In 2009, as one of three founding members of Minrevi Co. Ltd., I wrote its concept then on the website: “help low-tech industry with IT.” We originally launched two web services: Shika-revi (“歯科レビ” meaning “dentistry-review”) for a dental industry and Sougi-revi (“葬儀レビ” meaning “funeral-review”) for funeral homes back then.
Building the websites, developing basic strategies, creating sales materials, implementing sales scripts, executing hundreds jump-in sales and cold-calls everyday, engineering SEO, sometimes staying at the small office, we developed the services. Though I left the company after six months of the foundation finding my enthusiasm in another industry, the company has further developed its business, especially for funerals since then, and has recently increased its media exposure due to its dramatic impacted the industry.
Japan’s funeral industry
While the world’s fastest aging society makes funerals as twice frequent as weddings in Japan , the funerals in Japan are among the costliest in the world; it often costs $10,000 to $30,000 even though they are priced opaquely.
Most Japanese funerals are conducted in Buddhist style, and the ceremonies are mostly arranged by professional funeral houses. In the ceremony, Buddhist priests attend, recite sutras, and give kaimyou (“戒名” or “a posthumous Buddhist name”). After the funeral, hoyo (“法要” or “memorial services”) are held in memory of the deceased on the seventh, forty-ninth, hundredth day, and a year after death, and so on, where Buddhist priests attend to recite sutras.
The market size of funeral business is about 2.2 trillion-yen (about 20 billion-dollars) in 2013, consisting of setting-up/proceeding/funeral outfit(48%), facilities(5.5%), food & beverage(11.6%), flower(11.5%), reciprocal present(14.7%), others(6.8%). Adding the market size of tombs and Buddhist altars, etc., it reaches to about 4 trillion-yen (about 40 billion-dollars). Regardless of the market size seemingly matured, however, due to the characteristics of the funeral which is often unexpected and needs to be taken place suddenly and traditionally less competitive business as a bereaved family usually used a funeral house in a region, a price has been less transparent without a mean to check the validity of the price. In addition, the ofuse (“お布施”or “offering”) to the priest for the sutras at the funeral and hoyo and kaimyou were very expensive even though there were no explicit “price.”
Minrevi’s business and operation model
Minrevi’s business model is to correct the market failure of the low-tech industry by IT. Minrevi has launched many services related to funerals industry after I left, including e-commerce for tombs and Buddhist altar, a floor delivery service, or even a “funeral in space” service collaborating with a California-based company. Yet I will elaborate business models of three services which have contributed to transform the industry the most: Sougi-revi, Simple-na-Ososhiki, and Obosan-bin.
Sougi-revi, one of the original services, offered a mean for customers to acquire a fair price by comparing estimates from at most five funeral homes from more than five hundred partners Minrevi reached nationwide for over the seven years. Once an operator of Minrevi who is available twenty-four hours, 365days, received a call or an e-mail, he/she quickly sends back the comparison lists to the potential customer and he/she can choose if want. The potential customer can also take advantage of the operator advisory, and follow-up if he/she commits to use one of the funeral houses, on complicated funeral preparation processes. 
Simple-na-Ososhiki(“シンプルなお葬式” meaning “simple funeral”)
In August 2013, Minrevi started to offer original fixed-charge plans for the funeral ceremony. By simplifying the ceremony and utilizing a vacant funeral house from their partners, the most affordable plan starts from 14,800-yen (about 1,500-dollar), one of the lowest cost in Japan, without any additional.
Obosan-bin(“お坊さん便” meaning “Mr. monk-delivery”)
In May 2013, three months before launching Simple-na-Ososhiki, Minrevi also launched an epoch-making service to deliver Buddhist priests for funerals or above mentioned hoyo and kaimyo at a fixed-charge. Especially, after Minrevi started to sell the service through Amazon.co.jp after December 2015, it provoked controversy and more than 560 medias, not only in Japan but also in ten countries featured the service by February 2016. While there are many who do not have accesses to Buddhist priests when they need, and the service provide the way, the Buddhist association instituted that the business should not monetarize any religion. However, as described in beginning, ofuse implicitly required by Buddhist priests is often expensive and can sometimes cost ten-times as Minrevi offer through amazon depending on the grades of services. Ironically, more than a hundred priests came forward to registrations after the dispute made the service prominent.
Though there may be many obstacles or oppositions when you try to change a stereotype. It is not easy to tell who is right or not, but what you can do is to do what you believe. This month, Minrevi just started to provide web-payment-service first time in the industry. Minrevi should just keep going their way with the integrity.
Leo Lewis, “Japanese investors grapple with wedding versus funeral bet” Financial Times, https://www.ft.com/content/4cff1d66-a278-11e6-82c3-4351ce86813f Accessed 17 November 2016.
 “Temples of doom” The Economist, http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21677261-japans-buddhist-temples-are-going-out-business-temples-doom Accessed 17 November 2016.
Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s website: Statistics of industries. http://www.meti.go.jp/statistics/tyo/tokusabizi/result-2/h25/pdf/h25outline22.pdf Accessed 17 November 2016.
 Sougirevi “What is Sougirevi?”https://sougi.minrevi.jp/sogirevi/ Accessed 17 November 2016.
 Simple-na-osoushiki “explanations about plans” http://www.xn--t8j4c7dy42mj9kt8e4tsjg7cfa.net/plan/ Accessed 17 November 2016.
 Minrevi’s website: Press Release on 22 February 2016. http://www.minrevi.co.jp/news/news160222/ Accessed 17 November 2016.
 Jonathan Soble, “Japan’s Newest Technology Innovation: Priest Delivery” TheNew York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/23/business/international/amazon-japan-delivers-priest.html?_r=0 Accessed 17 November 2016.