A typically hard hitting set of comments in a year end interview with Softbank‘s President Masayoshi Son, earned him the front page of the December 30th edition of the Nikkei newspaper. The English translation($) missed out some of the juciest bits in my opinion.
As well as pointing out the risks of Japanese companies relying too much on their domestic market and being “hikikomori” in a saturated and declining market, he also says that the various structural problems that the Japanese telecoms and IT industry faces are all too often used as iiwake (useless excuses) by his rival executives. He remarks that when Softbank entered the mobile operator market, they had various handicaps such as poor connectivity and a small customer base, but they still did not lose their confidence that they could win. The Japanese industry relied too much on their unique standards to keep foreign competitors out, and then as a result found themselves unable to compete in global standard markets.
He again emphasizes the importance of being able to speak English, and also says that to recover their competitiveness, company executives need to redefine their “domain”. “What is the point of sticking to your “hongyo” (core business) if this market is just a shrinking market? Use your company’s mission as the base for creating a new strategy – that is an executive’s role.”
Just to add the final controversial cherry to the top, he finishes by proposing that Japanese companies compensation systems are uncompetitive, and they should consider stock options, like Silicon Valley, to revive the economy.
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