recruit logo

Corporate Blog

  • Service

A Decade of Air BusinessTools: Based on the Concept of “Follow Your Heart, Live Your Business,” Recruit Has Been Freeing Japanese Businesses from Analog Operations

Air BusinessToolsTo an external site (available in Japanese only) are business and management support SaaS solutions that Recruit offers in Japan. Under the brand vision "Follow Your Heart, Live Your Business," Air BusinessTools provide more than 15 services*1 to streamline the daily operations of businesses, including reservation and reception management, checkout and cashless payment acceptance, recruiting and hiring, shift management, and cashing out future sales. Handling 3.46 million accounts*2, this suite of tools plays a significant role in one of Recruit Holdings’ three management strategies, “Help Businesses Work Smarter,” which is designed to improve the productivity and profitability of corporate clients in Japan. We spoke with Air BusinessTools brand manager Kyoko Nomura about the 10-year history of this business and its future.

Kyoko Nomura, Air Brand Management Group, SaaS Area Product Design Unit, Recruit Co., Ltd.

Ten-Year History of Air BusinessTools: Working Closely with SMEs in Japan to Expand Its Scope from Operational Support to Management Support

Since our foundation more than half a century ago, Recruit has maintained contact with many businesses through our media arm in Japan. We recognized that one big issue small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) faced was the enormous burden of time, effort and cost spent on daily analog operations. When we began business planning around this issue, one of the most onerous tasks — especially for restaurant and retail store owners and managers — was the daily cash register closure process to tally and analyze sales. This work sometimes took a few hours after the business closed. When Recruit began working on this issue in 2010, the spread of smartphones and the evolution of the Internet were both accelerating. We began looking into the possibility of reducing the burden on businesses with technology so that business owners and employees could spend more time doing what they originally envisioned doing.

In 2013, AirREGITo an external site (available in Japanese only) emerged from a small development project started by a few motivated people. AirREGI is a POS (point-of-sale) register application that anyone can start using immediately after downloading and installing the application on an iPad or iPhone. Sales data is stored in the cloud just by checking out, reducing the cash register closing process to just a few minutes. The number of accounts exceeded 100,000 in just one year as awareness of this useful new tool for businesses spread, mainly by word of mouth.

A user interface image of AirREGI’s sales analysis function

AirREGI is intuitive and easy to use. It is equipped with functions for sales data analysis, inventory management, and customer management, among other features.

Recruit's business support services, which began with AirREGI, have since expanded to include reservation and reception management as well as checkout and cashless payment acceptance. In 2018, we expanded their scope to management support, recruitment, shift management, and the ability to cash out future sales, which are all essential to running a business. We now offer more than 15 services under the Air BusinessTools brand, and the number of businesses using multiple services in combination is gradually increasing.

“We’ve been receiving comments from our clients, who initially used only AirREGI, saying that they are expecting to find convenient and useful solutions in Air BusinessTools for whichever problem they have in their business operation,” Kyoko says.

A list of services Air BusinessTools offers

Air BusinessTools offers more than 15 services covering business operations essentials

Air BusinessTools Created the Market Alongside Businesses Sharing the Same Vision

At first glance, the 10 years Air BusinessTools have been around would seem to have been smooth sailing.

Kyoko revealed otherwise. “The business domain of Air BusinessTools was totally new to Recruit and increasing the number of business clients to use our service was not an easy task at all,” she says. “We could hardly leverage the strengths we had cultivated in the media business since it debuted.”

First of all, Kyoko explains, the number of potential clients — essentially the total number of SMEs in Japan — was enormous: approximately 4.53 million*3. “That was far too many for even our strong salesforce across Japan to cover. It was also hard to take advantage of the sophisticated Internet marketing methods that Recruit is known for.”

The new product, AirREGI, was not known at all, and back then awareness of the POS register application market category itself was also very low. “If people don't know about the category, they don’t know what kind of needs it fulfills, and people don’t want something they don’t know about,” Kyoko notes.

So we began by raising awareness of the medium- to long-term benefits of this service in a realistic way. Kyoko explains: “The functional value of our service is that it is simple, easy and user-friendly, and it saves time, costs and effort. However, the value that we want business owners to truly understand is the time, costs and mind-space this technology creates, which can be applied instead to do what they originally wanted to focus on. We want to free businesses from complicated operations to let them “follow their heart, live their business,” as stated in our brand vision. However, it was really tough to express this without any experience or concrete image of people using the service.”

Through trial and error, Kyoko’s team came to the conclusion that the most powerful thing is the voices of the business owners who are actually using our services and experiencing the benefits. Rather than loudly and proudly promoting themselves, the Recruit team chose to travel around the country collecting testimonials and best practices and to convey the Air BusinessTools brand through them.

“I feel that our vision is gradually being understood in Japan through the cases of clients who have used our services and realized their desired goals,” Kyoko explains. “It’s been a decade of increasing the number of business owners who share our vision and creating the market itself alongside them."

Images of businesses using Air BusinessTools

Like Air, Usually Out of Mind but There When Needed, Air BusinessTools Are There to Support Businesses

Today, Air BusinessTools are used in every corner of Japan and in a variety of industries — including food and beverage, beauty, lodging, agriculture and transportation — and the number of accounts has reached 3.46 million*2. Kyoko commented: “As the number of users increases, the service is becoming more and more like infrastructure, and we feel a heavy responsibility for that. If the service were to stop, even for a minute, it could cause serious inconvenience to our clients. As the brand name ‘Air’ implies, our services must always be there for business owners, and maintain their trust, just like the air we breathe.”

To ensure that the services can be used by an even wider range of people of all ages and in all regions across Japan, we will continue to improve the Air BusinessTools user interface with more refined universal design and communication that includes everyone by using easy-to-read font sizes and colors and simple language. We want to make it available for anyone, anywhere, anytime.

The economic impact of using Air BusinessTools is also significant. The time saved on administrative tasks and other everyday operational “hassles” amounts to 21.72 million hours per year*4, and the cost savings in reduced labor expenses are estimated at 23 billion yen annually*5.

Kyoko adds: “We do not believe that it is always right to promote digitalization and efficiency. What is important to each business varies. We believe that each business should have the freedom to decide what is best for them. For instance, it is up to each business owner which parts of the business they want to digitize and which they want to keep analog. We don’t want to define the way it should be in a uniform manner, and we should never impose one-sided communication as Air brand.”

That emphasizes another facet of Air brands have has in its vision “Follow Your Heart, Live Your Business.”

Air BusinessTools continues to support businesses like the air — in the background but there when needed — and strives to free businesses from monotonous tasks.

*1 Number of apps and web services as of May 2023.
*2 The cumulative number of accounts by SaaS service as of September 30, 2023, including active and inactive accounts.
*3 Our estimate of the number of potential client establishments of SaaS provided in Japan as of the end of June 2022. The number of potential client establishments is based on the "Results of the 2016 Economic Census — Activity Survey'' by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and the definition of SMEs as noted in the SME Basic Act, etc.
*4 Time saved on operational hassles is calculated by combining the time saved through the cash register closing function per AirREGI with the number of AirREGI registers utilizing this function. Additionally, the time saved using the AirREGI register sales tally function per store is factored in, multiplied by the number of stores employing the AirREGI register sales tally function.
*5 Time saved on operational hassles x estimated hourly wage (1,059 yen per hour for food category in the national average hourly wage for part-time job applicants, as of January 2023)

Kyoko Nomura, Air Brand Management Group, SaaS Area Product Design Unit, Recruit Co., Ltd.

Kyoko Nomura

Air Brand Management Group, SaaS Area Product Design Unit, Recruit Co., Ltd.

Kyoko joined Recruit Co., Ltd. in 1996. After serving as a recruiter in the Human Resources Department, editor in the adult learning area, editorial desk staff of a quarterly magazine, and editor-in-chief of a website, she was assigned as a manager of the website alliance team in the sales promotion area. In 2014, she was put in charge of marketing, PR and brand operations in the SaaS business, including AirREGI. She now leads the Air Brand Management Group, responsible for the overall Air BusinessTools brand.

Jan 26, 2024

This article is based on information available at the time of publication.