This joint project aims at increasing Finland’s exports, expanding business cooperation and providing students with new competencies.
The project course is implemented in cooperation with the Helsinki-based company Taste of Finland, which operates a webshop selling Finnish food products, delicacies and coffee to customers abroad. The company is now planning to start active sales to Japan. Japan is a big market, and the Finnish brand is strong there. Furthermore, the Finnish and Japanese mindsets are relatively similar. From the study perspective, the purpose of the project is to learn about the Japanese markets and survey Japanese consumers' opinions and thoughts about Finland and Finnish products. The Taste of Helsinki website will also be translated into Japanese. "We want to motivate the students to earn good results and offer them genuine working life projects," says Iiro Lindqvist from Taste of Finland.
At the moment, the project team includes two Finnish Business Management students, Sini Kovanen and Tom Grönfeldt, and two Japanese exchange students, Takuya Ichimura and Ryo Shinozaki. In addition, Laurea student Maiyu Narushima is currently studying as an exchange student in the Tokyo Aoyama Gakui University and Evert Suonio in Osaka Gakuin University. During the project, the Japanese exchange students have tasted such Finnish specialties as salty licorice salmiakki and squeaky cheese and described the taste of these products on the website, as Japanese consumers would not know anything about them based on the name only. The website contents have also been translated into Japanese as part of the project.
Laurea students have planned different export promotion and product presentation measures. For example, they have suggested a salmiakki eating competition and prepared a quiz on Finland and Finnish markets to be conducted in Japanese schools. In addition, they have designed sales containers featuring a Finnish look and explored opportunities to cooperate with travel agencies. "Above all, we are selling Finland, not just Finnish flavours or Taste of Finland," Iiro Lindqvist points out.
The next phase of the project will involve marketing on social media, starting with Instagram. The Japanese students have provided valuable insight regarding the use of different marketing channels: Twitter is very popular in Japan, whereas Facebook, for example, is not very widely used among young people. Further goals include opening the webshop in Japanese and starting product sales as soon as possible. According to the current plans, this could happen as soon as in early April.
The leader of the project at Laurea is Learning Facilitator Tomas Illman. "It is great that our students and exchange students can work and generate ideas together and get to know each other in the process," Illman says. This is a good example of development-based learning in cooperation with working-life representatives called LbD, which is typical of Laurea. The project has taught the students a lot about different cultures, Japanese people and their customs and practices, for example, and also about e-commerce and project work.
"I have learned how to start doing business in a new, unknown market and how to manage a webshop," says Tom Grönfeldt. "We have also learned a lot about japanise people and how different japanise culture and for example the use of social media is", Sini Kovanen continues
"In Japan, our studies do not usually include practical elements, so it has been interesting to learn by participating in real projects. I also want to learn as much as possible about online marketing," says Japanese exchange student Takiya Ichimura.
Another target of the project is to support small Japanese businesses in Japan that would like to enter the Finnish market. The project is planned to continue in autumn 2018, when two Laurea students will be heading to Japan as exchange students and two Japanese exchange students will be coming to Finland. In the future, similar projects could be implemented with other target countries, as well.
For further information, please contact:
Tomas Illman, email@example.com