Japan, the world’s third-biggest economy, is often characterized as stagnant. It could use more innovations and more intrepid business and government leaders to achieve growth. There is a growing call for a change in Japanese business culture and ways of doing things to create new growth opportunities by tapping on the global market as well as by learning and embracing new and foreign concepts.

Held on November 18, 2021, this Beyond Virtual session had the following panelists:

This session was participated in by Japanese corporate leaders and the Japanese Consul for Commerce and Economy in Guangzhou. It was moderated by the China point person for Samurai Incubate Inc., a venture capital company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. The session is in Japanese but Chinese and English subtitles are provided.

Here are the highlights of the discussions:

  • The Japanese market can be characterized as mature. As such, room for growth is rather limited and companies turn to overseas markets for expansion or growth opportunities. Building connections with overseas companies has become inevitable.
  • Technology is an important factor for growth, and Japan can learn from the accelerated technology adoption in other countries. Japan is not exactly a latecomer when it comes to embracing technology, but it needs to learn to advance its pace of tech adoption if it seeks new growth opportunities.
  • For Japanese companies to become innovative, they have to learn to “study their own foundations when they try to build up muscles.” Many companies proceed to create a product instead of establishing the technology or business model first then exploring the applications and developing the product.
  • Companies should also make sure that their technologies meet the demands of the present situation. The markets keep changing, and corporate orientation should change accordingly instead of sticking to conventions and traditions.
  • The panelists agree that it is important to invest in research and accumulate patents. Companies cannot innovate without adequate research, and they cannot monetize their technologies if they do not have patents. They should be competitive in building new technology and making sure they officially lay their claim on their technologies.
  • It is not a bad idea to consider foreign talent and ideas when expanding or coming up with new offerings, especially considering how most businesses are now catering to foreign markets with some even generating more sales from foreign markets compared to domestic ones.
  • Japan has the advantage of being known for high-quality products. However, this dedication to excellent quality can also hold Japan back as it affects the “development tempo” of most Japanese companies, which tends to be slower compared to that of Western companies and China’s.
  • One of the panelists suggested compromising on some areas of business to improve speed without necessarily offering something an inferior or bad product. This is particularly important for startups or small companies that are still trying to win over customers and investors. They can improve their products little by little with the help of feedback from customers instead of refusing to release a product to the market unless it has reached “perfection” or a high degree of quality.
  • Japan businesses are enthusiastic about expanding into China given the size of its consumer market. However, Japanese investors are also setting their sights on Africa and emerging markets.
  • Japanese conglomerates may not be as big and favored as they were before, but Japan has the advantage of having the highest number of companies with exclusive technologies.
  • Japan can benefit from cutting down a bit on its conservatism and following the rapidness the panelists have observed happening in China. The panelists agree that Japan could use more aggressiveness in doing business. “They just do things first and try to make up when a problem occurs,” noted the Japanese Consul in Guangzhou, referring to it as the “culture in China.”
  • Times have changed in Japan. The ways to create value are also changing. The panelists share the consensus that it is time for Japan to consider a different approach as the old value development model is said to have “failed to open the gate in the new era.”

“When I look at Japan as a whole and compare its current status with that of the past,  the status has indubitably become lower. Despite the current situation, still there are plenty of technological and business opportunities in a sense … There are many companies with exclusive technologies. The number of such companies in Japan ranks top all around the world.” – Abe Takayuki

“Making products on the basis of foundation study remains a priority in the days to come. This won’t be changed. If a company is only possessed with (fixated on) a value development model, it will be put at great risk.” – Hidefumi Araki

“We must increase the promotion of talents with industrial development experience within Japanese companies. We must be aware of the risk of losing competitiveness in the world market.” – Takashi Morishita

Watch the panels across the week here. Click to check out the FULL virtual programs.

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