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Gulliver’s travels

USA

Gulliver, Japan’s leading used-car dealer, is stealthily making its way into the US market. The car company took Japan by storm – 500 stores in five years – and now it’s making inroads into the largest automotive market in the world. Since crossing the Pacific over four years ago, Gulliver has opened four US branches, including a 1.4 hectare plot of land and headquarters in the Los Angeles area. This March, its first East Coast showroom opened in New York.

The Tokyo-based company buys used vehicles from individual owners and sells them at auctions. Gulliver’s “car advisers” (don’t call them salesmen), who travel to your home to appraise the car, are one reason that Gulliver has been such a success in Japan.

America isn’t the only market that the company is courting. The first Russian branch opened a year ago and outposts in India and China are both scheduled for this year. Gulliver’s international expansion plan has one more secret weapon up its sleeve: the expatriate Japanese communities.

“A third of our customers are from the Japanese community,” says Henry Alvarez, marketing director for Gulliver USA. And for those outside the community, a car previously Japanese owned is a plus. “We don’t explicitly say it but people know that Japanese owners take better care of their cars.”

Cell your soul

India

Indians are crazy both about mobile phones (eight million people sign up for mobile subscriptions every month) and self-help books. Penguin Books India, Asia’s largest English-language publisher, is tapping both of these rich revenue veins by launching a deal with US mobile phone content provider Mobifusion to deliver spiritual books on seven networks, including Vodafone and India’s Airtel, starting this April. The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living by Mother Teresa, and the Dalai Lama’s The Path to Tranquility are two of the first books available in the format. “We are not doing this because readership is going down. We are just providing another platform. The potential’s huge,” says Hemali Sodhi, senior marketing manager for Penguin India.

Let us prey

USA

Miami property is in the middle of the great American stare-down, says Ron Shuffield, president of EWM Realtors. “Buyers and sellers are waiting to see who is going to blink first.” With investors waiting to buy the 22,000 empty condo units, consulting firm Condo Vultures is advising people on when to place their bets. Owner Peter Zalewski says for a beachfront steal, “you’ll need to pick it up by the end of August.”

Vulture targets

Continuum II – In exclusive Miami Beach. Peak price: $1,500 a sq ft, now: $1,000.

Ocean 4 – Sunny Isles Beach. Peak price $600 a sq ft, now: $400.

Acqua – Allison Island. A 4,000 sq ft penthouse was $4m, now: about $2.2m. Peak price: $1,000 a sq ft, now: $550.

Flat-pack forest

Russia

If you go down to the Russian woods today, you could find a lot of loggers from Ikea. Swedwood, owned by the furniture giant, is one of several Swedish forestry companies brought in by the Russians to help turn the taiga – the world’s largest forest, covering an area roughly the same size as the US – into a source of income without destroying it. The Swedes, known for their forestry skills, were the obvious choice. Let’s hope the Russians don’t find Ikea’s trees fall over after six months.

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