K Fukagawa

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On May 2, 2020, K Fukagawa commented on GMAT goes online- Taking the exam at-home during a pandemic :

Super interesting article! I think this shift to online exams by a major standardized test provider will generate huge growth opportunities. I remember that there was only 1 GMAT center in central Tokyo (and only 10 seats or so), so many MBA applicants had to spend hundreds of dollars to take the bullet train to other cities in the country, or even fly to South Korea! Online testing will allow GMAC and others to reach a much wider audience without being limited by physical testing capacity. I think the biggest challenge will be ensuring that the online invigilation process is effective. In addition to privacy concerns, making sure that the technology is free of biases (assuming they are using some sort of facial recognition technology) will be critical. I would be curious to see what the current batch of online testers experience, and how many ‘false positives’ (accused of cheating but actually hadn’t) or ‘false negatives’ (though they won’t have a way of figuring out..?) there may be.

Thanks for an interesting blog post Viria! I think HBS Online is in a tough spot. Even if they were to see an increase in uptake during the pandemic while they offer courses for free or a discounted price, I think they need to work on customer segmentation and adjust their course offerings and messaging accordingly to make it sustainable.

Their current target customer groups appear ambiguous – are they trying to target young students aspiring to get into b-school and want a taste of what HBS is like? Or mid-career professionals looking to upskill to get promoted within their organization? Or mid-career professionals looking to reskill and transition to new jobs? Or anyone who can afford the hefty prices and just do it for fun, out of intellectual curiosity? When you look at their current course offerings, apart from a select few (e.g. accounting, finance, and business analytics), the courses are not technical enough to offering meaningful upskilling/reskilling, so those who are seeking to hone their technical skills will likely go to Udacity, Coursera, etc. In this sense, I would assume that most customers are coming primarily for the ‘brand’, rather than necessarily skill acquisition. If that’s the case, perhaps they should add more courses with big names and/or unique courses that focus more on soft-skills. Also, given the price tag, they should work more closely with B2B customers, for example offering group discounts to companies.

Thanks for the article Miguel! I’ve actually been watching a lot of interactive live performances on Youtube, Instagram, and Facebook since the crisis broke out. Since musicians already have the option of providing these performances directly to the audience themselves, I think Live Nation needs to think about how they can incentivize not only the audience, but actually the musicians themselves to sign up with them. I suppose one benefit would be that they can find a new fan base that extends beyond their current audience that is already following them on social media, but this only works if LiveNation organizes live streaming events with multiple musicians. Additionally, if one of the value-additions of Live Nation comes from how great they are in producing a live performance (stage production), they can perhaps think of ways to enhance the virtual performance of musicians with cool virtual backdrops, audio, etc. These investments will pay off in the longer term even after Covid, because I think these online live performances having become ‘the new normal’ now, and will continued to have sustained demand.

On April 21, 2020, K Fukagawa commented on Natura: Will AI Enable the Company to Go Global? :

Thanks for this interesting article Reinaldo! I wonder how Natura envisions using its massive consultant workforce while it simultaneously has Nat and will likely continue to adopt other AI technologies? As you mention as one of the key challenges, I would speculate that many of these consultants that Avon is currently carrying will be made redundant unless they are able to provide true value-added services. With an advanced AI program that allows them to identify customer preferences and provide customized recommendations, I would imagine that the in-person experience is probably most beneficial for customer acquisition at the beginning of the customer journey (especially since its skin-care, which means customers want to be able to try the products), but not so much afterwards.

On April 21, 2020, K Fukagawa commented on The Next Rembrandt :

Super interesting article! Putting aside the fact that this was a brilliant marketing project for ING and Microsoft, I can see this technology fundamentally challenging how we define and value ‘art’ and the artist. Art restoration is a labor-intensive, expensive, and time-consuming process. Instead of restoring a painting that may already be in a poor condition, it may be worth recreating it in this form in order to preserve the longevity of the art masterpieces of the past. Whether or not the piece of art is the ‘original’ will become increasingly less important, and instead the creativity, composition, technique and other features of the painting will be appreciated more.
When I saw a 3D-printed copy of a sculpture that an artist friend made, I was shocked to find that it was a ‘fake’ version at first, but then I realized that it didn’t make me appreciate the art any less. This makes me think that although it will take some time for public acceptance to spread (and costs to come down), technology and science will increasingly become integrated into the art world.

Thanks for the article Viria! Reading your article, I couldn’t help but wonder what Lazada’s sustainable competitive advantage is with regards to their use of AI. Its major competitors in the region (Tokopedia, Shopee, Zilingo etc) probably all use similar technology. Although the e-commerce market in SEA is still growing, it has low margins and is highly competitive, so it will be critical for them to offer value-added services that are actually differentiated using AI.

Unlike in the West, most consumers in SE Asia purchase using their mobile phones. I think this is a huge opportunity. It would be interesting if Lazada partners with mobile phone apps like LINE to both gather more data which will help them sell more effectively.

On March 24, 2020, K River commented on BlaBlaCar: A carpooling platform competing with its drivers? :

Really interesting article! I share your concern about cannibalization between the Ouibuses and BlaBlaCars. At the same time, I wonder if part of the value proposition of BlaBlaCar it not only getting a cheap ride for long-distance travel, but also a social experience? If their riders are using the platform because they see it as a unique and fun way to travel, and not just looking at price, then BlaBlaCar may still be a sustainable alternative to Ouibus. Additionally, no matter how cheap and easy the Ouibus may be, BlaBlaCar will still provide greater flexibility in terms of pick-up/drop-off locations and travel times. It will most likely be faster as well. Given all of this, I think BlaBlaCar can continue to co-exist with Ouibus, albeit with lower demand than before.

Interesting article! GoFundMe is such a cool example of how technology can enable expression of human empathy and compassion. It’s wonderful to see people donating to causes both locally as well as in places on the other side of the world!

I wonder if GoFundMe’s trust-building mechanism, which is one of their biggest strengths, will in fact be one of their biggest obstacles for them to scale. How does the Trust and Safety team actually verify potential fraud? In particular, if the money being raised is for personal use without going through an official organization or group of people, I would imagine that this could become a time-consuming and expensive process to check.

On February 11, 2020, K River commented on (Turn) Off the Press: The New York Times is Winning with Digital :

Great post – I wonder how its digital transformation has impacted the content of their journalism. While its subscription-based, I would imagine that they would still need to publish ‘buzz-worthy’ content to keep their audiences engaged, and retain their paid users. Has this come at the expense of journalism that is perhaps not the most ‘sexy’, but nevertheless important for the public and integrity of the press?

On February 11, 2020, K River commented on Coursera – Revolutionizing Education For Anyone, Anywhere :

I agree, though what I’ve found with Coursera is that the courses are offered by a mix of both world-famous universities as well as lesser-known (at least internationally) universities. For the former, I think in-house online courses that are increasingly being offered by these universities could be a significant threat. However, for the latter, Coursera can continue being a platform through which they reach a global audience and enhance their brand value. Perhaps Coursera should focus on expanding its customers in emerging markets, where they are likely to find higher success due to these trends.

On February 11, 2020, K River commented on Stitch Fix – Fashion’s Most Innovative Retail Company :

It’s such a great concept, but I have a few concerns. Firstly, I would imagine competition is increasingly tough, especially from clothes rental services such as Rent-the-Runway as you mentioned. The trend towards more sustainable fashion is not in its favor. Secondly, I would be curious to see how the financials play out. It seems like customers get to determine their ‘budget’, and the stylists have to find a variety of clothes that fit that, which doesn’t seem to leave much room for upselling. I also wonder what the financial model looks like between Stitch Fix and the brands. Presumably Stitch Fix doesn’t carry any of the inventory, and serves just as a platform that can provide valuable customer data. It’ll be interesting to think about how this will evolve as they develop more in-house design and manufacturing. Lastly, to the point about in-house design, this of course could be seen as a conflict of interest from the brands. Perhaps one way they could resolve is if they work together with their partner brands to develop ‘special edition’ collections just for Stitch Fix, rather than make a private label.