What's in... Shin Hasegawa's office

What's in... Shin Hasegawa's office

Sports has always played an important role in Mr Shin Hasegawa's life.

Little wonder, then, that he escapes from his office every few months to fit some snowboarding and surfing into his packed schedule.

The 36-year-old is executive officer and global vice-chief marketing officer of Japan's largest e-commerce company, Rakuten. It also offers travel bookings, banking, video streaming, among other services.

The company has expanded aggressively, opening in Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. It set up its regional headquarters for South-east Asia in Singapore this year.

Growing up, Mr Hasegawa was exposed to different cultures. When he was two, his father was posted to Seattle, so the family left Tokyo and moved there.

He recalled: "I went to a local school there, and the majority of my friends were American. When I returned to Japan at the age of nine, I was so used to American culture and there was a huge cultural gap, so I suffered quite a bit."

Worried that he was too Westernised, his mother pushed him to take up Japanese martial arts, to help him acclimatise. He chose kendo, a samurai-inspired martial art using bamboo swords, rather than the self-defence art of aikido.

While studying marketing at Kyoto University, he discovered handball and captained the university team.

"If you ask me, I'd say that my major was really handball. I was crazy about it. I practised six days a week. I even travelled to Germany and other countries to compete in matches."

After graduation and a brief stint selling insurance, he spent 10 years at the consumer goods giant, Procter & Gamble, progressing from assistant brand manager to associate marketing director, before joining Rakuten in 2012.

Mr Hasegawa, who is based here now, is proud of his career path.

"I started in a local sales job, then a local marketing job. From insurance, it went to diapers, blades and razors, electronic appliances, cosmetics, and now it's the Internet," he said.

"I feel extremely lucky to have been exposed to different categories, because it's given me a different view of looking at marketing."

Though he enjoys his job, he employs a "secret recipe" to avoid burnout. The ingredients? Surfing and snowboarding.

"I think the key is to do something very different from your daily life, so that you can have a different experience."

Of his fondness for catching big waves, he said: "More than 90 per cent of the time spent surfing is waiting for the wave. You're just waiting and drifting. It's a mellow rhythm. This is something very different compared with daily life, where you can't just go with the flow, but have to go against the flow to create something different, something of value."

In Singapore, he plans to take up muay thai classes to keep himself recharged.

"There's a place offering muay thai classes around here," he said, pointing out of his window. "I'm going to enrol soon and hopefully mix up my secret recipe."

Something else in the mix is what he calls Project Maui, named after an island in Hawaii.

"I actually have a notebook with a statement I made when I was 25 years old to keep myself focused. It's filled with my own milestones and dreams with specific dates and checklists to help me complete it," he said.

Mr Hasegawa, who declined to reveal his marital status, added: "The project should hopefully end with me retiring in a house on Hawaii so I can be the coolest grandpa around and tell my grandkids interesting stories."


This article was first published on June 25, 2014.
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