Made by myself

Inari: How to bring Japanese square watermelons to Russia

Pharmacist Inna Krajushkina with her husband became interested in Japan in 2009. Together they created the Inari Trade Route company, which hosted delegations of Japanese businessmen in Russia and also engaged in the import of their goods. The first experience with the supply of elite tea was unsuccessful. Then the couple expanded their profile and began to import cosmetics, pharmaceuticals,

children's goods and food. The latter attracted special attention to the company this summer. Inari brought three dozen square watermelons for the ABC of Taste network, the retail price of which was almost 30,000 rubles and caused heated discussions. By winter, Krajushkina hopes to buy a batch of no less unusual Japanese white strawberries.

Field of activity


Launch date

July 2009

Launch budget

2 million rubles



Co-founder of Inari Trade Route Holding

How it all began

I graduated from the Medical Institute. I.M.Sechenova, Faculty of Pharmacy. Almost all of her conscious life she worked in the pharmaceutical business and ended up working in it at the end of 2008.

My husband and I did not know what Japan was, we were never there. We would never even dream that we would work with this country. Once the Japanese needed a consultation on the pharmaceutical market. In July 2009, we received the first delegation - the Japanese division of HSBC Investment Bank. Thus, we began to learn about Japan, communicate with Japanese scholars, read books, the Internet - we began to delve into, understand the features of this business. They have a lot to learn: a certain experience in business and building relationships. This infected us.

We have created the Inari Trade Route holding. The husband became the managing partner and CEO. I am the commercial director and head of a company that works in Moscow. Our team has two more people: the financial director, he was at the origins of the creation of the Russian stock exchange, and the director of logistics, which has been engaged in transportation since the 80s. Subsequently, another fifth founder appeared, who oversees the pharmaceutical department. We invested our own money in the creation of the company and borrowed from friends.

The first product we imported from Japan was tea. It was a bad experience: it is difficult to trade in expensive goods when you do not know the specifics of the market. We could not calculate the volume of the elite tea market and the segment of Japanese tea. All that they could - sold, but most remained.

But this is the only unsuccessful project, then we had toys, and then food went: soy sauce, confectionery. We brought the first fruits on March 11, 2011 (the tragedy in Fukushima happened on the same day). The sale was successful, but then for almost a year we were forced to close almost all Japanese projects: consumers had reasonable concerns.

For us, constant delays at customs are commonplace,
and the Japanese say, "We marvel at your patience."


Work with Japan should be preceded by a preparatory period. It is necessary to get acquainted, establish contacts, learn to understand partners. It took us a lot of time, about three years. We ourselves went on business trips and received delegations. These are serious costs, Japan is not so close, and they do not come for one person at a time: we received six and nine people each. But as a result of this, we started commercial projects.

Three years of preparation, we paid attention to certain people and companies. It was with them that we met: we looked at their capabilities, they - at our intentions. Now the Japanese are offering us various manufacturers, and for our part we are monitoring the markets, we are looking to see if there is such a product in Russia. If this suits us at a preliminary acquaintance, we personally come to the factory, get acquainted with this manufacturer, feel, try - and only then we begin to import these goods or find partners in Russia who are interested in products.

Translation difficulties

It was very difficult for us to understand that their prices are not set apiece, but per box. They do not weigh fruits and vegetables: there is a conditional box with a conditional number of fruits / vegetables, the weight of which may vary slightly. So they load.

It is often difficult to explain Russian specifics to them. For example, for us constant delays at customs are a common thing, for them every time is an unpleasant surprise. They say, "We marvel at your patience." Now we are working with one cosmetic company and cannot explain why the certification system has changed three times in Russia over three years.

When we signed one of the first contracts, we tried to discuss the acceptable percentage of marriage. Six months they wrote to them: "We need a marriage no more than 2%." This item was barely approved, and then together with the goods separately came 2% of the marriage, almost with a bow. The Japanese, in principle, have no such thing: the percentage of marriage.

Logistics and revenues

We started with the railway, but now, due to the increase in tariffs, we have to reduce this delivery channel. Perishable goods (fruits, vegetables, snacks, other products with a shelf life of two to five months) we carry by plane. On Wednesday afternoon, goods arrive from Sheremetyevo from Japan, and at two in the morning it is already cleared, sorted, packaged in cars and goes to the shops. The remaining goods we carry in containers by sea. They go a long time: two or two and a half months.

Delivery of goods occurs at the expense of the buyer. We mainly work on a prepaid basis. The responsibility for the delivery of goods, as a rule, is assumed by the Japanese side - our responsibility comes after we have accepted the goods.

The monthly turnover of the company varies slightly from month to month and is approximately 4-5 million rubles.

Square Watermelons

We are engaged in fruits all the time: two or three times a month, depending on the season, we have new offers. The season, of course, may not coincide with our view: in Japan, the strawberry season is winter, so we take it in December. And at the beginning of summer - peaches and cherries. We carry watermelons almost all year round.

Square watermelons are generally a “one-time” crop. And throughout Japan they grow 200-300 pieces. Therefore, to purchase them, you need to prepare for the year. The boom in square watermelons is surprising because they are not the first time in Russia. The ABC of Taste imported them in 2008-2009. When we offered them cooperation, they first asked if we had square watermelons.
The Japanese gave us 30 watermelons in Russia. Of course, we understood that the price would be sky-high.

Future plans

We will continue to establish contacts with our current partners in products, pharmacy and toys. But we strive to attract new technologies to the country. We want to bring to Russia the Japanese technology of deep freezing and cooling products for retail chains, food manufacturers and logistics companies.

Now we are in an active search for alcoholic products for import to Russia of sake and low-alcohol wines of natural fermentation. We also plan to supply fresh flowers and white strawberries. Unfortunately, we found out about it late and did not manage to bring it last season, as the volume is very limited. We have opportunities, and we would like not to miss them.

Author: Ksenia Bobkova
Photo: Sergey Patsyuk

Watch the video: World's Best School Lunch ONLY in JAPAN (December 2019).

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