Zen Member Origins

In interviews, we often mention that at the ZenMarket Headquarters in Osaka, more than 60 percent of our staff are foreigners. Many applicants are surprised when they hear this statistic. They often ask where our many members come from or why we have such a diverse office. Some of them have been actively looking for international offices in Japan and have never heard of us before. We hope that this blog answers some of your questions and sheds some light on our little diverse office.

ゼンマーケット株式会社代表

CEOs, Ukraine and Russia, Founding an International Company

ZenMarket was started in Osaka in 2014 by our four founders. The four met during various study abroad programs in Japan and had gathered together from Russia and Ukraine, respectively. All four of our founders shared an interest in Japan, belief in the worldwide potential of Japanese products, and the growing popularity of Japanese culture. However, at that time, there was no easy way to buy Japanese products abroad. Japanese companies also very seldom offer non-Japanese website translations or international shipping. There was no easy way to buy Japanese products abroad. That,s when the 4 of them started an online service to help Russian-speaking customers buy Japanese goods online.  With positive feedback from our Russian customer base, ZenMarket launched its English language and Ukrainian sites. Since then, the company has been steadily growing. Today we have 14 language versions launched and over 1.25 million users worldwide.

In April 2021, we celebrated our seventh anniversary. ZenMarket, which started as our four founders working in an apartment, has grown massively. In these last seven years, our head office has grown to 91 employees. If you include the staff from our three warehouses, we are on the verge of exceeding the 300 team members

In every step of our growth, we have remained focused on bringing Japanese goods to the wider world.

We have even designed our hiring processes and goals to match this. To this day, if you walk by the CEOs’ office, you will hear Ukrainian, English, and Japanese.

Members from every continent

(except Antarctica)

As ZenMarket has grown, we have continued to hire people from all around the globe. As a result of these efforts, as of September 2021, we can proudly say that we have members representing 6 of Earth’s seven continents. We are keeping an eye out for applicants from Antarctica but haven’t had any luck yet. 

Our staff represents over 25 countries, including Ukraine, Russia, Canada, America, France, Spain, Germany, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Singapore, Egypt, Uruguay.

The list goes on, but I will leave it there for now. We have grown into this diversity because we insist on hiring native speakers of each language version. As a result, ZenMarket has achieved a level of diversity that you don’t see in many companies here in Japan. Even when compared to certain large Japanese companies in Tokyo, you will often see rates of international employees max out at around 20 to 30 percent.

While we only have 14 language versions of our site available at the time of writing, we are in the process of growing that number and intend to have at least 20 languages available on our site this year. It seems like we will only keep getting more global for the foreseeable future. However, it might be some time before we find someone from Antarctica.

Why we gather members from all over the world.

In short: ZenMarket hires people from all around the world because our customers are from all around the world. To provide good support or engaging content and advertisements, it is essential to understand our customers’ language and culture. That’s why we hire people who speak the language natively and grew up in the culture.

Think about it this way, if you wanted to buy something online and the advertisements didn’t understand your point of view and the customer support couldn’t speak your language or understand your point of view, you probably wouldn’t keep using that site, would you? No, you probably wouldn’t. That is why when we plan on opening a new version of our website, we find people from countries that speak that language so they can help localize our service to that market. Though, while we are from all over the world, we are all joined by our love for Japan. From each of our home countries, we found our way to ZenMarket because we wanted to help bring Japanese products to the rest of the world. That shared desire is the bedrock of our work here at ZenMarket.

ZenMarket Members playing pingpong

ZenMarket-ese?

Talking to coworkers at ZenMarket.

At this point, we have so many people from so many countries here at ZenMarket it feels like working in a miniature world of its own.

There are foreigners and Japanese people at every level of our organization, so you will be surrounded by a diverse group of people no matter what team you join.

But you might be wondering, what is the standard office language here at ZenMarket?

Well, the answer is both English and Japanese.

For each team, the level of Japanese or English required by the job fluctuates. So, for groups where high levels of Japanese are needed, and English isn’t necessary, people mostly speak Japanese. In areas where the members don’t use Japanese daily, we don’t require it.

Of course, speaking both languages helps you understand other divisions, and we applaud and give weight to applicants who speak both languages; but, if you don’t need the language for your day-to-day tasks, we generally don’t require it. For some positions in administration (especially here in HR), we require a high level of both Japanese and English. This ensures that the company runs smoothly and misunderstandings can be quickly resolved.

We make sure to include translations for all important announcements in our company’s Slack channels. You’re also likely to see jokes flying around the chat in two or three different languages in group chats.

There are also Japanese team members!

If you’ve read this far, you might have forgotten that while non-Japanese members make up 60% of our staff, 40% of the team are Japanese. Japanese members still make up the majority of the office because the non-Japanese members of the company come from so many different places.

While you are likely to hear English, Russian and French, you are just as likely to hear Kansai-ben Japanese. Actually, of the Japanese members currently in our head office, about 75% of them are from Kansai. So, if you want to practice your boke and tsukkomi, this might be the place for you.

We make sure to include translations for all important announcements in our company’s Slack channels. You’re also likely to see jokes flying around the chat in two or three different languages in group chats.

Wrap-Up

There you have it, a round-up of the international workplace that we cultivate here at ZenMarket. I hope this was interesting and maybe answered some of your questions.

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