In China, India, and Southeast Asia, Hisao Nakajima has developed NRI’s global businesses. He has bees promoting NRI way of global business by contributing to the growth of these countries and companies.
Transforming NRI Into a Global Firm
For a long time, I had worked as a consultant in the information and communications fields and involved in projects linking business consulting with system solutions. As for why I would’ve embarked on a career in global business, there are two reasons.
The first was the sense of crisis, Japan would soon be left behind in the world. In the late 1990s, I studied abroad at the University of California, Berkeley for my MBA. At the time, I sensed how limited the presence of Japanese people overseas was, and how little interest there was in the world regarding Japan. Then I felt a strong sense of purpose that Japan’s presence in the world had to be elevated, and I thought, “Japanese businesses and products need to be brought much farther overseas—and if we don’t take action now, it’ll become too late”.
The other reason was that, while the major Japanese companies that were NRI’s customers successively expanding their global businesses alongside the development of Asia, we also needed to venture out globally in order to continue supporting them. So, I wanted to see NRI transform into a global consulting firm originated in Japan. I volunteered to be sent to overseas offices, and in 2005 I was assigned as the President of NRI Shanghai.
Meeting the Expectations of the Chinese Government
When NRI Shanghai was launched in 2002, our customers mainly consisted of Japanese companies searching for ways to grow their businesses in China. We accumulated knowhow through the various surveys and research projects, and that’s how we came to earn our customers’ trust. Subsequently, our customer broaden from only Japanese companies into other entities like the Chinese government, as well as Chinese auto makers and other local enterprises.
At the time, the Chinese government had high expectations for Japan’s experience, and NRI carried out a number of projects for the Chinese government, including making policy proposals and urban development planning. One project that I was personally involved in was the development of an industrial park in Shanghai’s Lingang Harbor. NRI spent more than eight years in the largest development zone in all of Shanghai, supporting the city by engaging in the development process from concept creation to attracting Japanese companies.
Although NRI Shanghai was a base for our consulting business, I promoted not only consulting businesses but also expansion of sales channels for business systems and distribution systems, collaborating with NRI Beijing’s Shanghai branch and NRI Hong Kong which provide system solutions. This included NRI Global SCM Solutions service, which works in procurement, production, inventory, and sales management, solutions for customer’s sales agents , and systems for supporting EC cites. These solutions and systems are indispensable for Japanese companies to grow their business overseas. Since I’d had experience at NRI in Japan doing work that linked consulting and systems, even overseas, I was naturally working alongside people in systems-related areas, and I was able to demonstrate NRI’s strengths.
NRI India: Achieving Growth While Turning a Profit
In 2008 I returned to Japan, and in 2011 I was posted to India in order to set up a new location there.
Since around 2009, the interests in the Indian market has been increasing in Japan and NRI had also dramatically increased the number of India-related projects. So we needed to take urgent action to catch up and I had a strong desire to apply the experience I’d gained in Shanghai in launching another new business overseas. I offered to go, believing that we had to establish an NRI base in India right away.
In India, I was busy launching the location from scratch, handling everything from the property search for an office to hiring local staff. With NRI Shanghai I ended up coming back to Japan before the company started making a profit, so I made up my mind to see NRI India in the black and growing, and I made the precise business plan. As same as NRI Shanghai, we were initially supporting Japanese companies as our customers, with the plan being to start widening our customer base around our third year to include Indian companies and foreign-owned enterprises in India. We also made efforts to contribute to the development of both India and Japan, by supporting the drafting of joint policies between the Indian and Japanese governments as well as enticing Japanese companies to come to India. It was a struggle at times, but we managed to achieve bigger growth than we planned.
In 2016, as both a manager in NRI Singapore’s consulting business and the President of NRI Asia Pacific, which oversees operations for NRI’s locations in Asia, I developed NRI’s businesses in south east Asia including India and then, in June 2017 I returned to Japan. Looking back on my career so far, I have been involved in starting overseas consulting businesses, expanding our customer base from just Japanese companies to include local enterprises and governments overseas, linking NRI’s consulting and system solutions, and demonstrate NRI’s strength. Through this activities I have been able to help lead the way in growing NRI into the No.1 firm in Asia.
The True Challenge for NRI’s Global Business Is Yet to Come
I’m currently in Japan again, overseeing the entire global consulting business for NRI. My tasks now are to discover how to extend the reach of our Consulting Division offices around the world, so we can generate revenue, and how to expand the business activities in Europe that we’re pursuing with our local partners. One of my missions is to make the consulting sales ratios of domestic sales and foreign sales same by 2020. As I see it, NRI’s global business is now reaching the stage where it’s set to grow into leading global firm. Up to now, in short, NRI has grown by leveraging its strengths developed in Japan. For instance, when I was in Shanghai, I made use of the varied business knowhow and insights that NRI had amassed in Japan to support local companies and the Chinese government. But going forward, I think NRI needs to develop and accumulate a great many strengths that can be provided independently in countries where NRI operates, in order to help increase our customers’ profits.
For example. In China today, digitalization is permeating all sorts of lifestyle services even more than in Japan, and new business models that don’t exist in Japan are emerging. This means that for us to support our customers in today’s China, we need to provide solutions that are more advanced than those in Japan. The linking of NRI’s consulting and system solutions is more important than ever before, and depending on the circumstances, we’ll need to partner with local digital tech firms that can provided new solutions to support our customers’ digitalization efforts. NRI is already pursuing global business by acquiring various companies around the world through M&A and making strategic alliances and relationships. NRI doesn’t end with our consulting work—we surely need to work together with our solutions departments and various other business sections in undertaking large-scale projects. It would be wonderful if we could apply NRI’s overseas experience in supporting new growth and reformations in Japan.
I take NRI’s philosophy “Dream up the future” to mean, “look ahead, think about what measures to take next, and create a future for the benefit of our corporate customers”. Fortunately I’ve worked in environments where I can look to what’s ahead and continually take on new challenges. Ultimately, to undertake cutting-edge projects that others might not is our strength and the power to propel NRI’s global business forward.
Senior Managing Director
Deputy Division Manager of the Consulting Division
- Hisao Nakajima joined NRI in 1988. He served as President of NRI Shanghai, the manager of the Business Strategy Consulting Department, President of NRI India, Chairman of NRI Singapore, and President of NRI APAC, before being appointed an NRI Senior Managing Director in 2016. He specializes in global business strategies, M&A, and partnering projects, particularly in developing countries, and has written numerous books and papers on securing business footholds in emerging nations.