JMEC participants put their business savvy on display

Over a span of just seven months, 13 teams went from knowing nothing about some industries to proposing detailed business plans for major company clients in those very sectors.

The Japan Market Expansion Competition (JMEC) has been pairing teams of parti­­cipants with project clients for 24 years, which has resulted in 214 business plans and countless new opportunities for highly motivated businesspeople.

Wednesday, June 6 saw the presentation of the annual JMEC awards before a packed audience at Tokyo American Club. The top three prize winners were Team 5, which took first place for a business plan tailored for Cortus, a French semiconductor and IP design company; Team 2, in second place, for a business plan created for CGI K.K. a clinical laboratory quality management company; and Team 13, which came third, for the plan it had devised for DSM, a global science-based company.

Other teams that won awards were Team 10 (Skidata) for best marketing plan, Team 8 (Infinity Diamonds) for best presentation, and Teams 6 (Areti) and 7 (Entry Japan K.K.) for best market research.

Philip O’Neill

Although his team did not win a prize, Philip O’Neill, director of McGill’s MBA program and the project client for Team 4, appreciated the team’s fresh view of his niche business. He added that the high calibre of the marketing competition graduates can be seen from those who, as JMEC alumni, apply for McGill University’s MBA scholarships.

Long Hours

The JMEC program began with an eight-week section during which participants would attend lectures and hone the skills they would need to write successful business plans. At the end of the training, the participants were assembled into teams and finally met their clients. In the months that followed, according to Rike Wootten, one of three JMEC judges, teams “spent an average of 800 hours on their business plan. The average time per person was probably over 200 hours. Team mentors spent up to 125 hours on the plan.”

“Overall, it was an amazing learning experience throughout the project. We were working so hard.”

Matthew Kish, a member of the winning team, said: “Overall, it was an amazing learning experience throughout the project. We were working so hard. The thing about this project is we had no idea what the other teams were doing so … we couldn’t benchmark ourselves against any other team. We worked as hard as we could and then just had to wait and see what happened tonight.”

Newly Minted Experts

But the final results proved that the participants’ hustle had been worthwhile. Mark Colby, chairman of CGI K.K. said: “Over the several meetings that we had, it was amazing the way that the team developed. None of them knew anything about our business and the sector that we are in. It was incredible to me to see them become subject matter experts in the diagnostic area.”

Sean Crownover, a system engineer with CGI K.K., and the person responsible for implementing Team 2’s plan, said that the group went above and beyond what had been expected of them. “In the final presentation, what struck me is that they were able to weave in what the product really means in the endgame. They kept in mind what the ultimate goal of the product itself is, which is saving lives.”

The teams are not the only beneficiaries of the program, however; project clients gained from the input of young, modern minds. According to Alok Rakyan, president of Infinity Diamonds, “The young people over here, they have exposure, they are creative and they have an ability to see out of the box.”

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