THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

6 posts categorized "East Asia"

14 October 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Strategy 1:1 Part 2

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Each quarter, we pick 18 high-growth businesses to take part in our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, where businesses receive £10,000 worth of tailored and bespoke business support and advice. Not only do businesses gain three months of guidance, they also receive automatic membership to our Growth Club and their own Relationship Manager.

This quarter, we’re following Haroun, Director of JRPass, a train travel company for those exploring Japan by rail. Haroun will talk us through each session as he progresses through the programme to get the successes and challenges of what it’s like to run a growing businesses. You can see Haroun's previous posts about financial management 1:1, product innovation 1:1intellectual property 1:1marketingbrandingintellectual propertyfinancial managementproduct innovationmarketing strategybranding and research and developing a growth strategy on our blog. In his final diary entry, Haroun has his second session on strategy...

Japanese train in station
Photo courtesy of JRPass

Well, here we are at the end of three months, 15 sessions and countless follow-ups. It’s come and gone ever so quickly, so this final strategy one-to-one session gives us a good time to take stock. We went through the findings from the branding, marketing, finance and innovation sessions. The main takeaways were that we have so much scope for growth that I need support, so I will be hiring to capitalise on those opportunities, especially in the areas of marketing and business development. Our expansion plans are pretty clear and we must make sure that we execute properly and as rapidly as is possible. We also need to invest time into research and skills acquisition for our new growth areas.

I have found the scale-up course very useful, especially as a way of giving me the head-space to concentrate on issues that I knew needed to be tackled, but have been too busy for day-to-day. Here are my personal take-aways for anyone considering the course:

  • We are all very busy in the day-to-day running of our businesses but to take full benefit you do need to make time for both the sessions and any follow up tasks to take full benefit. This maybe a truism, but you will only get out as much as you put in.
  • The advisers are exactly that, people to advise you on your current status and next steps. They aren’t there to provide a detailed step-by-step plan. They will vary in how much they know about your industry. You, yourself, ultimately should be the arbiter of what is best for yourself. You’ve done well getting this far in your business, so trust your instincts and use the advisers as neutral external interrogators of your business. This will be where the best value lays.
  • The pace of sessions can be overwhelming at times especially with the day job, so pace yourself, prioritise and plan effectively.
  • Before attending, have a deep think about what you want to get out of the sessions. There will be nagging concerns that you may have about your business and this would be a good opportunity to have those addressed.
  • Enjoy meeting new people, there are lots of fascinating people that attend!

Well, that’s it for me, it’s been fun sharing my experiences. Also, I hope that if you consider a trip to Japan that you’ll consider us! I’ll leave you with our ten top tips for first time travellers.

Thanks, Haroun

 

Visit our website for more information about Innovating for Growth and how to register your interest for the next application round.

09 October 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Financial management 1:1 Part 2

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Each quarter, we pick 18 high-growth businesses to take part in our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, where businesses receive £10,000 worth of tailored and bespoke business support and advice. Not only do businesses gain three months of guidance, they also receive automatic membership to our Growth Club and their own Relationship Manager.

This quarter, we’re following Haroun, Director of JRPass, a train travel company for those exploring Japan by rail. Haroun will talk us through each session as he progresses through the programme to get the successes and challenges of what it’s like to run a growing businesses. You can see Haroun's previous posts about product innovation 1:1, intellectual property 1:1marketingbrandingintellectual propertyfinancial managementproduct innovationmarketing strategybranding and research and developing a growth strategy on our blog. In his latest diary entry, Haroun has his second session on financial management...

Japan Rail Pass Guide
Photo courtesy of JRPass

If you have been following the blog you will know that at JRPass we are in the midst of planning another website offering new services. Over the past few months we have used the sessions on branding, marketing and product innovation to develop this further. This time, the second of the finance sessions, was really helpful as we dived in-depth into modelling with the adviser from Metavalue.

We have a couple of options on new partnerships for the website, so the main focus of the discussion was which of these would be the most viable option. The conversation involved our margin, potential site visitors, conversion rate, payment costs, staffing costs, average basket size and advertising/marketing budget. After we got grip of all these numbers and worked out a financial template, we agreed that the following assumptions and points would have to be further investigated:

  • Before any additional mark-up the initial business could be low-margin so it will be important to control costs.
  • We made assumptions on support costs and UK vs Japan-based staff. These would have to be validated.
  • It is important to test all the inputted data and update them as we start trading, for example average order sizes and conversion rates. Pirate analytics (yes, I said ‘Pirate’) will help as these allow you to track data on visitors, post per acquisition etc. A useful guide on start-up metrics can be found here.
  • Briefly, we also touched on a previous conversation about potential exit routes. Pitchbook news and Crunchbase were mentioned as good sources of news and information.

There's only one more session left and on in my final blog, for the benefit of prospective applicants, I will talk about how I feel you can get the best out of the scale-up course. Also, whilst we are talking about budgeting, inspired by all these spreadsheets and finance chat, we wrote a blog on budgeting for a trip to Japan.


Visit our website for more information about Innovating for Growth and how to register your interest for the next application round.

01 October 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Product Innovation 1:1 Part 2

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Each quarter, we pick 18 high-growth businesses to take part in our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, where businesses receive £10,000 worth of tailored and bespoke business support and advice. Not only do businesses gain three months of guidance, they also receive automatic membership to our Growth Club and their own Relationship Manager.

This quarter, we’re following Haroun, Director of JRPass, a train travel company for those exploring Japan by rail. Haroun will talk us through each session as he progresses through the programme to get the successes and challenges of what it’s like to run a growing businesses. You can see Haroun's previous posts about intellectual property 1:1, marketingbrandingintellectual propertyfinancial managementproduct innovationmarketing strategybranding and research and developing a growth strategy on our blog. In his latest diary entry, Haroun has his second session on product innovation...

HelloKitty train
Photo courtesy of JRPass

I can’t believe there are only a couple of sessions left until the end of the programme. The three months have gone like a blur, so I’m happy to have these follow ups to reinforce what we have previously explored. This week we had the second product innovation one-to-one and as part of that we had talked about optimising the payments workflow, since then the PSD2 SCA deadline for European payments passed on September 14thYou can read about how this affects JRPass customers payments on our own blog here. As we were ready and had successfully updated our systems it meant we are also one of the first UK companies to allow payment via UK Open Banking. This enables our UK customers to pay directly from their bank account with immediate payment and not have to use a debit or credit card. It may take a while for UK customers to get used to paying in this way but it is popular in many other countries and it is good to offer our customers as many payment options as possible and be ahead of the technology curve.

We also discussed our new affiliate marketing service and I was happy to inform them that I am currently hiring for this role to push this forward. We are also looking to staff roles for developing relationships with regional tourism boards in Japan. With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics next year there is a big opportunity to encourage travellers to discover lesser known parts of the country. We are already investing in site content to support these first time travellers, for example a recent blog on tips for first time travellers to Japan

 

Visit our website for more information about Innovating for Growth and how to register your interest for the next application round.

20 September 2019

Follow JRPass' Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Maximising Your Intellectual Property 1:1 Part 2

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Each quarter, we pick 18 high-growth businesses to take part in our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, where businesses receive £10,000 worth of tailored and bespoke business support and advice. Not only do businesses gain three months of guidance, they also receive automatic membership to our Growth Club and their own Relationship Manager.

This quarter, we’re following Haroun, Director of JRPass, a train travel company for those exploring Japan by rail. Haroun will talk us through each session as he progresses through the programme to get the successes and challenges of what it’s like to run a growing businesses. You can see Haroun's previous posts about marketing, brandingintellectual propertyfinancial managementproduct innovationmarketing strategybranding and research and developing a growth strategy on our blog. In his latest diary entry, Haroun has his second session on intellectual property with Briffa...

In the previous session we chatted about IP and Data Protection issues in general (you can see what I got out of the session in my previous blog on IP) and since then I have ensured that our agreements with third-parties and employee contracts reflect the IP and data considerations that were raised. This week we concentrated fully on trademark registration as we have been trading a while across many territories and it is something we have dipped our toe into, but only in the UK.

Kagoshima-Chuo station
Photo courtesy of JRPass

For the UK we covered the steps needed to successfully pass an UKIPO examiner and which classes we should be considering (you can see more guidance on trade marks on the .Gov website). We then talked about international trademarks as the market for JRPass is worldwide, with customers across the US, EU and Asia, so this is a logical step for us. The requirements vary widely according to national authority and some may be prohibitive cost-wise so you need to pick and choose carefully. The most cost-effective way of seeking protection in a number of territories (more than one or two) is to go through the World Intellectual Property Office or WIPO, which offers international trade mark protection. To do so you need an existing trade mark application in any one jurisdiction (EU or UK for example) to use as a ‘base filing’, you then pay a fixed fee to WIPO to access their system, and you can then choose to ‘designate’ any of the WIPO signatory states. Your base filing will then effectively be duplicated in these territories. 

The adviser told me that going through WIPO allows you to save considerable fees if you are filing in a large number of territories, as it is often cheaper than applying directly to the relevant IPO, and instructing local counsel. A WIPO mark can be filed here in the UK, which means that you do not have only have to deal with offices for each individual territory. If you only need one or two foreign registrations then it may be best to apply directly. Most IP firms work with foreign filing agents who can act as representatives in that case.

Not related to the session, but still talking about logos... I have been using the design marketplace 99designs recently and had a good experience, so would recommend giving it a go if anyone is in the market for new branding. Also, as I write this, it is the eve of the Rugby World Cup with Japan vs Russia kicking off the opening game! It is already an incredibly busy time for us in the office. Hoping it will be a great tournament for all. To find out more about how JRPass can help with travel during the World Cup, you can visit our website for more information.

 

Visit our website for more information about Innovating for Growth and how to register your interest for the next application round.

29 July 2019

Follow JRPass’ Director through the Innovating for Growth programme: Branding and research

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Each quarter, we pick 18 high-growth businesses to take part in our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, where businesses receive £10,000 worth of tailored and bespoke business support and advice. Not only do businesses gain three months of guidance, they also receive automatic membership to our Growth Club and their own Relationship Manager.

This quarter, we’re following Haroun, Director of JRPass, a train travel company for those exploring Japan by rail. Haroun will talk us through each session as he progresses through the programme to get the successes and challenges of what it’s like to run a growing businesses. You can see Haroun’s first blog on refining your business model and developing a growth strategy here, but this week, he talks us through the next lot of workshops and one-to-ones…

Branding

Tuesday 23 July

A large part of what attracted me to the Innovating for Growth programme was the branding component. It’s something that I have been thinking a lot about of late and we have to do much more work on. This week I attended the Branding workshop run by ABA agency. There were a lot of takeaways, especially concerning building an identity and the power of personality of a brand. This is vital in terms of your positioning in the marketplace, and crafting an authentic story with messaging behind your company’s journey. The most interesting and fun part was to break your brand identity down into terms of personality archetypes, for example The Magician, The Outlaw, The Lover!

For JRPass.com, I chose three:

  1. The Sage – At JRPass.com we are domain experts with deep knowledge of Japan. I hope we have sage-like characteristics of being smart, knowledgeable and wise about travelling there. One example being the free planning tools we provide for events such as the upcoming Rugby World Cup.
  2. The Ruler – As a company we are responsible and reliable in processing and dealing with our customer’s important and time-sensitive orders. We take great care in looking after our customers and ensuring they have a stress-free experience. 
  3. The Explorer – This should be self-explanatory! We don’t sell packages and hope to encourage independent travel and hope to facilitate some wonderful discoveries and experiences.
World Cup
JRPass free planning tools for events such as the upcoming Rugby World Cup

At first this seemed quite an abstract exercise but it actually really did help to drill down into the character of our company brand.

Research

This week I also had a one-to-one to introduce me to the Business & IP Centre’s business research facilities. We can gain access to normally quite expensive industry reports from leading intel agencies on marketplace conditions and competitor analysis (Ed note: The Business & IP Centre has over £5m worth of online market reports from top publishers Mintel, Frost & Sullivan, Euromonitor and more as well as company data, business directories and more!). It was cool to see on one report on rail passes in Japan, our site was listed as the leader worldwide!

Visit our website for more information about the programme and how to apply.

You can read the next part of Haroun's Innovating for Growth diary here. 

26 July 2019

Follow JRPass’ Director through the Innovating for Growth programme

Add comment

Each quarter, we pick 18 high-growth businesses to take part in our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, where businesses receive £10,000 worth of tailored and bespoke business support and advice. Not only do businesses gain three months of guidance, they also receive automatic membership to our Growth Club and their own Relationship Manager.

This quarter, we’re following Haroun, Director of JRPass, a train travel company for those exploring Japan by rail. Haroun will talk us through each session as he progresses through the programme to get the successes and challenges of what it’s like to run a growing businesses. Over to Haroun…

Hi, my name is Haroun and am one of the founders of JRPass. I have always had a passion for travel, especially rail as a sustainable way for people to get around. Alongside my two co-founders, we founded the company a few years ago straight out of uni, and it has grown steadily and beyond our initial expectations. We are known worldwide as the leaders in sales of the Japan Rail Pass, which offers unlimited train travel for people visiting Japan for 1, 2 or 3 week durations. Our website forum is also a well known destination for travelers to swap tips on their journeys. We have since expanded into mobile WiFi, regional tickets, meet and greet services and are looking to expand further. With the Rugby World Cup in Japan this year, and the Olympics next, this is the ideal time for us to look at our strategy for the future.

How to use your Japan Rail Pass from JRPass.com on Vimeo.

Refining Your Business Model

Friday 5 July

So, today we had our first proper introduction to the programme. We were introduced to the Business Model Canvas, which is a way of visually constructing the 'state of your play’ of your business, further opportunities and future strategy. As a company we have grown organically and very quickly so this was a really good opportunity to step back, take a deep breath and take time to test our assumptions, spot gaps and look for areas of improvement. All the sessions after this feed into the model. 

What was really interesting about the session was the variety of businesses that the other attendees had. No two business were similar. As part of an exercise we modelled each other’s businesses using the canvas and it was quite enlightening to see how outside eyes view your own baby! I am looking forward to the upcoming sessions on growth strategy, branding, marketing, product Innovation, IP protection and more, where I can add even more insights into my own personal canvas.

Developing a Growth Strategy

Thursday 11 July

Today was our first personal one-to-one focusing on opportunities for future growth, with Uday from Red Ochre Consulting. JRPass has grown quite organically over the years and it was really useful to see Uday laser in on areas that needed addressing as we grow. As we move from a smaller informal organisation, where individuals like myself wear many business hats, to one with stronger distinct departments, it is really important to take time and assess such a change, with future opportunities in mind. I left the session with a bunch of action points on what to take now within the business, and openings for the future that I will be researching and building upon over the next few months.

Aside from the Innovating for Growth programme, I made use of the other workshops taking place in the Business & IP Centre and attended a Hiring masterclass. Hiring is probably one of my own weaker areas which I don’t really enjoy spending a lot of time on, so I gained a lot from the class (one thing being I really should get other people to do that stuff for me as they would be better!). As I was part of the Innovating for Growth programme, we were offered discounted tickets, another benefit! 

Visit our website for more information about the programme and how to apply. You can read part 2 of Haroun's diary here.