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Narrowing Vietnam-Japan culture gap for better business

Vietnamese and Japanese entrepreneurs agreed that they should bridge cultural differences to do business with each other at a meeting in Ho Chi Minh City on August 12.

They spoke about and analyzed some of the differences at the meeting titled "Business Connection Seminar" organized by the CEO Club HCMC and the Japanese Business Association of Ho Chi Minh City at the Sheraton Hotel Saigon.

To demonstrate one important difference, Masaki Yamashita, general director of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in HCMC and also JBAH vice chairman, asked the participants to imagine there was one low and one high mountain in front of them, and asked them to choose either to climb.

Most of the Japanese businesspeople chose the higher mountain and most of the Vietnamese chose the other.

Slow and steady

Le Long Son, CEO of Esuhai Company, who has studied and worked for 18 years in Japan, said: "It usually takes Japanese enterprises a long time to negotiate. They only choose a partner when all the requirements are strictly met.

"They want to see what a partner can do and how well they can do it.

"Also, a Japanese company always needs to wait for approval from the parent company in Japan when it wants to invest in a foreign country."

Esuhai Co. is a leader in the field of training and providing human resource service, investment consulting, and personnel training for Japanese companies in Vietnam.

Watanabe Yutaka, CEO of Toma Industrial Co., Ltd Japan and a JBAH vice chairman, said: "When a Vietnamese company makes profits, it wants return on investment immediately.

"If it makes a loss, it is worried and does not want to invest more. Yet a Japanese would invest more and never give up when it is in trouble."

Yataka also said Japanese companies can trust Vietnamese companies for complete confidentiality. They are not afraid of Vietnamese companies stealing technology.

Dang Thi Minh Phuong, CEO of Minh Phuong Logistics Co. and chairwoman of the CEO Club HCMC, said: "Most Vietnamese companies are young and inexperienced and can't be very patient while Japanese firm are pretty slow and very careful in choosing their partners.

"It may take four or five years to sign a contract with a Japanese company.

"Also, Japanese firms usually choose their compatriot companies as partners even when doing business in Vietnam.

"Japanese firms should make the best use of Vietnamese companies' cheap services and fair quality.

"Japanese companies are not doing this and it in part reduces their advantages in the Vietnamese market."

Hiroharu Motohashi, general director of Ajinomoto Vietnam Co., Ltd., JBAH vice chairman, and chairman of its Labor and Employment Committee, said there are certainly a lot of differences, but they are not actually good or bad.

What is important is that Vietnamese and Japanese companies should put aside their firms and focus on what can benefit both sides, he said.

Experts call for beneficial actions

Tran Du Lich, member of the National Financial and Monetary Policy Advisory Council and a guest speaker, predicted a brighter future and called for more efforts [help] from Japanese investors.

Japanese firms should lend a hand to improve the Vietnamese finance and banking sector, he said.

Hirotaka Yasuzumi, managing director of the Japan External Trade Organization of Ho Chi Minh City, said: "Some improvements should be made to make the investment environment favorable for Japanese companies."

They include support from financial agencies, resolving the problem of low demand and with taxes, and implementing industrial policy in a controlled way.