JAPAN 2020: POSITIONED FOR GROWTH
The country’s corporate lodestars are firmly focused on the horizon in positioning their companies for continued success.
With the enthronement of a new emperor in May 2019 and the successful hosting of Asia’s first Rugby World Cup, optimism in Japan has been running high in recent months. This enthusiasm is expected to carry over this year, as the country takes center stage again with the Tokyo Olympic Games, which is scheduled to take place this summer. Meanwhile, Japan's government in December raised its economic growth forecast for the next fiscal year to 1.4% on the back of improving domestic demand.
Despite the bright spots, there is no getting away from an uncertain macro environment plagued by trade tensions, a broader retreat from globalization and geopolitical tensions. For some of Japan’s most successful corporates, however, the current bout of volatility is just another short-term challenge in their long and successful track record of overcoming adversity.
Indeed, a focus on the long term and the ability to adapt to ever-changing conditions have been the hallmarks of leading companies such as Canon, Kikkoman and THK.
Yuzaburo Mogi, Honorary CEO and Chairman of the Board of Kikkoman Corporation, is one who is no stranger to taking bold steps in the face of uncertainty. He led the traditional soy sauce maker to set up a factory in the U.S. back in the early 1970s, a daring move that was decades ahead of its time. Looking ahead, he believes that companies need to look beyond just technology and focus on developing their human capital in order to succeed.
Fujio Mitarai, Chairman and CEO of Canon Inc., is another Japanese corporate leader concentrating beyond the immediate turbulence to position his company for future growth well into the middle of this century. Canon is in the midst of a major transformation that aims to foster synergies in new business areas, even as it continues to pursue a strategy of mergers and acquisitions.
As for Akihiro Teramachi, CEO and President of THK, the aim is to capitalize on the megatrends of digital technology, aging populations and globalization to fuel the company’s growth. He likens running a business to a marathon rather than a sprint, stressing the need to keep a long-term view in order to reap efficiencies. In 2020, THK will launch a new service known as OMNIedge—a solution to predictive failure detection. It works by installing sensors on existing THK components embedded in client machines that collect and analyze data and provide alerts.
In an era marked by disruption and change, it will be companies such as these that will emerge stronger from the immediate challenges ahead to prosper for many more generations to come.