News & Highlights

  • JANUARY 2020

The Global Classroom: Student Immersion in Japan

As part of the elective curriculum within the MBA program, students have the opportunity in their second year to enroll in an Immersive Field Course – or “IFC.” These courses are driven by faculty research and industry connections, and provide students with an opportunity to get out of the classroom and put the skills they have learned to practice in the field. Typically, about 200 students participate in IFCs annually. In January 2020, Professor Hiro Takeuchi from the School’s Strategy Unit led 42 students to Japan for 10 days where they visited Tokyo and the Tohoku region. During their stay in Japan, students were involved in three types of activities: 1) team-based consulting projects for companies in Tokyo; 2) group activities to learn about and contribute to the disaster-affected areas in the Tohoku region; and 3) immersive experiences in traditional and modern Japanese culture.
  • DECEMBER 2019

Case Discussion Session with Professor Scott Kominers

On December 16, the HBS Japan Research Center welcomed Professor Scott Duke Kominers from the Entrepreneurial Management Unit to Tokyo and organized a case discussion session in collaboration with Academyhills. Professor Kominers taught his Raksul case that he wrote with the support of the Japan Research Center. Raksul, 2018 Forbes Japan "Startup of the Year," ran an e-commerce platform drawing upon thousands of individual suppliers. Launched as a business-to-business printing services marketplace, Raksul had recently expanded to operate both a logistics/delivery marketplace and a television advertising marketplace. In the case, each marketplace faces its own growth challenges; at the same time, the CEO must consider whether and how each marketplace can enhance the others. 40 people including HBS alumni joined the session and enjoyed a taste of the HBS-style case discussion.
  • AUGUST 2019
  • Working Knowledge

Cold Call Podcast: Should a Pension Fund Try to Change the World?

Professors Rebecca Henderson and George Serafeim discuss the impact investing efforts of Hiro Mizuno, CIO of GPIF, Japan’s government pension fund. Mizuno says that improving corporate governance, increasing inclusion and gender diversity, and addressing climate change could expand Japan’s economy. But, should a pension fund try to change the world?
  • JULY 2019

Innovating through Experimentation with Professor Stefan Thomke

The Japan Research Center, in collaboration with HBS Executive Education, welcomed Professor Stefan Thomke, Chair of the General Management Program, to Tokyo this July. Professor Thomke led an interactive discussion that focused on why some companies are more innovative than others. The talk encouraged the 100 alumni and friends of the School in attendance to think about factors that limit companies from stepping beyond traditional product and service offerings. Professor Thomke shared why business experimentation is critical to innovation management, how new technologies impact products, processes, and business models, and steps for successfully integrating new innovation strategies and technologies.

New Research on the Region

  • November 2019
  • Case

Shiseido Acquires Drunk Elephant

On October 7, 2019, the Shiseido Group announced that it would acquire clean skincare brand Drunk Elephant for $845 million, a valuation of 8.5 times sales. Did Shiseido pay too much or too little for this brand asset? Every acquisition had to be measured against the cost of developing and building a look-a-like brand internally. Would Drunk Elephant prove to be an integral part of Shiseido's future success and what would it take to unlock its full brand value? Would Drunk Elephant thrive under Shiseido's management? How much further investment would Shiseido need to make to realize the new brand's potential?

  • 2019
  • Book Chapter

Ethical Business, Corruption and Economic Development in Comparative Perspective

By: Janet Hunter and G. Jones

This chapter contextualises the drivers of corruption in Turkish business through comparisons with Japan and India in the late 19th century. It identifies the developmental state as a common driver of corruption. Catching up by using extensive state intervention had the major downside that it has served to facilitate corruption. The operation of the developmental state may have been constrained by factors beyond the control of the state, such as shortage of funds or external pressures. Yet it is apparent that the individual measures that made up the overall strategy of the developmental state are vulnerable to exploitation by those who are involved in their implementation, while at the same time positively encouraging such manipulation. The example of 19th century Meiji Japan suggests the building of inclusive political and economic institutions. Consequent trust levels can help address the problem, but it also suggests that old habits die hard and that respect for the state and its institutions is something that cannot be taken for granted. The fact that some places, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, were able in recent decades to roll back corrupt practices is less comforting for Turkey. Turkey, like India, has not yet taken the necessary steps needed to disrupt corrupt practices. However the chapter also explores the many uncertainties surrounding the issue of corruption. The very term corruption is ambiguous, because there are many grey areas that result from variations in cultural norms. The existence of corruption does not appear to stop development. It did not stop Japan’s economic growth over the long term. It has not stopped India’s rapid growth in recent decades, which appears, if anything, to correlate with growing corruption rates since the 1970s. It would appear, though, that the more extractive the institutions of a society, and the fewer the countervailing forces of productive business enterprise, the more potential there is for negative outcomes. In the case of Turkey, corruption has not only prevented significant economic growth, but it also had negative consequences, such as poor quality building construction, and distortions, such as helping one sector of the business community grow at the expense of others. Its prevalence maybe part of the explanation why Turkey has struggled to build innovative businesses able to drive forward the development of the country and break out of the middle-income trap.

  • September 2019 (Revised November 2019)
  • Case

Othellonia: Growing a Mobile Game

Othellonia surprised the Japan’s mobile game market by supporting the launch of the game with an unusual approach: Offline community management. The management team favored a slow and steady launch entirely focused on bringing very loyal users instead of attracting too many users at once. Doing so had positioned Othellonia among the mobile games with the most loyal customer base and with monetization rates above the levels usually observed in the industry. However, after a few years of steady growth, strong loyalty from its users and healthy monetization, recent acquisition, engagement and retention metrics were worrisome for Yu Sasaki and Taku Kojo (KJ). Should the team invest in the promotional activities that drove acquisition in the past? Should they rely on the loyal base of players to keep growing the game? How could they increase user engagement without hurting monetization?

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Tokyo Staff

Nobuo Sato
Executive Director
Akiko Kanno
Assistant Director
Akiko Saito
Senior Researcher
Yukari Takizawa
Office Manager