YOKOHAMA — Masaki Nagao recently applied a typical Japanese business practice to helping reorganize his India-affiliated software firm here.
The president of Wipro Japan K.K. conducted “nemawashi” consensus-building by contacting related officials at the headquarters in India to handle his Indian employees smoothly.
He then offered guidance to Indian subordinates whose posts will be changed in the structural shift.
Indian employees “don’t make objections face to face. They talk directly to managers at headquarters,” Nagao said. Laying the groundwork helps head-office officials persuade Indian workers to cooperate, he said.
“It’s important to understand an internal process for decision-making, and who and what can influence employees to move” in the desired direction, he said.
Nagao, 50, became president of Wipro Japan in February 2003. The firm makes contracts with Japanese firms to develop software in India at lower costs and maintain the products for corporate customers.
The firm employs more than 150 Indians, most of whom are engineers stationed at customer firms nationwide. The remainder are salespeople at the Yokohama office.
Speaking to the Indian workers and attending video conferences with executives in Bangalore, southern India, Nagao uses English in more than half of his business communications.
“It’s sometimes difficult to listen to English spoken by Indians because their intonation is different and they speak very fast,” said Nagao, who obtained a master’s degree in business administration from the University of California at Berkeley in 1991.
“When I miss something important, I ask them to rephrase what they have said.”
He brushed up on English through a variety of jobs, including positions at camera maker Olympus Corp. and GE Yokogawa Medical Systems Inc., a Japanese subsidiary of General Electric Co.
When making presentations in English early in his career, “I used to make a precise draft each time,” he said. “It was necessary at that time.”
But by the time he joined GE Yokogawa in 1997, Nagao was more confident. He said he was not nervous when giving presentations in front of legendary former GE chief executive Jack Welch.
Nagao now only writes down points before a presentation or speaks without notes. “If I tried to read a draft now,” he said, “I would become nervous about making mistakes.”
The six-year stint at the GE subsidiary gave Nagao opportunities to negotiate with Wipro, and he learned the traits of Indian workers and how to work effectively with them. That experience has helped him in his current position.
Indians want to work independently, while Japanese tend to seek help from supervisors, he said.
Aware of such differences, he has developed his own management style.
“It’s important to create an environment where you can promote cooperation between the two groups, by treating them equally and providing opportunities to share business information.”