India and Japan, Poles Apart

Of late, we are hearing a lot about interest Japan has on India. Japanese prime minister Abe follows prime minister Modi. First high profie visit of Modi will be Tokyo. Japanese want a strategic relationship with India. Japanese want to invest in India. Japanese are builing a global city at Neemrana, Rajasthan. Japanese companies are making a beeline for  setting up shop in India. Toyota, Honda, Suzuki, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Canon, Nikon you name it, they are here or they intend to set up shop here.

It is true India needs to build her infrastructure. To this effect India needs investment. Technologically advanced Japan can help India in many areas. Japanese companies are cash rich. These companies want to invest in Indian market.  Japanese economy is stable but not growing. Indian economy is growing and is a place where one can make money multiply.

Japan has a socio-cultural affinity for India because of lord Buddha. Many Japanese visit India to see places like Bodhgaya, Nalanda,  Rajgeer, Sarnath, Ajanta and Ellora caves among others. These places have strong Buddhist past. Many Indian freedom fighters had looked to Japan for help during colonial rule. Notable among them Rasbehari Bose and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

 Japan is a homogeneous country from the socio-cultural view point. As a people Japanese are very strong, extremely polite on surface and extremely conscious about cleanliness of their environment. Japanese have faced multiple natural calamities and was ravaged by nuclear war. Yet, Japan has emerged as one of the economic and technological superpower in the world.

Japanese are highly disciplined, proud and patriotic people. They follow orders from top to the last detail even at great personal cost. Japanese do not ask people in power to explain their order.  Many important issues are simply decided upon in one on one meeting outside the office over a drink. Meetings are meant not for discussion but simply to formalise a decision that has been arrived at. Expat Japanese managers tend to implement Japanese management practices in totality in India. Tendency of not explaining decisions is made worse by high context non vocal communication practice and  poor fluency in spoken English. This may have bearing on Japanese business. Lack of flexibility in decision making to suit ground reality results in friction between management and employees. Typical examples being trouble in manufacturing plants of Maruti Suzuki and Honda in India.

Japanese also have a superiority bordering on racism over other nations, cultures and people. The way Japanese treated Chinese, Koreans and other south east Asian nations bear testimony to this fact. Many a time attitude of Japanese managers reflect such superior attitude when dealing with managers from different social and cultural background. Japanese managers do not necessarily believe in competence of managers. Rather, Japanese believe in loyalty and seniority. As a result, many Japanese companies tend to promote managers who have spent long time in the company over managers who are competent. Competent managers are replaced by an expat from Japan who may not be the right person for a job.

Japanese managers may obey diktat of corporate officers about expansion in India. They have been trained to obey orders. I think, Japanese will find it difficult to work in India.  India is diverse, unruly, poorly governed and generally  dirty by Japanese standard. The Japanese practice of one size fits all may not work in India. Indian’s are by nature argumentative, question orders, and  believe, at least young Indians, in competence over seniority. As a nation, Indians look towards open culture of United States and Great Britain over rigid hierarchical practices of the East, including Japan. Certainly, Indians have a lot to learn from Japan, but where the two will converge only time will tell.

Tags: India, Japan, USA, Britain, Culture, People, Religion, Economy, Business, Managers, Management Style, Cleanliness, Discipline

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