23 January 2017
Pattern. Sequence. Arrangement. Configuration. These aren’t random words but those that come closest to defining life. I read once that even society that embraces democracy successfully has probably gone through the essential trauma of imperialism and then communism and socialism… and skipping any would mean some sort of a premature adoption of the next stage making success all the more improbable. What I guess is that they mean learning comes in defined stages… I mean, you cannot graduate to reading even Aesop’s fables unless you know the alphabet, so to say. The same analogy goes to corporates, managements, and organisations. Why am I talking about all this? Well, I happened to be at a press meet called by Canon India as it was celebrating two glorious decades in the country and was formally poised to reaffirm its commitment to India with the announcement of its ‘Vision 2020’ by Ms. Noriko Gunji, President & CEO, Canon Singapore and Mr. Kazutada Kobayashi, President & CEO, Canon India. It was Mr Kobayashi who mentioned the word ‘kyosei’ and this got me thinking… and then going deeper into the meaning and significance of the word.
Kyosei, I learnt, is a concept that companies adopt in stages… and in Japan they are all pretty committed to it. I had bought and read a book that was compiled and condensed by the editors of World Executive’s Digest and was introduced then to the world of quaint Japanese words that happened to be more perceptive than any other management principle that we read in any other book during my days at the FMS, Delhi University. A cursory search of the internet revealed that there are many other terms that sound intriguingly interesting. Kazien. Kaikaku. Pecha Kucha. Poka Yoke. We shall discuss them all in other post… but right now let me remain focused on Canon and Kyosei.
Canon aims to reach their target of 3500 crores by 2020… and I guess a large part of their success is because of their belief in KYOSEI which means “living and working together for the common good.” Let me quote from an article published by Harvard Business Review where the writer says that the journey of kyosei “begins by laying a sound business foundation and ends in political dialogue for global change”. The article elaborates that kyosei “can best be defined as a “spirit of cooperation,” in which individuals and organizations live and work together for the common good. A company that is practicing kyosei establishes harmonious relations with its customers, its suppliers, its competitors, the governments with which it deals, and the natural environment. When practiced by a group of corporations, kyosei can become a powerful force for social, political, and economic transformation.”
What I found interesting is that the ultimate aim of promoting global peace and prosperity doesn’t pop up randomly but appears gradually after following a defined path. This concept isn’t just altruistic and obviously doesn’t deflect the organisation’s prime aim of working for a profit. This is probably why Ms. Noriko Gunji, President & CEO, Canon Singapore (Regional headquarters of South and Southeast Asia) remarked in her address: “Together with every team member and business partner, we will scale this height to achieve our goal of continuous growth in Asia. We are in prime position to ride on this wave of growth. I’m confident that India, as a market, will be a vital contributor to this future success.”
Obviously, the first stage in Kyosei is all about economic survival which means a dogged pursuit of the profit goals set up by the organisation. However, this needs to be done without letting in exploitation of any sort. I’m not surprised that we do not hear of labour issues afflicting Japanese corporates. Canon too, in the words of Mr. Kazutada Kobayashi, President & CEO, Canon India, aims to reach its goals embracing harmony with its employees, “2016 marks yet another successful year for our journey in India, as we register a growth of 9%, with our revenue aggregating to INR 2348.6 cr.”
The next two stages in Kyosei talk about cooperating with labor and cooperating outside the company. This is nothing but a meaningful code of cooperation with employees, customers, and suppliers. After all, all four are sharing the same fate and must, therefore, be a reflection of respect and loyalty. Now this kind of a relationship is quite different from the formation of a cartel for the ulterior purpose of fixing prices. Canon has initiatives like Canon Photo-marathon, EOS Nation Seminars and Photography Workshops that help it to engage and educate customers. They operate 214 CIS (Canon Image Square) stores across 103 cities in the country… the purpose is to ensure that employees, customers, and suppliers interact in the best possible environment.
It is only the final stages that bring in a larger role like global activism and making the government as a Kyosei partner. Global activism takes the path of communicating the nuances of technology to improve the standard of living in the country of their operation… and using all means to safeguard the environment. I was rather interested when the CEO shared information on their CSR initiatives. They have CSR projects with the focus on ‘4E’ comprising of Eye Care, Education, Environment and Empowerment. The company has adopted 4 villages across the country under its flagship CSR programme – ‘Adopt a Village’ and have also partnered with SOS Children’s villages under their ‘Support a Life’ campaign. As part of this campaign, Canon employees have adopted 187 children to take responsibility of their wellbeing. To promote ‘skill development’ for a skilled India, Canon India has also introduced vocational and Skill development training in their adopted village. Charming, isn’t it? Moreover, it also tells me that canon takes Kyosei rather seriously.
The final stage is where an organisation attempts to be a kyosei partner with the government where relevant corporate talent is made available for initiatives that may correct imbalances. Corporates can also “urge national governments to work toward rectifying global imbalances. Corporations might press governments for legislation aimed at reducing pollution, for example… or they might recommend the abolition of antiquated trade regulations.” We do have home-grown corporates that may already be doing something of this sort, though lobbying for increasing their own profits is a temptation that they need to avoid. I do not think canon has yet reached this stage so far as India is concerned… but they are indeed busy streamlining office processes and maximizing business efficiency, the Business Imaging Solutions vertical will be expanding its portfolio in 2017, aligned with the Government’s vision of ‘Smart Cities’. Canon is also taking its products and strategies to smaller towns, the Professional Printing domain (PPP) is strengthening its channel partner’s outreach to double its presence, across the country.
This was certainly one press meet where all that the company talked about was their enthusiasm, their long-term aims, and unveiled their new vibrant logo with a rather upbeat tagline: ‘Delighting You Always’. And because I found ‘kyosei’ to be such a thought-provoking word, I decided to delve deeper and write about it. Do we have some such word in Hindi that has a similar out-reach? If you know of one, do let me know.