The case study approach is used extensively at Hitotsubashi ICS because cases are a proven, effective method for enabling students to understand managerial concepts and frameworks. Case studies provide an appropriate level of information for students to understand a particular industry and its related business issues, and to analyze these issues both quantitatively and qualitatively. Cases also establish an important foundation for class discussion.
ICS faculty members have taken the initiative in developing their own case studies with a focus on Japanese and Asian markets. Many of these cases are co-written by students at ICS as part of Independent Research projects.
As an added value, when ICS cases are utilized in the classroom, the protagonist of the case often joins the class as a guest speaker. This is possible due to the strong relationships between ICS faculty members and top company executives in Japan, who are able to come to the school because it is located in the heart of Tokyo.
ACCESS, a venture software house founded in Tokyo in 1984, developed a browser standard (NetFront) that was adopted by NTT DoCoMo's mobile Internet service known as i-mode. The company experienced rapid growth when NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode became the most popular service provider in Japan but suffered operating losses from 2001 to 2003. By 2004, however, ACCESS turned profitable by winning contracts with Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and other handset manufacturers to embed the NetFront browser in their mobile phones, as well as winning contracts to supply content delivery technology to global mobile operators like China Unicom. By 2005, the dream of Toru Arakawa, the founder, to create a world where the Internet could be accessed readily using a multitude of devices from anywhere and everywhere was slowly become a reality. The case examines how Arakawa should redefine ACCESS’ future growth strategy.
Japan has been considered by many leading brand companies to be the world’s most attractive luxury market. However, recent socio-economic changes and demographic shifts have made it increasingly difficult for luxury brands to effectively communicate with their high-value customers and maintain intimate, personal, and emotional relationships. Ad-comm, a Tokyo-based advertising agency led by President and CEO Andreas Dannenberg, responded to such luxury market challenges by developing Whitebook, a premium publication showcasing luxury brands (e.g., Bang & Olufsen, Cassina, and Porsche), as well as an interactive community of exclusive, pre-screened, high-value customers. Launched in 2003, Whitebook has been well received by sponsors and end-users alike. However, with success came demands for growth, and Dannenberg was now faced with three expansion options: increase the number of sponsors in the current Whitebook, replicate the current Whitebook in new markets abroad, or develop a new Whitebook focused on a different demographic.
BOOKOFF Corporation is the operator of chain stores that purchase and re-sell secondhand books, CDs, DVDs, and games. Whereas the publishing industry has been stagnated at all levels of the value chain, BOOKOFF expanded rapidly with its unique business model, eliminating cognoscenti from conventional secondhand bookstores and focusing on the cleanliness of its books and stores. The company successfully established a simple robust operation to be implemented by any part-time workers and educated and motivated them passionately. Garnering 67% of market share with 863 stores throughout Japan and eight stores overseas as of March 2006, Founder and Chairman Takashi Sakamoto and newly appointed President Mayumi Hashimoto were exploring ways to expand its service for further growth. Should they pursue: (a) building on existing BOOKOFF business, (b) pushing further diversification into non-book businesses (e.g., used clothes, children's products, sporting goods etc.), and/or (c) exploring overseas opportunities?
This case illustrates the birth and first year of Toyota’s new product line, Scion, which targets young customers (Generation Y), who had not been attracted to Toyota because they perceived the brand as "Daddy’s car." In addition to brand image, young customers require very different organizational capabilities, and developing these new capabilities has potentially solved Toyota’s current problems with niche product development and low customer satisfaction in the sales process in the US. Through discussing these points, students will be able to explore such issues as growing a new business within an established organization, the proper distance between an innovative project and the mother organization, developing an organizational structure that allows both learning new capabilities and leveraging existing capabilities, the different roles that managers play at different levels in growing a venture project, sales channel management, and competitive strategy (strategic positioning and trade off) vs. capability building/change management (proactively responding to environmental change and learning new capabilities).
The Japanese healthcare system has won high acclaim around the world for achieving universal medical coverage at a minimal public cost. However, Japan ranked far behind other nations in primary care development, and the value proposition of family medicine struggled to take hold due to institutional, physician, and patient obstacles. Dr. Ryuki Kassai, Co-Chair of the Hokkaido Centre for Family Medicine, was an early pioneer in community-based primary care in Japan and actively promoted family medicine through the development of training programs, research fields, specialist certification, and local practice opportunities. Using service management frameworks, students can examine the current state of the Japanese healthcare system under traditional general practitioners, the value proposition that family medicine could potentially deliver in the market, and the gaps in applying family medicine concepts to Japan’s current system.
This case illustrates how and why Gulliver International, a fast-growing company which focuses on buying and selling used cars, has established an innovative business model. While traditional used-car dealers in Japan have focused their efforts on selling used cars, Gulliver is the first company to focus on the buy-side of the business. This case examines the logic of why its new business model creates a differentiation from its rivals and leads to gaining and sustaining competitive advantage. Students will also explore options for Gulliver’s growth strategy in the future, which will take advantage of its existing business model.
This case describes Toyota’s entry into the US luxury car market in 1989 with its Lexus model, and the evolution of the business, resulting in Toyota becoming the number one market share leader in 2000. Students will explore the challenges a company faces when it leverages the core competence of its existing business (the mass automobile market) to enter a new market segment (luxury models), but at the same time building a differentiated strategic positioning (luxury) from the existing business (volume producer). The case also provides a good opportunity for students to discuss two fundamental approaches to strategy-making processes: intended (analytical) and emergent (experimental).
Mabuchi Motor has sustained high earnings as a specialized manufacturer of small DC brush motors. The source of its competitive advantage has been its cost leadership, based on its unique standardization strategy. Although the company built an overwhelming share in successive areas--motors for toys, motors for household electronic appliances, and motors for use in electronic automotive devices--beginning in the 1990s, it became apparent that certain aspects of its standardization strategy were no longer effective. This was symbolized by its failure in the market for APS camera motors. This case discusses why and how Mabuchi’s unique competitive strategy contributed to its great profitability in the industry, as well as inherent limitations of the strategy from the viewpoint of competitive dynamics.
This case looks at Matsui Securities' strategic change from one of the "small-Nomuras," an ordinary Japanese security firm that provided “one-stop-shopping” with a variety of services to a wide range of target customers, from active and experienced investors to novices, to a highly innovative organization that targets customers aged from 40 to 60 who are active investors and experienced in securities transactions. In undertaking this transformation, Matsui focused its services on transaction execution, operating mainly on the Internet but traded-off (i.e., stopped providing) underwriting, trading its own deals, retail stores, and savings-oriented products such as mutual funds, bonds, and convertible bonds. The company has become very successful and profitable but is now facing an economy that has slowed down and its competitors catching up. How should it keep growing?
Founded in 1964 as a pioneer in leasing in Japan, ORIX is now an integrated financial services group based in Tokyo. With operations in 24 countries and regions worldwide, ORIX’s activities are diversified across nine business segments, which include corporate financial services, such as leases and loans, as well as automobile operations, rental operations, real estate, life insurance, and investment banking. ORIX’s financial performance has soared over the years, and recently, the company had the best financial results in its 41-year history. Yoshihiko Miyauchi, Chairman and CEO of ORIX, felt it was time to position the company for a new round of growth; yet ORIX faced a number of significant challenges in achieving this goal. This case examines how the company has dealt with these challenges