Big opportunities arise when you least expect it, in this case it came in the form of a workshop. Regardless of my initial temperament toward it, attending it will be something I am forever grateful for. The workshop was an exemplification of Finnish design and the design concept from Finland. The talks were presented by one Timo Ketonen an angel investor and founder of Aboa Advest and another Professor Kirsti Lindberg a professor from the prestigious Alto University in Finland. The opportunity presented itself at the end of the talks when Prof.Lindberg addressed the students explaining that Finland is reaching its Platinum Jubilee this December. In accordance with that they wanted to celebrate the importance of Finnish design and make it known through the world (South East Asia in particular) by conducting a competition amongst the students of five South East Asian countries- Design Finland 100.
Bridge the gap between Scandinavia and South East Asia
The competition specified that each team would be presented two challenging situations (live projects of top Finnish brands) and using three important concepts of design, innovation and practicality, they were to reach the objective. The contest would push the teams to the extent of creating full-fledged business plans and videos all in the span of a week. The winning team gets the opportunity to present their findings at a design summit in Finland. This opportunity made my ears tingle and in the span of a few excited minutes and cheers, my group was formed and we were registered as a team in no time.
The briefs were two days past the date of arrival and it left us eager and impatient until one fine evening when revelation hit our mailboxes- two projects, two different briefs, two different companies and ONE deadline.
From the moment it was in our position we were at it- from the 7th (Tuesday) to 13th (Monday) the four of us worked as one well-oiled machine. We stayed up nights, got 30 hours of sleep in total and gave it our all. The first project was about introducing a Finnish fashion association into the South East Asian market under the name- Pre Helsinki. Pre Helsinki is Finland’s go to Finnish fashion destination designed to promote fashion talent to the reset of the word (by putting the designers on international fashion weeks like Paris Fashion Week, to promote Fashion from Finland). This task was encouraged and given to us especially by Prof. Lindberg herself after explaining to the her how four fashion students want to enroll in this competition as well. The brief pushed us to conduct an in depth market research analysis about the chosen Asian countries as well as a creation of a go-to marketing strategy for the Finnish brand to enter the region. The assignment involved us promoting the corporation in three different countries in Asia (we choose South Korea, Japan and China as they were the most lucrative markets and presented themselves as the most suitable markets for the plan to develop in). This project also had a ‘home country’ aspect which made us look at the organisation forming bilateral collaborations in Singapore as well. This allowed us to venture into Singapore background, giving us an insight into the home territory field. All and all the project not only made us learn a lot about the culture, the economic status, heritage, and the preferences and behaviour of the customers in those countries by also pushed us to be innovative with a new go to marketing strategy for each of the three countries (given the popularity of different forms of media, the seasonal weather changes, etc.).
The second assignment was uncharted territory for the four of us as it involved rebranding a Finnish food federation (ETL) in South East Asia to increase the exports of the Finnish food and drink industry. This involved a go to marketing strategy to promote the brand in South East Asia. Understanding that brand has to be introduced in whole region changed the impression we had on the matter from being vague to being very daunting very fast. It allowed us to use our marketing skills in a sector we had never ventured into and more importantly it gave us an opportunity to learn about so many different aspects of Finnish culture, South East Asian taste and preferences and more importantly, past techniques of marketing to this demographic.
Knowing we were faced with these challenges didn’t scare us, rather it excited us. We gelled well as a team and learnt a considerable amount in that week. A major part I’m extremely grateful for while working on this project was being able to get a third persons perspective from our teachers. They assured us that we were on the right track. The understanding we got listening to the data they had acquired from practical first-hand experience doing this in the world was priceless.
It gave me a me a new outlook in terms of taking a leadership role. We worked and gelled so well together that it was like everyone was on the same level- the relationship was simpatico. It gave me a new perspective on working with a team as well- before the concept induce a sense of anxiety in my body but if this is what team work is meant to look like then sign me up! I was also able to fine tune my research and development skills in terms of market research and most importantly I was able to test my creative abilities in understand how to develop new marketing strategies for brands I had little to no idea about.
Design Finland gave me an opportunity to push myself and give me so much exposure in the span of a few days. The knowledge is transferable to what I do today and I am forever grateful for the opportunity. The fruit of our labor will be decided in a month. I hope it’s as positive as this experience!