Name: Neri Miclaus
Title: President, Piaggio Group Japan
Hometown: Florence, Italy
DoB: Aug. 25, 1983
Years in Japan: 2
Throughout his career, President of Piaggio Group Japan Neri Miclaus has adhered to a personal tenet to continually push the boundaries of his comfort zone.
His appointment in Japan follows stints in Vietnam and Singapore, settings that challenged him to adapt to unfamiliar cultural surroundings. Miclaus’ capacity for cultural adaptation comes from an intrinsic sense of curiosity and an interest in economic development. These factors drove him to pursue an international career shortly after completing his higher education.
“When I finished high school, I started thinking about my future career,” he said. “I realized I wanted an international career; I wanted to travel and live abroad. Looking around, I identified the development sector as the best avenue to accomplish this.”
Miclaus launched his international career in 2010 when he moved to Hanoi, Vietnam, to work as a development officer at the Embassy of Italy. Reflecting on his adjustment to Vietnamese society, Miclaus noted how important it was for him to accept the values and priorities of the Vietnamese, rather than impose his own.
“As people in an emerging country, the Vietnamese are tough and resilient, and they know how to enjoy life,” he said. “When dealing with a working environment in an emerging country, you of course struggle with certain basic business principles. That being said, it’s important that you learn about their rules, instead of smashing through them. I’ve met many foreign nationals who refused to adapt, and, as a result, they were unable to enjoy their lives abroad.”
Miclaus’ curiosity and desire to step out of his comfort zone are reflected in the way he travels. When visiting Cambodia, he drove a motorbike with friends through the jungles surrounding the central complex of Angkor Wat. The temples he discovered in the lush jungles reminded him of the importance of enjoying the journey, not just the destination.
“During our three-day ride, we bumped into temples in the middle of the jungle that are not typically visited by tourists,” he said. “There are many temples in the area that are not part of the central complex. It kind of felt a bit like being in an Indiana Jones movie. Riding a motorbike gives you a sense of freedom, allowing you to experience what’s between point A and point B, which is something you miss out on when you ride a plane or train.”
Motorbikes have been an intimate part of Miclaus’ life since his youth. He explained that for Italian teenagers, obtaining a license and a 50cc scooter is a turning point toward independence. His decision to join the Vietnam branch of Piaggio Group — an Italian motor vehicle manufacturer producing renowned brands such as Vespa, Aprilia, and Moto Guzzi — was, therefore, a natural transition. “Motorbikes have always been a part of my life,” he commented.
Miclaus’ career with Piaggio has taken him to Singapore and now Japan. Living in Tokyo, he has developed an appreciation for the way people respect public spaces. For Miclaus, while Singaporean society respects public spaces, the incentives that compel them to do so are much different than in Japan.
“Singapore is very tidy, but what compels people in Singapore to respect public spaces is the looming threat of harsh punishment,” he said. “You can’t eat on the train, because if you do, you will end up with a $5,000 fine. In Japan, if you want to eat on the train because you’ve been working all day and had no breaks, you can do it. But people still prefer not to, and they only do it when it’s absolutely necessary. This type of self-discipline is something you probably can’t find anywhere else in the world.”
Japan’s attention to detail, especially in Tokyo, has also left an impression on Miclaus. “I’m still awestruck by Tokyo,” he said. “Even on a secondary street, you will come across a fountain, a garden, or an arrangement of benches that boasts astounding detail. It seems like these things go unnoticed by passersby, but the level of detail is crazy. I had heard about this aspect of Tokyo from friends, but it wasn’t until I started living here that I developed an appreciation for it.”
Miclaus has observed that this attention to detail is also prevalent among his customers, who demonstrate a high level of knowledge not found among customers in other countries. Such expertise presents challenges and opportunities. Although their attention to detail makes them critical of any minor oversight, customers’ know-how also allows them to appreciate the technical prowess behind Piaggio’s motor vehicles.
Miclaus’ goals in Japan include expanding Piaggio’s regional market share and continually improving customers’ experiences. His assignment in Japan marks a significant point in his career. “I want to prove myself in a mature economy like Japan, which is much more difficult to do than in an emerging country,” he said.
Personally, Miclaus wants to continue to step outside his comfort zone and learn from his surroundings. “I want to learn everything that Japan can teach me,” he said. “People tend to judge places from the outside, but when you actually live in that place, you get the chance to reassess your judgments. For me, I initially thought the self-discipline of the Japanese was a bit extreme, but I’ve come to respect these qualities, as they’re an important factor behind the great quality of life people enjoy here in Tokyo.”
A leap from embassy work to motorbikes
Neri Miclaus was appointed president of Piaggio Group Japan in 2017. Originally from Florence, he first moved abroad in 2010 to Hanoi, Vietnam, to work as program officer at the Italian Embassy. Miclaus joined Piaggio Group in 2011 as Asia sales planning manager in Hanoi. In 2013, he was promoted as area manager for Piaggio Asia Pacific Office and moved to the Singapore regional office.
He obtained his bachelor’s degree in development economics and international cooperation and his master’s degree in advanced development economics at the University of Florence.
Although a fan of motorbikes, Miclaus commutes to Piaggio Group Japan’s office in the Minato Ward by foot — courtesy of the short route afforded by his nearby residence. In his free time, he enjoys playing basketball at his community recreation center, where he regularly plays with a group of Japanese and foreign nationals.
The Big Questions is a Monday interview series showcasing prominent figures who have a strong connection to Japan.