JMEC July 2018

Japan Market Expansion Competition

Trials and tribulations of creating a business plan

On 6 June the Tokyo American Club hosted the 24th annual Japan Market Expansion Competition (JMEC) award ceremony, with the winners announced and the hard work of the participants celebrated.

Founded by the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in 1993, JMEC is now supported by 18 foreign chambers of commerce in Japan, including the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan.

The programme involves participants crafting a high quality business plan tailored specifically for the Japanese market. It is designed to expand the development of foreign businesses based in Japan, while deepening the participant’s knowledge in specific industries and improving their business skills. Participants work in teams and attend a variety of lectures and workshops, and eventually work with project clients—firms based in Japan or abroad—to develop their plans.

Tom Whitson, chairman of JMEC, opened the event by congratulating the participants. “You join an alumni group of over 1,100 participants who have preceded you, and have successfully completed the JMEC programme.”

The judges, Rike Wootten, Deborah Hayden and Georg Loeer, had a hard task choosing the winner, with the top three teams coming within 6% of each other in their final scores.

Wootten described the process, saying, “The quality of the oral presentations was fabulous, and this was really what was the deciding factor in the winners.” Mentioning the variety of plans, Wootten said: “This year the plans were quite diverse, and the team members working on the plans oftentimes had no idea at all about the industry they were about to become an expert in. And you know what was amazing? How, at the end of this process, when we were looking at the plans and we were seeing these presentations, how well they did”.


Judges Deborah Hayden, Rike Wootten, Georg Loeer

The prize giving started with the Best Presentation award, which went to Infinity Diamonds. Team Areti and Team Entry Japan K.K. were both awarded a Best Market Research prize, and Skidata won Best Marketing Plan.

In third place overall was Team DSM, winning a satchel and a ticket to an American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) “nommunication” event. Accepting the award was one of the three team members Nagisa Nakamura. “I’m really surprised that we got this prize, because we were the smallest team at JMEC 24. So sometimes we had some conflicts and difficulties, but now that we’ve made it and we could win the prize, I’m really relieved.”

Second place went to Team CGI K.K. They won an HP EliteBook Folio G1 Tablet and a 1-year ACCJ membership. Mark Colby from CGI K.K. spoke on the remarkable progress the participants in the team had made: “Over the several meetings that we had, it was amazing the way that things congealed. None of them knew anything about our business and the sector that we’re in. And it was incredible to me to see them become subject-matter experts in the diagnostic area.”

The first place prize went to Team Cortus, who were supported by mentor Fabrizio Mura and consultant Brian Burns. They won a round-trip ticket to any Finnair European destination, a one-year membership to the ACCJ and one ticket to an ACCJ event. Matthew Kish, a member of the team, spoke about how he found the process, saying, “For me, it was a great way to benchmark my business skills against other people who are working at really good companies in Tokyo and see how I compare and fit in, and it was a great learning experience.”

The teams spent some 800 hours on their business plans, with the average time per person estimated at more than 200 hours. Whitson commented: “They’ve given up a lot in the last seven months. They’ve given up social life, family, friends, and sleep but I would hope that they would all say that the learning experience and camaraderie has been worth the effort and sacrifice.”

JMEC 25 starts in September, with a fresh batch of participants beginning their business journey.