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Tourism Strategy

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Report on the Fourth Ideathon: Nihonbishoku K.K. CEO Don Loo

Nihonbishoku K.K. CEO Don Loo
Nihonbishoku K.K. CEO Don Loo

The fourth Ideathon was held on June 27. Like the third Ideathon, the fourth welcomed as guest speaker the manager of a startup, with whom we engaged in an interactive brainstorming session. This session's guest speaker was Don Loo, CEO of Nihonbishoku K.K., which provides cashless payment services for the inbound tourism sector.

After working for a foreign-affiliated investment bank and a management strategy consulting firm, Mr. Loo became a serial entrepreneur who launched two companies in China. After marriage brought him to Japan, he founded Nihonbishoku K.K. in 2015. At Nihonbishoku, he has worked to help restaurants and bars settle payments and attract customers among inbound tourists.

His newly launched Take Me service seeks to resolve three inconveniences often encountered by travelers: the inability to find what they're looking for; the inability to communicate; and the inability to pay. It’s being adopted not just by restaurants and bars, but a wide range of businesses catering to tourists. Take Me is compatible with a total of 15 cashless payment brands widely accepted in Japan, including Alipay and WeChat Pay, China's two largest smartphone payment systems, as well as international payment services like UnionPay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, VISA, and Mastercard and domestic services like LINE Pay and PayPay. By adopting Take Me, a shop can enjoy advances like integration of QR code processing, devices, customer support, contracts, administrative tools, and invoices as part of a one-stop solution, with no need to conclude contracts with individual cashless payment brands, dramatically reducing administrative burdens.

At the start of his presentation, Mr. Loo described the structure and details of Take Me and let attendees experience a simulated QR code settlement by reading an actual QR code on their smartphones. This was followed by a Q&A session and a brainstorming session with Mr. Loo on the theme of cashless payments. During the brainstorming session, participants exchanged views for about an hour on topics like why cashless payments aren’t advancing in Japan and how to encourage stores to adopt them.

brainstorming session

During the brainstorming session, Mr. Loo noted the rapid adoption of the JR IC card Suica in the Kanto region, which he said shows even Japan, often said to have a strong cash orientation, is fertile ground for the growth of cashless payments. The keys to realizing a cashless society, he explained, will be increasing user convenience and reducing fee burdens on retailers. In China, a world leader in cashless payments, fees are capped by law at 0.6%; fees in Japan are much higher, averaging 3% or more. Expectations are high for QR codes, which involve lower fees.

The session proved very lively, with participants expressing sharp observations and unique ideas and Mr. Loo providing feedback based on his wealth of business experience. Full-fledged Ideathon efforts will begin in the second semester, based on brainstorming that took place in the previous session and in this session.

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