Aftab Seth disseminated extremely valuable information for our readers about the Japanese work culture, style, preferences and mind set to our editor Prashant Tewari. Excerpts
Q: Post recession, the strategic shift of global trade attention has shifted to Asia. China and India are the main growth engine of the global recovery. Japan is pioneer of cutting edge technology with surplus funds looking to for ideal investment opportunities. Now why India is having an advantage viz China if we put Japan strategic long term interest in loop?
A. Japan has a good deal of historical baggage with China on account of the war and the the exploitation of China from 1895 and the Sino Japanese war onward till 1945. Yet in cultural terms Japan is indebted to China . The script , the Confucian ethic and much of the technology relating to silk , pottery , lacquer ware and weaving came over the ages from China.
There is therefore a grudging admiration from historical times for China compounded in recent years by the meteoric growth rates.Japan has exploited the new advantages presented by the Chinese market and has poured in many billions of Dollars in investment in China. Until recently the Japanese were not uncomfortable in doing business with China.
The growing assertiveness of China over the last 4 or 5 years has frightened many Japanese.The manner in which Chinese crowds attacked the Japanese embassy and consulates 5 years ago , in what appeared to be an orchestrated demonstration , combined with continuing friction over joint exploration for oil and gas has made the Japanese sit up and think.
In September 2010 the manner in which the Chinese bullied the Japanese into returning an arrested Chinese ship captain accused of ramming Japanese coast guard ships and then proceeded to stop the export of rare metals has really alarmed many Japanese. India in comparison seems a less threatening country and equally a country of rapid growth. The Japanese are diverting some of their attention and their money towards India for these reasons. The existence of flagship projects like the DMIC , itself the product of a growing political and strategic relationship makes investment in India more worthwhile.
Q: The Japanese are perfectionist hence the technology used by them is build of high cost, India on the other hand is a highly cost conscious market, how do you see the two fundamental difference creating synergies for mutual benefit?
A.Yes Japanese costs are high because they value the product of their labour . But service for Japanese products, their long lasting qualities and the reliability of Japanese equipment out weighs the higher cost in the long run.
Q: Top Japanese brands are house hold names in India but at people to people level, Indian are close to North America, Europe block, why Japanese government in the past have not attempted to translate commercial success in comprehensive success to improve bilateral relations?
A. The reason for Indian focus on the USA and the UK is clearly the result of language and the existence of a diaspora of 4 to 5 million Indians in both territories.This has meant more students , a 100000 in the USA alone and more collaborative research for both the pure and the applied sciences. In contrast there are only 25000 Indians in Japan and a little over 500 students.
The Japanese are fully aware that they need to heighten the connections in academia and so have made concerted efforts to attract young talent from countries like India where the demographic graph is a rising one in contrast to Japan where the population is declining . The birth rate at 1.2 is not even replacement level so Japan is shrinking in numbers. The need to attract bright young Indians is obvious and universities like Keio have begun undergraduate classes in English in some campuses.The quality of Japanese technical education is high and Indians would benefit by going to study there.The trend must be encouraged by both sides.
Q: DMIC is a most ambitious project undertaken by our government with external support, What role Japan is playing to structure the project via government, quasi government and private sector initiatives?
A. The Japanese embassy have recently added a title to the exisiting one for their Minister Economic and Commercial by calling him the Minister Infrastructure.This is significant in view of the important role being played by Japan in building India’s infrastructure, underground railways and the entire DMIC.Jetro , JICA and METI in Japan are all equally engaged in promoting Japanese trade and investment. JETRO gives free accommodation to SMEs to help them set up offices here in India.
Q: Tell us about the insight of Japanese work culture from the vast experience of working closely with them in the past?
A.Maruti and TVS in Chennai are just 2 examples of Indian organizations trying to acquire the Japanese work ethic. loyalty to the company, pride in one’s work, however humble or lowly it may be, a desire for perfection in execution and an ability to relax after work in the company of colleagues are just a few aspects of the Japanese work culture. They have highly developed vocational schools and so the quality of electricians, plumbers, packers, restaurant workers, chefs , railway or bus workers and a host of other professionals is much higher than most developed countries. India has much to learn from this aspect of Japan.
– OE News Bureau