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Start Up Thailand by GSB - Osaka Japan Trip

Written by Kedsarin Areeswangkij, BBA #23
GSB 100tomillion is a startup business competition organized by the Government’s Savings Bank (GSB). The competition included three rounds brainstorming and pitching, where 10 finalist teams were ultimately selected from the initial submission of 1,300 teams across Thailand. Our team, which comprises Kedsarin Areesawangkij, Doldej Schuett, and Khematat Akarakasameporn, proposed a business idea to build an elderly care center to tap into the rising unmet demands of elderly in Thailand’s aging society.
We were inspired by the fact that there are several co-working spaces for the working individuals, yet there is still a lack of ‘co-living’ space for those who have retired but still want to remain relevant to the society. Our unique offerings centered around the idea that the elderly do not wish to be controlled of what they can or have to do, but desire freedom in socializing or spending private time. Hence, we saw ourselves as a provider of peace of mind for the younger generation that their parents are in safe hands, while provide a sense of security to the elderly when they enjoy themselves doing activities with newfound friends. We saw the middle-class retirees and elderlies to be our primary clients, who are used to having several things to do while they were working, but now feel undervalued and lonesome when they are disconnected from work.

With this idea in mind, we submitted our first proposal and successfully made it into the top 100 teams. We went to a 2-day training camp where we listened to professional marketers, brand builders, and prominent executives such as those from Hubba Thailand, Nanyang, and Chounan. It was here also that we first pitched our ideas to the mentors, and we receive useful feedbacks to modify our startup plan. We then proceeded to the top 10 finalist round, where this time we had a chance to talk to our mentor directly. The most important takeaway from the session was the importance of minor details of the products, especially in a business like ours.
After presenting in August to a panel of those involved in Thailand’s startup incubators, we had an opportunity to go on a 7-day excursion trip in Japan in October. Over there, we visited Kyoto Handicraft Center, Panasonic Living Showroom, Nissin Instant Noodle Museum, Osaka Design Center, and Mobio, among other places.
When we think about Japanese products, among the first qualifiers we attribute to these products is the attention to details. Indeed, Japanese people do give much value to the design of everything, from product to packaging and to the story behind each product. We learnt this first hand at Osaka Design Center, which is a place for designers and product developers to meet and craft their creative ideas. Among those whom we met was a CEO of a packaging design company that make products solely out of cardboard boxes. His products range from household staples like chairs and tables to something exotic like a mini pyramid for children to play.
At Panasonic Living Showroom, we saw how Panasonic is using its technologies to tailor to specific lifestyles of each group of Japanese group. We saw a ‘flat house’, which is geared toward elderly living alone. There were all sorts of machines to help keep the home tidy. Importantly, the house is designed so that there are no loose floors or steps that could trip the elderly. Another design we were impressed was the soundroom, which is 100% sound proof and was equipped with one of the most perfect sound gears we have seen. The room itself cost almost 1 million baht to build (the cost mostly went to insulating materials), while the sound equipment cost around 2.5 million baht.
At other places, we also obtained similar insights into many aspects of Japanese economy. At Nissin Museum, we learnt the history of instant noodles. At Kyoto Handicraft Center, we indulged ourselves in the beauty and history of Japanese finest arts. And at Mobio, we saw how the government of Osaka promotes its SME manufacturers by establishing a marketplace for suppliers and large-scale producers to meet.
Undoubtedly, among the things we gain from this trip are new knowledge and new experience. We delved ourselves into the richness of Japanese culture and cuisine. We went to historical and religious places and enjoy the stories behind. Business-wise, we exchange contacts with leading SME incubators and see how the ecosystem in Japan is helping young startups create revenue and grow stronger. All these broadened our worldview significantly. However, a more important takeaway from the trip was friendship we forged. It was so inspiring how on the final days, participants started exchanging team members to collaborate on other ideas they had in mind. Importantly, the community of like-minds will certainly help boost the venture in an enjoyable and successful experience.
Posted on November 22, 2016