Successful Asian globalizers make special efforts to improve communication and build shared values across their far-flung operations.
Like Takeda, Fast Retailing Co. in Japan is gradually adopting English as its global language. That said, the company, which owns the popular UNIQLO brand of fashion apparel, is not forsaking its home-country values; it sees itself as “born and bred in Japan” and aims to preserve its Japanese core values by using a variety of approaches for continually educating its employees around the world.
Some years ago, the company tried to expand overseas, but the utilitarian Japanese brand received a lukewarm reception. So Fast Retailing went back to the drawing board. It crafted a global image that preserves what its founder calls its “Japan-ness” while conveying a sense of global connection—with, for example, store layouts and decor aimed at style-conscious shoppers in Manhattan and London, a free fashion magazine for the New York stores written to appeal to the urban shoppers’ cultural interests, tie-ins with local celebrities and artists, and more. One element of this successful approach: The company’s integrated advertising and marketing campaigns encourage consumers to interact with the brand in digital environments.
The successful globalizers are just as deliberate when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. When India’s Tata Motors bought Daewoo Commercial Vehicle Co.’s truck manufacturing operations, it took great care to integrate the South Korean company’s business culture with its own.
To address Daewoo’s misgivings—the company’s owners were looking to sell the truck division to a European or American company—Tata launched an information campaign, ensuring that all the relevant literature describing Tata and its practices and philosophies was translated into Korean. Then the Tata teams explained their company’s culture and ethos, along with its employment policies, to Daewoo’s senior management to try to persuade them to accept their bid.
Tata’s overtures were successful, and Daewoo became the Indian company’s first cross-border acquisition.
But Tata knew that the deal would not be successful if they failed to properly integrate Daewoo’s operations, and that meant they had to win over Daewoo’s employees as well. So the Indians began reaching out to the workforce.
They kept the former Daewoo management team intact. The first few months of Tata’s ownership were spent observing and learning—in both directions. Some members of the Indian team studied Korean; some Koreans began to learn English. The Indian team gained an understanding of Korean sensibilities and ways, and the Koreans, in turn, got to know and appreciate the Tata group’s philosophy.
Fortis Healthcare is making similar efforts to create a common “language” that reflects its corporate culture. The Indian healthcare company, which operates across nine countries in the Asia-Pacific region, is striving to develop unique, unified ways of working across locations. “Language plays a part,” says executive director Balinder Singh Dhillon. “Not the spoken language, but the commonality of terms and understanding and values. This includes the softer side of things, such as how you address a patient.”
Many Asian companies have not yet mastered these kinds of issues. More than 40 percent admit to difficulties in establishing shared corporate and community values. Nearly as many say they struggle to instill respect for different cultures and backgrounds.