News & Highlights

  • March 2017
  • MBA CURRICULUM

Japan IFC 2017: What 43 HBS Students Learned From Entrepreneurs in Tohoku

The Japan IFC (Immersive Field Course), an HBS MBA elective course taught by Professor Hirotaka Takeuchi, was completed with another huge success in January 2017. The program started as a response to the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 and has been offered for the six consecutive years. This year, the program was held under the theme of “Tohoku: The World’s Test Market for Authentic Entrepreneurship” from January 4 to January 13.

New Research on the Region

  • February 2017
  • Case

Kameda Seika: Cracking the US Market

By: Elie Ofek, Nobuo Sato and Akiko Kanno

In spring 2016, Kameda’s CEO, Michiyasu Tanaka, is facing difficult questions from board members over the lackluster performance of the company’s US subsidiary. Kameda was the leading player in the Japanese rice cracker market and was looking to expand overseas to achieve growth, with the vision of becoming a global food company. Starting in 2008, it had tried to market its best-selling product in Japan, Kakinotane, as well as other types of rice-based snacks to US consumers. Despite years of offering samples to consumers, modifications to the naming and packaging design, the addition of new flavors, changes in the supermarkets it placed its product in, and offering retailers slotting fees – sales were well below expectations and losses were mounting. The situation was especially baffling as the company believed that the gluten-free trend as well as a growing desire for healthier food should have bode well for its rice-based snacks; moreover several Japanese food makers had recently achieved success in the US (such as Calbee with snapeas and Ito En with teas). On the bright side, Kameda’s recent acquisition of a US company, Mary’s Gone Crackers, was showing steady sales growth, though profits were very low due to high manufacturing and raw ingredient costs, and distribution coverage was limited. Tanaka and his management team had only a few years to turn things around or consider closing the Kameda USA subsidiary. Every marketing element was on the table: from changing the packaging to rethinking the retail approach to accepting private label deals to investing in more efficient plants to partnering with a well-known US brand in the snack food space. Could Tanaka save Kameda USA and dramatically improve the profits of Mary’s Gone Crackers?

  • January 2017 (Revised January 2017)
  • Case

Godiva Japan: Think Local, Scale Global

By: Rohit Deshpandé, Esel Cekin and Akiko Kanno

This case tracks Jerome Chouchan’s strategies and execution for a successful turnaround of Godiva Japan’s operations which was experiencing a decline in sales when he became the managing director of the company in 2010. Through various initiatives and innovations, Godiva Japan had targeted a variety of demographic segments in different sales points, acquired new customers and created a moment of luxurious consumption for all ages. Accordingly, within Godiva’s global enterprise, Godiva Japan had become number two in terms of worldwide sales and number one in terms of profits. It exported made-in-Japan products and concepts to Godiva’s other markets. How could Chouchan keep the momentum and sustain Godiva Japan’s top-line and bottom-line growth going forward? Would he be able to keep the balance between aspirational and accessible? How much of the success in Japan might contribute to the growth of Godiva's global sales?

  • December 2016
  • Case

Rice in Japan

By: Forest Reinhardt, Gunnar Trumbull, Naoko Jinjo and Mayuka Yamazaki

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Tokyo Staff

Nobuo Sato
Executive Director
Akiko Kanno
Senior Researcher
Yukari Takizawa
Staff Assistant
Naoko Jinjo
Senior Researcher