TOKYO—In a market where many multinational firms still struggle to connect with the local culture and many indigenous firms have difficulty meeting the expectations of international clients, Kumi Sato has built Cosmo Public Relations into a market leader in part by straddling both worlds, combining local market knowledge with global standards of service and strategy.
“In Japan, there are very few bi-cultural people who can work seamlessly in Japan and the West,” says Paul Yonamine, general manager, sector sales-industrial, communications and GB enterprise, for IBM Japan. “Kumi is one of those few truly global businesswomen.”
That’s one reason Sato is a worthy recipient of one of The Holmes Report’s first Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards for Outstanding Individual Achievement, to be presented at our first Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards dinner, to be held in Singapore on November 3.
Educated in the US, where she graduated from Wellesley College with a BA in East Asian Studies, she founded and headed Cosmo International, a consulting firm based in New York and Arlington, Va., that specialized in assisting small-to-medium-sized Japanese companies enter the US market and also worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company in New York from 1981 to 1983.
In 1986, she purchased Cosmo Public Relations—founded by her parents in 1960—and led the firm through difficult times, focusing first on helping foreign multinationals access the Japanese market and later on working with healthcare and food and nutrition companies, providing a range of services including crisis management and corporate responsibility.
Today, Cosmo is a 40-person company and one of the largest independent public relations firms in the Japanese market, and Sato is one of the industry’s leaders, having been named one of Business Week’s “Stars of Asia”; one of The Star Group’s “50 Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World”; one of Forbes magazine’s “50 Leading Women Entrepreneurs of Japan”; and one of the “Hundred Global Leaders for Tomorrow” as elected by the World Economic Forum in Davos.
She is particularly well known for her role as an advocate for women in business.
“Kumi represents an incredible role model and truly inspirational leader. Not only has she been a trailblazer in Japan's competitive PR industry, but she is also a fantastic role model in the community, devoting countless hours to projects that range from healthcare and corporate CSR to women's education and empowerment,” says Kathy Matsui, co-chair of the Friends of Asian University for Women. “Her energy is boundless and her heart is made of gold.”