On a rainy October afternoon in CEU’s historic Senate room overlooking downtown Budapest, a round of warm farewells concluded a day of intensive discussion on strategic business opportunities in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. It was the culmination of a carefully crafted Executive Seminar designed by CEU Business School for one of the world’s most successful retailers, Tadashi Yanai, Chairman, CEO and founder of Fast Retailing. At the Executive Seminar, Yanai and his senior team interacted with our region’s top scholars, experts and business leaders on local-market dynamics, branding, retailing potential and supply-chain management. Yanai also had the opportunity to meet with CEU Founder and Chairman Emeritus George Soros as a special part of the day’s events.
Tokyo-based Fast Retailing and its clothing megabrand, Uniqlo, are on the rise. With ambitions for continued global growth by the year 2020, Yanai is rightly concerned with understanding and contributing to markets in which he seeks to expand. As the company prepares to open a major new production facility in Turkey, he turned to CEU Business School Dean Mel Horwitch for a broad-ranging introduction to our region.
Dean Horwitch comments, “We spent considerable time doing our preparatory work. So after four visits to Tokyo we felt that we were in a good position to collaborate with Fast Retailing and to provide Yanai and its senior people with knowledge of our region, based on which they could start making their own plans for our part of the world”. Yanai adds, “I have always emphasized that well-trained managers are key for success. And top-quality management with local knowledge will be critical to our global growth plans. So partnering with universities like CEU is also vitally important.”
Dean Horwitch points out that such specialized business-immersion sessions are developed in tandem with corporate clients based on their strategic needs, and such activities represent some of the School’s strongest added value for the community. With the School’s blend of best of best practices, new thinking and on-the-ground knowhow, CEU Business School is uniquely positioned to provide valuable educational services for global corporations like Fast Retailing.
Behind the scenes but central to facilitating this Executive Seminar and many other connections between CEU Business School and partners in Japan, is CEU alumna Mai Nomura (MBA 2012). Over lunch with Yanai and Soros, she relayed that it was CEU’s blend of management expertise and its focus on civil society that attracted her to the School after working in Sony’s CSR department. She stated, “I had studied and admired the principles of George Soros and how they might be applied to business and civic engagement. I wanted to learn more about open-society values in practice and how these ideals penetrate a mission-driven community. Now I can bring companies together for educational opportunities that introduce both in-depth market knowledge and the principles that Soros articulates.”
Asked whether Uniqlo will also expand to our region. Yanai responds, “While growth in Asia remains a priority for us, please understand that we are now a global company. We seek to train global leaders. So I clearly see the CEE and neighboring regions as quite important for our future growth.”