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“Meticulous preparation and long-term planning are the keys for setting up successful businesses in Japan”

In a session hosted by IIMB’s Mizuho India Japan Study Centre as part of the ‘Tatsujin-Speak’ series, Cocreate Inc. CEO Venkataraman Sriram discussed issues that businesses from India and Japan need to look at differently while doing business with each other, to get the best out of the cross-country partnerships

09 December, 2021, Bengaluru: The Mizuho India Japan Study Centre (MIJSC) at IIM Bangalore hosted Venkataraman Sriram, CEO, Cocreate Inc., Ex-Country Head of Infosys Japan, and the Vice President of the Indian Commerce and Industry Association, Japan (ICIJ) during a webinar of the centre’s flagship lecture series ‘Tatsujin-Speak’, that is, ‘Expert-Speak’ on November 26 (Friday), 2021. The webinar was titled, ‘India – Japan Business: A Practitioner’s Perspective, From the Man Who Built Infosys Japan’, and in this hour-long virtual session, Sriram San shared various lessons he learnt from his experience of building the Infosys business in Japan and the Asia Pacific. He also highlighted specific issues that businesses from India need to look at differently while doing business in Japan and vice versa to get the best out of the cross-country partnerships.

Pointing out that the definition of value and success as defined by both India and Japan are different, Sriram San said, “There are some commonalities. But there is always a misalignment of expectations from each other and this causes differences in the approach taken by both countries and that necessarily does not result in the desired outcome. For example, a lot of Indian business thinking is tilted towards the Anglo-Saxon model. The general view is that it is better to start first than be complete, and it is important to grow at every corner and keep the stock prices up. For Japan, it is the beginning of the completeness and steady growth that are important, and not growth at all costs.”

Talking about priorities, V. Sriram said, “The Japanese spend more time in planning and preparation, whereas Indians are more biased towards early action and figuring out stuff as we go along. This is the most common disproportionate thing that occurs between the two entities. The need for the long-term is very important for the Japanese. Japan, when it evaluates a candidate or an opportunity or a market, takes great care to evaluate everything in totality and not necessarily the short-term goals. It is not about this quarter or this year - the Japanese want to ensure that the business partnerships they are indulging in are going to be there for a while. This is also another reason why B2Bs have a tough time establishing businesses in Japan, because the customers are always worried about the durability of the company or whether they will be acquired by someone else, or will it IPO or whether the owner will leave, or will their product be able to survive in the next 10 to 15 years in today’s competitive advantage, etc.”

He added, “Given the quality of Japanese products since World War II, it is proven that they believe in-process metrics to be more important than end-product metrics.” 

Sharing from his personal experience, he said, “Trust is fine. But data has more validity”.

He went on to say that businesses must invest in educating the customers. “The pace of change is so fast, especially in the IT industry. If you are bringing something new, it is a great idea to make the customers understand it. This can be done through seminars and evangelization programs, trade associations, and other government outreach programs.” 

V. Sriram also said that in his opinion entrepreneurs need to self-reflect before introducing a new product in the respective markets. “Given the unique perspectives and nature of the Japanese market, Indian businesses have to keep in mind certain factors such as the companies including the personnel have to be ready for the long haul and be ready to deviate from the usual global standards. The rate at which Indians want to grow will always be higher than the rate at which Japan wants to change. And therefore, you will never get the same kind of traction that you get in any other market, which is okay as an early adapter. If you are bringing something new, the hurdle is a little higher. And the Japanese need to understand that ‘value’ is different in India, and they need to invest in local talent and explain to them the ‘why’ of things rather than simply ‘asking’ to do the job if they want to flourish in India.”

Link to the full video: https://youtu.be/EnCvzasaoGI 


V. Sriram joined Infosys in 1997 and was enlisted by the founders to establish the IT conglomerate in Japan. For over a decade, he held various positions within Infosys, including that of Regional Manager – Asia Pacific, Country Head Japan, Senior Vice President and also Regional Manager – Manufacturing Vertical. In 2018, he established Cocreate Inc., which provides business consulting to enterprises and start-ups. V. Sriram is an angel investor and an active promoter of entrepreneurship and businesses between India and Japan, is the Vice President of the Indian Commerce and Industry Association, Japan (ICIJ) and President and Chartered Member of The Indus Entrepreneur (TiE). He was also a member of the Expert Group on Foreign Direct Investment in Japan, set up under the auspices of the cabinet office of the Government of Japan. An alumnus of Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA), he is a guest faculty of the Globis University MBA program and has featured in many guest lectures at various universities in Japan.