Anest Iwata started out as a small workshop, renting a part of a factory in the town of Toyosawa in Shibuya, Tokyo, equipped with only two secondhand lathes. The company was founded by two brothers: Hatsutaro and Sukezo Iwata. The older brother, Hatsutaro, was born in August 1901, and the younger brother, Sukezo, who continued to support his older sibling throughout his life, was born in May 1905. Anest Iwata was started in May 1926.
The family were poor and the brothers did what they could to help out financially by working in many different factories. At that time the brothers then decided that they would open their own business because they did not want to work for someone else. The two young men saved money little by little from their income and kept on buying tools and equipment they considered necessary.
In May 1926, Hatsutaro tried to borrow 450 yen of the initial fund of 500 yen from an uncle, but the uncle turned down his request, saying, “We are now in a recession. This is not a good time. Wait a little longer.” But nothing could stop Hatsutaro’s aspiration to become independent. Thinking that it would be “now or never,” he borrowed money from another uncle running a tofu shop and founded Iwata Seisakusho in Toyosawa, Shibuya.
Encounter with a Spray Gun
Iwata Seisakusho initially did some subcontract work manufacturing parts for typewriters, bench drilling machines, and radios, but this business was not as successful as Hatsutaro had expected. At the time, Sukezo worked at Mizushima Shokai, a company selling foreign cars, providing limousine taxi services, and offering after-sales and repair services for the automobiles they sold. His salary was indispensable for keeping Hatsutaro’s workshop in business. Two months after Hatsutaro founded Iwata Seisakusho, Sukezo left Mizushima Shokai and began to work with his brother. One month after he quit, Sukezo was summoned from Mizushima Shokai.
Sukezo went to see the president of Mizushima Shokai, who took out a brand new piece of brass-made equipment and asked: “Can you make something like this?”
It was the latest spray gun model from Binks Corporation of the US. When President Mizushima travelled to America to buy cars, the lacquer coating that was at the cutting edge at the time caught his attention and he made a contract to import Binks’ coating equipment in addition to materials such as lacquer and thinners. But Binks’ products were extremely expensive and that was the bottleneck in the popularisation of lacquer coating. The president then thought that creating spray guns in Japan would make them more affordable. Blithely thinking that making such a tool would be a no-brainer, Sukezo made a deal right there to produce a dozen spray guns at a rate of 50 yen apiece on condition that payment would be made on delivery.
It took three months of studying the spray gun from every angle. They produced and delivered the spray gun but when Sukezo went to the company several days later to collect the cash, he was stunned that they had rejected the spray guns because they were all defective. There was insufficient spray power, uneven spray patterns, poor sucking performance, and heavy trigger pull. The brothers then repeatedly reworked the spray guns but they needed a compressor to test them. It took another six months before they could get the spray guns to work. It was the first spray gun ever created in Japan. It had a big clumsy head and a rugged grip but it was capable of delivering sufficient paint atomisation performance.
Development of new sales channels and new products
Orders started pouring in because of the growing use of lacquer coating and they also started receiving orders for air transformers. The brothers made Iwata Seisakusho an indendent manufacturer of coating equiment and relocated their company to a tiny factory in Toyowake in February, 1927.
They had to find sales channels and set out on their own as wholesalers and retailers of paint. Sukezo Iwata took charge of sales and visited paint retailers in Tokyo one by one. As sales began to grow through these retailers the dealers also grew.
Advertising was done in newspapers and magazines that specialised in paint, coating or automobiles, to get national sales. As the demand grew they focused on developing a popular spray gun model. The head of the spray gun was made simpler, which cut their price in half.
From small beginnings sales increased sharply and all debts were paid. They obtained increased funding where they bought land in Muyoyama, Shibuya and built a factory and a store there. In 1932 they won a huge contract with Mitsubishi to supply 12 coating equipment units including compressors which they had now added to their range.
After that the company continued to prosper with its spray guns and compressors becoming increasingly popular for their superb performance. So from humble beginnings, Anest Iwata has always remained focused and still enjoy a great name for quality in the coatings business for their excellent spray equipment range.