha Nichiro floated to the top of the fishery sector by correctly anticipating societal shifts. The rise in women entering the workforce as well as dual-income households meant there was less time for meals -- and stronger demand for canned goods. Maruha captured that demand by developing products catering to modern tastes and promoting recipes. A price hike in canned mackerels did not drive away shoppers.
Conversely, electronic manufacturers NEC and Fujitsu serve as object lessons of businesses that fail to adapt to changing markets. Both companies once ranked high in the electric machinery sector, but were slow to adjust strategies for personal computers and mobile phones. NEC sank to 27th in the sector from 17th in fiscal 2013, while Fujitsu tumbled to 12th place from fifth.
Those who remained at the top of their respective industries did so by concentrating on services. Japanese automotive leader Toyota Motor has been able to ride out the next-generation vehicle wave through a network of strategic partnerships. Though Toyota's net profit fell 25% in fiscal 2018, its 1.88 trillion yen bottom line continues to outclass the pack.
Central Japan Railway, also known as JR Tokai, has maintained its dominance of the railway and bus sector thanks to the Tokaido shinkansen, its profitable bullet train connecting Tokyo with Osaka. An improved ticketing system and increased ridership has helped offset the ballooning costs of constructing a magnetic-levitation rail line between Tokyo and Nagoya.