Keiji Tachikawa, and the company he runs, NTT DoCoMo Inc., are fast becoming household names. A year ago, the 61-year-old engineer was unknown outside the wireless industry. But today, top U.S. and European tech execs are trekking to Tokyo to meet Tachikawa and check out Japan's most successful company.
Tachikawa, an open-minded manager who earned an MBA at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and worked at DoCoMo's parent company, Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp. (NTT), for 35 years, helped pioneer the wireless Net. DoCoMo's wildly popular i-mode service has attracted more than 17 million users and 30,000 content providers in the two years since its launch. Now, Tachikawa wants to turn the company into a global force.
His relentless pace stands out even among Japan's workaholic execs. In 2000, he tied up with America Online Inc. (AOL) and bought stakes in AT&T Wireless (AWE) and KPN Mobile of the Netherlands, among others. DoCoMo's share price has fallen in the tech turmoil--it's down about 50% since its February peak. But Tachikawa is undaunted. In May, DoCoMo will launch the first so-called Third Generation service, which will allow users to send video and music clips on handheld gadgets. "We'll achieve another growth boost thanks to that evolution," says Tachikawa, ever confident.