Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Three Golden Rules

by Ashok Ashta

The Japanese economy may have been ailing for the last decade, but there is considerable scope to increase the Indo-Japanese business volume. It can certainly double from the current levels in the short-term.

Despite the current slowdown in the US, about 20 per cent of Indias foreign trade comes from there. Japan represents only about 5 per cent of our total international trade. Despite the 12-year long recession in Japan, scope for Indo-Japan trade relations is vast. The current Indian Ambassador to Japan Aftab Seth in his recently launched book describes Japan as an elephant and says: An elephant remains an elephant, even if it loses some weight.

However, there are three ground realities about Japan that an Indian businessman must remember. First, costs in Japan are very high. For instance, a taxi ride from Narita airport (Tokyos international airport) to downtown Tokyo would cost around $200 or approximately Rs.10,000! Similarly, English-medium education is very expensive in Japan about $20,000 or about Rs.10 lakh per year per child!

Second, the Japanese think very big, while Indians do not. Japanese businessmen often complain that small to mid-sized Indian companies think small. For the Japanese, business worth Rs.1 crore to Rs.2 crore is too small. Indian businessmen wanting to do business with Japan will have to raise their ambitions to make their proposals and efforts interesting. While a start may in most cases be small, it is important to think big.

Third, the Japanese think very long term. The Japanese have a saying ishi no ue ni mo sannen. This means is that you should be willing to sit on a stone for three years. And that perseverance will lead to success.

Ashok Ashta is President of BUSINESS-INDIA/JAPAN, a private enterprise promoting Indo-Japanese Cultural and Business relations.

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