Posts Tagged ‘culture’


cool japan strategy

Monday 24 March, 2014

I attended this event @ the Japan Society, “The ‘Cool Japan’ strategy:  sharing the unique culture of Japan with the world” featuring Tomoni Inada, the minister in charge of the strategy.  “Cool Japan” is a phrase used to describe Japanese commodities, contents, & cultural products that are considered “cool” by non-Japanese people.  It features films & TV programs, characters like Hello Kitty, video games, & fashion items.  The Japanese contents market is flat or shrinking.  A low % (3%) of Japanese contents revenue comes from overseas.  Japan seeks to increase the # of visitors to Japan from 10M in 2013 to 30M in 2030.

Until now, cooperation has been insufficient.  It is vital to work together to convey the appeal of Japan’s outstanding culture & products to the world & turn these into an engine of economic growth.  Inada was appointed a cabinet level ministerial position to implement this strategy & head up the Cool Japan Promotion Council.  The council has 7 private sector members, such as a lyricist, critic, & designer.  A subcommittee was formed to more effectively convey Japan’s culture from young people’s perspective.

An action plan has been created to move this forward with these action items:

  • promote cooperation among food, fashion, manufacturing, & contents sectors
  • utilize the Cool Japan fund of $485M public sector funds & $97M private funds
  • promotion by prime minister
  • encourage broad participation of Japanese people

In June, 2013 the strategy was rebranded @ the highest levels of government as a national strategy called the “Japan Revitalization strategy:  Japan is back.”  It includes food, sake, fashion, manufacturing, contents, & traditional culture.  The 1st event where this was implemented was @ the Tokyo International conference on African development (TICAD), which was attended by African heads of state.  It was also introduced @ the Tokyo Crazy Kawaii in Paris in September, 2013.  There is also a regional approach to promote boxed-lunch (Bento) culture & traditional textile art (nishijin-ori).

Design is being highlighted in porcelain, lacquer, digital signage, fashion, castles, & sky trees.

my $02:  Japan needs to start promoting this strategy online.  When I searched for it, very little relevant information showed up.


Are Indian companies ready to go global?-a panel discussion

Monday 30 January, 2012

Ashutosh Sinha of NDTV Profit television network moderated a panel discussion on the above-mentioned topic. The panel consisted of Tomas Hult of Michigan State University, Dev Bhattacharya of Aditya Birla Group, Pradeep Parameswaran of McKinsey, Prem Chandrani of SP Jain, Shashank Tripathi of PWC India, Sunny Banerjea of KPMG, & Kannan Chakravarthy of Mahindra & Mahindra. This was a heavy-hitting panel.  The discussion was hosted by the SP Jain Institute of Management & Research Consulting Symposium.

India has demonstrated that it’s ready. The question is what is “global,” & what are the metrics to measure it? It’s a continuum, so M&A is not the only way, but that’s still tough. Globalization is on CEO’s agendas as Indian companies aspire to become the top 3-4 in their industries in the world. It’s reached mid-level companies now, but they’re still in the early stages because execution & integration sometimes fail as probabilities of success rise. Access to intellectual property is still an issue, as are questions of core competencies.
Different companies have different strengths with regard to culture. Indian companies lack sensitivity & that needs to change as they learn how to build bridges. Culture differences can break deals because many times an international deal is all about the people involved, & what happens if those people leave the company? Board compositions need to change too.

Indian companies have a good line of sight for what they want, but they’re still too ad hoc & lack discipline. They need process & diversity. Private enterprise & an educated democracy are advantages, but cost advantages need to lead to other value propositions. Indian banks are not as strong as they need to be. An important question is “why are Indian companies going global?” To acquire resources or technologies? Replicate partners? For example, telecom markets & models differ. Indians like to talk a lot, so in India it’s a volume business. Africans talk less, so when Indian companies expanded there, they made mistakes. Products differ & financial risk is not the only concern. Indian firms are evolving from export-led strategies to establishing subsidiaries to building a physical presence in other countries.

Open Q&A

  • Price points in India differ & need to be made appropriate to the market, but it must start with the value proposition.
  • In global expansion, it helps to start focusing on 5-10 countries which are similar.
  • 70% of M&A deals fail, but doing structured due diligence, planning, developing, & defending the action encourage its success.
  • There has been a bias by foreign companies not wanting to be acquired by Indian companies, but Arcelor-Mittal is an example that has worked out well.

managing diversity panel discussion @ the National Institute for Personnel Management of India conference

Thursday 22 December, 2011

I was invited to moderate a panel discussion on Managing Diversity @ the National Institute of Personnel Management conference in Visakhapatnam, India.  I would have liked to have summarized it, but I was too busy moderating to take any notes.  So instead, here are 3 of the 4 presentations that were given:

  • mine, to introduce the topic ManagingdiversityinIndia
  • an examination of managing across cultures by P. Naresh Kumar, Director of people & culture @ Vestas managingacrosscultures
  • a different look @ managing diversity by Ananda Kumar Raju, Director of Human Resources @ Air Liquide Managing diversity
  • P.K. Joshi, Executive Director (HRD) of HPCL in Mumbai gave a presentation more focused on managing diversity in India, but I havent’ been able to get his presentation.

I’ve received some good feedback about the panel discussion.  If you have something to add, feel free to chime in.


Indian Director of housing finance on global economic crisis & it’s impact on India’s economy

Friday 11 November, 2011

Shri. K. Narasimha Murthy, an Independent Non-Executive Director of LIC Housing Finance Limited,  (who looks like an accountant by trade), stopped by the GITAM campus to talk with our Institute of Management students on the global financial crisis & it’s impact on the Indian economy.  He opened by noting that most Indians don’t know academics well, & the importance of the economy, & then equated public finance with life.  In 2008, he lectured about the US housing scam & overt greediness to no avail.  That was compounded by Bush bombing Iraq & spending $TR without the financial muscle to back it up.  Everyone just accepted it which led to a vested interest in accepting it.  That was followed by skyrocketing oil prices, which then affected the bond markets.  When the world runs out of gas, literally as well as figuratively, money stops moving.  US manufacturing companies were importing far less.  Americans have forgotten how to work hard & save.  American culture is in bad shape.

Murthy traveled to London during that time.  When he landed @ Heathrow, he found the airport deserted & becoming somewhat dilapidated.  He saw old cars plying the streets.  The UK doesn’t work much anymore either.  Little is made in Britain anymore.  The manufacturing & work culture are gone.

That US debt is greater than its GDP is a problem.  America’s lower debt rating lowers its borrowing capacity, which increases its costs.  Murthy thought Obama’s job plan was great.  He noted that only the poor are now taxed while the rich are not.  There are structural defects in the US tax system as well as a cultural defect, but no one can control the US

Many years ago, John Maynard Keynes postulated that, along with the Bretton Woods system, if imports &/or exports became greater than 10% of GDP, they should be taxed, so as not to create the massive imbalances we have today.  He also suggested the use of SDR’s (Special Drawing Rights) to settle international accounts rather than any specific reserve currency, which the US$ has become.  China now holds US bonds which have no value.

Greece is now writing off 50% of its debt, which will lead to the value of recapitalized banks falling.  India is being asked to support the European Structural Stability Fund, while France, Italy, & Spain are next in line with problems.  Subsidy development has killed Europe & the US.  The debt/GDP ratio is far too high for France, the UK, Italy, & even Germany.  If Greece isn’t fixed, the Eurozone has a big problem.

India’s saving grace is its 37% savings rate.  Most internal debt supports the government.  He told the story of a modest India woman who lived on 60% of what she earned & stashed away the rest.  The west borrows to buy imported goods, which leads to massive trade imbalances, an indicator of no fiscal discipline.  We simply mint more currency to pay for things, but you can’t change cultures easily.

But in India, inflation is up & unemployment is hovering @ 11-12% while the rupee is depreciating & trade deficit is growing.  India has a structural problem that its farmers, 50-60% of the population, only contributes 17% to GDP.  48% of Indians live below the poverty line as the span between the haves & have-nots keeps expanding.  Inflation is simply too much money chasing too few goods.  The government is an example of unproductive wages when it shows no control & fiscal discipline.

While foreign-based Indians are returning to India, India’s low productivity levels still must be raised.  India is the #2 or #3 producer of many commodities, but doesn’t see the fruits of its labors because of low productivity.  Its current account deficit fueled by oil imports are a problem.  Earlier, Indian workers were required to deposit 10% of their salaries in government accounts.  India’s financial authorities just need to suck the excess liquidity out of the financial system & not raise interest rates, which have been raised numerous times in the last year.


  • Generally our risk management systems failed, along with our ratings & predictions.
  • Good governance leads to good economics, so pray for good people in government to better align the central & state governments.
  • The antidote to rising prices is increasing productivity, which requires political willpower.  Reducing inflation is a function of the public expenditure system.
  • The reason governments can’t/don’t implement what theory would dictate is populism-they’re not able to make any reforms for political reasons.
  • The financial dip in India has hit the middle class & youth the hardest.  The drawback has been investment outside of India while the rupee depreciates, resulting in falling foreign direct investment.
  • Keynes said government spending will help lead to growth, but that also depends on capacity.  The socialists are not productive, so a mixed system like India’s is best.
  • We can all change to get back to work & bring India’s black economy back into the real economy.

central & eastern Europe business conference

Tuesday 15 March, 2011

The College of Business & Management @ Northeastern Illinois University sponsored the EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CONFERENCE , which featured speakers over from Poland & representatives from all over central & eastern Europe.  Here’s a quick summary of 2 days of presentations.

Professor Felicjan Bilok of the Czestochowa University of Technology took a look @ trade unions demise in Poland, whose membership dropped from 38% in 1999 to 16% in 2008, while other countries only dropped 1-8%.  Union strongholds still exist in state-owned-enterprises, (35%), & for mid-level staff & technicians (37%).  Employees @ privately owned companies are only 1% unionized.

Dr. Leszek Cichoblazinski, also of the Czestochowa University of Technology, followed up on the labor relations theme by discussing his experience in mediating labor disputes, which is obligatory in Poland before strikes.  He used the example of spilled hot coffee resulting in a global installation of machines (instead of kettles) which the local workers rejected because it offered less choice in types of coffee & tea.

Dr. Hamid Adbari of NEIU offered a review of the book The Next 100 Years & how it applies to countries throughout the world, which hinges on access to water.  The US, Poland, Turkey, & Mexico are up, while China (isolated, inaccessible, unstable coasts with no naval power), Japan (dependent, looking for labor), & Germany will fall down.

I had to head out for a flight out of town, so the rest is contributed by Dean S. Santopoalo, Development Coach with Focused In Leadership in Chicago.

Prof. Pawel Pietrasienski of the Warsaw School of Economics spoke of using ethnic chambers of commerce to establish trade relations and look to “train the trainer” and other programs to help companies learn how to work with international cultures and build relationships.

Atakan Arica of Arica International Corporation & Vice President of the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce asked “Why do we go overseas?”  To mitigate risks by approaching growth markets when others are down & gaining access to resources via joint ventures. But we should not expect people to do business the way we do.  Different levels of professionalism are evident in each region. Everyone has a different understanding of a business agreement and if you don’t have it on paper, it does not exist.

Michael L. Hetzel, President of Northern Galaxy Corporation noted that  America has lost some 2 million jobs to China, but what the news reporters have not mentioned is that China has lost 15 million jobs to other “lower cost” nations.  In 2010, there were 90,000 strikes in China, although they never received any news coverage.  Supply chain risks in overseas companies have to build inventory to compensate for the distance between manufacturing companies and their end markets, which says goodbye to J.I.T. The  industrialization challenge that China faces is a lack of infrastructure and that foreign markets need a local supply chain, which facilitates quicker production and time to market.

Martin J. Claessens of the U.S. Department of Commerce & Mary Roberts of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity gave their pitches to use the government’s help in approaching foreign markets, so I won’t repeat those here.

Mona Pearl, Founder & COO of Beyond A Strategy encouraged people to understand the unpredictability of different cultures, and that many cultures have developed around limited resources and knowledge, specifically the eastern nations that were governed under communism.  If a centralized style of governance is all someone ever knew from generation to generation, that thinking will take generations to change.

Milomir Ognjanovic, Economic Advisor to Consulate General of Republic of Serbia stated that the war of the 1990’s made the Serbs very tough, and less tolerant for undisciplined and privileged cultures.  This inclusive and independent demeanor resulted in Serbia acquiring a high amount of natural resources and incurring no real debt.  Serbia has petitioned for acceptance into the EU in 2011, but by joining the EU, they’ll have to open their borders to others that they might not want to work with. This is not because they do not like others within the EU, but because of their independent, inclusive nature and violent recent history.

Dr . Robert Donnorummo of the University of Pittsburgh intimated that countries in southeast Europe have not been doing as well as central Europeans because Southeast Europeans are farther from their main consumer goods market, Germany.   Privatization is necessary for capitalism within the region but that it may not be enough.  There must be an infrastructure based on laws, knowledge of contract negotiations, terms and conditions, for relations to exist.   Russia produces 1/3 of all natural gas and oil in that region, and no matter how independent one may be from the other, there will always be a common thread between Eastern Europe and Russia.  Europe needs Russia’s oil and gas. Russia needs Europe’s money. As long as those needs exist, so will the concept of trade.

Thanks Dean!


why save Greenlandic?

Monday 31 August, 2009

I read with interest this article in the Chicago Tribune Sunday section Saving world’s words by Jason George. The reason I’m highlighting this article is that Americans tend to minimize the importance of learning foreign languages because English is so predominant in the world today.  They refuse to localize their websites into different languages, yet expect foreign buyers to feel comfortable buying in a language that’s not their own.  Some would say, “Let foundering languages die.”  My response would be, to quote from the article, “language is much more than words-it’s our culture, our history.  It’s what connects people to one another.”  By failing to learn others’ languages & expecting others to communicate with us in our language, we are missing prime opportunities to learn about other cultures, which can make big differences in negotiating with foreigners.

In learning German, it occurred to me that there is a chicken & egg relationship between languages & how people think.  German is a very structured language, with sentence elements in specific positions, nouns taking certain forms, etc.  In turn, Germans are typically methodical & precise, a direct reflection of their language.  I don’t know if the language teaches them how to think or if how they think determines how they speak;  it just seems to me the 2 are inextricably linked.  In trying to learn French while working @ the Canadian consulate to work better with the Quebecers, the differences between French & German became apparent, just like the differences in people.  German for the most part is pronounced as it’s spelled.  French leaves a lot more open, just as the French are a lot more laissez faire than the Germans.

Americans need to learn foreign languages to address the world in its terms rather than expecting the world to accede to our terms.  It’s generally ethnocentric to assume that all businesspeople speak English well-some don’t.  It’s simply wrong to assume that intelligence is reflected by the ability to speak English, which Americans assume all the time.  There are many many foreign business people who don’t speak English very well, but do a great job of leading their local organizations.  Americans limit their opportunities to do business in places where they can’t speak the language.   Although other English-speaking countries can be a good place to start, citizens of those countries typically suffer from the same blinders that Americans do, missing opportunities in places where they don’t speak the language.  Languages provide insights into values & decision-making, which can be immensely helpful when dealing with foreigners.  Again, German reflects how the Germans think, so keeping that in mind when working with them makes things much easier.  Respect other languages by encouraging & learning them.


local google exec’s biggest challenge

Tuesday 9 December, 2008

I caught this little tidbit in the career path column of the Chicago Tribune by Ann Therese Palmer Google exec crafts quite a story

What interested me most was this quote:

“Q: What’s the most challenging assignment you’ve had?

A: I moved to London to set up Google’s Europe, Middle East and Africa industry sales strategy. I was in charge of a business plan covering more than 30 countries with different languages and cultures. The biggest challenge was not trying to replicate my U.S. experience. At first, I overcompensated being respectful of local culture.

But I learned it’s OK to be an American in Europe. You just need to acknowledge what you bring that’s unique. American practices are welcomed, as long as you’re locally relevant.”

What I find interesting is that this pretty highly positioned executive with a hugely successful company noted that his biggest challenge was an international one.  1st of all, hats off to him for not being an American business imperialist, as many are, by acknowledging the importancce of working in different languages & cultures.  Kudos for compensating in being respectful of different cultures.  Many US business people are proverbial bulls in the china shop in approaching foreign businesses, without doing any research about the local business culture, language, history, politics, economics, etc. all of which frame the international business context.  They just make their proposal without consideration how it fits locally & wonder why it doesn’t fly.

It’s a constant management battle to balance global vs. local interests, which often conflict with 1 another.  Exercising centralized control in situations which require local decision-making is always tough.

Many people love Americans in Europe-when I spent 7 months in Poland, I met many who wanted to meet/work with me simply because I was visiting less-visited parts of Poland & many had never met a real American before.

It’s also notable that what’s unique, i.e. competitive advantage, might or might not transfer to different places, i.e. be locally relevant.

It’s finally interesting to note that he was stationed in London, another English-speaking metropolis, which has its own advantages & limitiations.  London is unquestionably an international financial mecca, but I believe it still suffers from the same malady that many American cities do, that English-speaking residents have little proclivity to learn foreign languages because of the widespread use of English.  I think London’s foreign flair comes from its past links with former British commonwealth countries like India & Hong Kong which enabled many foreign nationals to emigrate to the UK.  English-speakers world-wide are spoiled while the rest of the world speak to us in our language rather than us addressing them in theirs.