Category Archives: Globalization

Offshoring, and outsourcing.

How to communicate with the Japanese?

One of my readers has been experiencing tremendous frustration getting on with her personal and professional life in Japan, and asked me about the right way to communicate with the Japanese, particularly if your Japanese language is not the best. While I am not Japanese, but having invested in learning the language, going to graduate school in Japan, and then eventually working in Tokyo for an American corporation, I do have some thoughts. I wouldn’t say that I have perfected the art, but I have managed to survive. It requires years of practice and training, and still impossible for us foreigners. In any case, here are some tips that I learned the hard way and worked for me:

Silence is golden. Talk as little as you can get away with.

NEVER express your opinion. Not even good or bad. Just pretend as if you have no opinion, but to keep the peace (wa), say nice things about everything, even if they are bad. So even an awful dish is always delicious; you get the idea.

Do not ask the same of others. Do not push anyone to share something that they do not want to. People will share whatever they feel like, but you should not ask them to.

Always beat around the bush. Never ask or request something directly. For example, if you are with a friend and you would like to go to the museum with him. Say something like, “I heard that there is a Picasso exhibition at the museum this weekend. Maybe I will go.” If he does not respond or shows no more interest or does not volunteer to go, it is time to move on to another harmless topic. However, if he starts asking questions or tells stories about Picasso or museums or art, you can then suggest only indirectly, “Oh, maybe you can come along if you have time.” Japanese people do not like to hurt other people or being put in a situation where they have to decline an invitation or offend them or make them feel less important, so they do not like to be put on the spot.

Finally, keep practicing. Start with small stuff and eventually you can move on more serious stuff that can help you close business deals in Japan and get something out of them.

India’s challenges with globalization

While still one of the poorest countries in the world, some Indian corporations are now in a financial situation that they can make investments in the developed world. It turns out that it is not going to be so easy. For instance, handing over Jaguar to either Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata Motors or both is a possibility but it horrifies not just Jaguar owners but also dealers. For a country that has no decent automobile industry of its own (for the longest time a horrible version of Fiat and an Indian car called Ambassador were the only two options available and later on a really cheap car called Maruti was launched in collaboration with Suzuki), it will be nothing less than disastrous to manage a luxury brand like Jaguar.

And as Simon Robinson writes in Time, a hotel chain called Indian Hotels (owner of Taj Jotels and a division of Tata Group) was told by Orient-Express that it was not interested in a relationship because of the image problem. While Indians are furious, anyone who has ever stayed in a luxury hotel in India knows that India has a long way to go. The Taj Hotels has made some acquisitions in the United States (for instance my favorite hotel in Boston the Ritz Carlton is one of them) and the response has only been mixed.

When most decision makers in the west look at India, we still tend to think of it as an impoverished country, where we can locate services and manufacturing that no longer make economic sense for us. For Indians to attempt to take several leaps and start to schmooze with luxury brands right away is probably a bit too ambitious.