Leaders Voice; Words to Inspire | Nikkei special edition

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Toshiyuki Hirata(GG co., Ltd.)

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Creating Global Learning Forums

Toshiyuki Hirata,
GG co., Ltd.

A Pioneer in Language Study Abroad in the Philippines

Our business started out as an agent for study abroad in South Korea and we have since grown by shifting our main focus to support for studying English in the Philippines. We now offer assistance to Japanese customers wanting to study in countries worldwide, including South Korea, the Philippines, and Malta.

I am proud to have established language study in the Philippines as an option in Japan, where it was not previously a popular choice. The main attraction of studying in the Philippines is affordability. Tuition fees and airfares from Japan are cheap, and overall costs are between one- and two-thirds the cost of studying in Europe or the US. Moreover, students can devote themselves to studying English in one-to-one lessons or small classes eight hours a day for three months or so, and steadily improve their language skills. We offer specialized business English programs focusing on things like presentations and negotiations, enabling students to build fundamental skills for working in English-speaking countries.

Another of our unique features is that we operate our own language schools. Our IDEA CEBU and IDEA Academy schools on the Philippine island of Cebu have welcomed many students since they were established in 2011. We have also expanded into online English lessons. We have set up systems enabling students to take high-quality English lessons wherever they are.

Most of our customers are companies. They come from various industries, including manufacturing, advertising, and amusement park operation. Recently we have had a lot of inquiries from educational institutions, and each year we help 40 to 50 junior high schools and high schools to send students abroad for study. Many of these students are beginners in language studies, so we offer programs aimed at familiarizing them with an overseas environment through study abroad and getting them used to communicating with foreigners.

Toshiyuki Hirata(GG co., Ltd.)

Presenting Lifestyle Choices for Global Study

Studying in the Philippines is now more popular than it was, and we have many competitors. In these circumstances, rather than fighting among ourselves for a bigger slice of the pie, we should think about maintaining and expanding the market. The low cost of studying in the Philippines will continue to be appealing, but rather than relying solely on that, we need to raise the level of English education in the Philippines and add further value. I would like to establish a curriculum for English education that meets international standards and can stand alongside study in countries such as UK, Canada, and Australia.

Rather than waiting for customers who are considering study abroad and having a one-off relationship with them as an agency, I also think it will be important to propose educational and lifestyle models for people to study in various countries at different stages of their lives: junior high, high school, university, and during their careers. My aim is for our company to be recognized as a point of contact that connects Japanese customers to people around the world throughout their lives.

Toshiyuki Hirata(GG co., Ltd.)

A Leader is Always Positive

I originally started out as a sole operator, but the organization expanded after I incorporated in 2009. Once we started operating language schools our overseas staff increased, and we now have around 280 staff in Japan and abroad. Previously I managed all the sites myself, but now that is physically impossible. You need the courage to present a certain vision and leave work up to the people on site. As a leader, I feel my role has changed a lot. However, I don't want to shut myself away in the president's office. I want to talk with people working on the front lines in all the countries we operate in, and to link the awareness I gain from that communication to making decisions and shaping the business.

Leaders have to be positive. Market conditions change from one hour to the next, so you often experience uncertainty. However, if the leader is negative, it steadily has a detrimental impact on the company. After thinking carefully about where the company is headed, I want to move ahead optimistically, confident that things will work out in the end. You can't think about your next steps when work is going smoothly and there are no uncertainties. When you wonder "can we really carry on like this?", that's the chance to generate new ideas.