Learning the innovative approach of Japanese SMEs
Assoc. Prof. and Vice Dean
Faculty of Economics and Business Administration
National University of Laos
The Institute for International Studies and Training has been operating the CLMV Leadership Program since 2006 to promote trade and investment and other economic activities in the Mekong region and strengthen economic ties between Japan and the CLMV countries. The 6th CLMV Leadership Program took up the theme "Comprehensive Policies to Promote Regional Economy" as well as promoting industries using local resources. The 11 program participants included government officials in charge of SME promotion and senior executives from economic associations from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam. One participant, Assoc. Prof. and Vice Dean, Sengchanh CHANTHASENE from Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, National University of Laos, LAOS PDR, contributed her thoughts on the program.
With the ongoing economic development and increasing integration in Southeast Asia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam (CLMV), as newer members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), are making efforts to bridge development gaps with other more developed economies in the regions. Sharing the common advantage of having natural endowments, including local resources and all are industrializing their economies, the 6th CLMV Leadership Program, which focuses on local industry promotion policies, including utilization of local resources, is an excellent opportunity to learn from Japan's development experiences. The Program also provides a more insightful look at how Japan's small and medium sized enterprises develop through their consistent philosophy and innovative approaches in operating business in the high ranking position in the world.
When talking about Japan, we often think of a country of strong resilience, hardworking and major corporations but few of us have chances to discover how ordinary people and enterprises work, utilize their local resources, to develop the economy and to bring Japanese quality to the world. During the one-week Program (from 2 to 8 December 2012) which extended to three cities, from Tokyo to Hiroshima and Kyoto, participants from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam had a chance, not only to discover Japan's experiences on local industry promotion, utilizing local resources but also to understand Japan's entrepreneurship and culture, which may be useful for their countries' development and fostering more cooperation between Japan and CLMV.
For local industry promotion, including SME promotion policies, perhaps the most important experiences from Japan is to create a level playing field for SMEs, supported by financial preferences from Government's institutions. SMEs account for more than 90 percent of the number of enterprises in Japan and even a higher proportion in CLMV, so most participants were very interested in Japan's experiences in the area, and we have found the information that METI provided of much usefulness for consideration to apply in each country. This is even more significant when CLMV, together with other ASEAN countries, are promoting the third pillar of the ASEAN Economic Community- towards a region of equitable economic development, in which the development of SME is an important component.
The Program also helps participants to understand the philosophy of work and life by many Japanese entrepreneurs. Perhaps the most interesting part of the Program was to learn and discover creative approaches taken by Japanese SME to develop. We carefully and fondly studied the innovative idea of Toshihiko Satake to introduce rice mill machine and their expansion of international marketing around the world and using rice to create new products. From those examples, we understand both the way to take advantage of local resources but also the innovations to meet changing demands of markets.
The visit to Andersen Bakery in Hiroshima also left special impression when participants had opportunity to meet marketing and sale manager who gave us presentation about the development of Andersen Group Company. I do believe that the Program deepened our understanding on Japan's local industry promotion and how to take advantage of local resources by innovative approaches. More importantly, we see that Japan's small and medium sized enterprises have strong entrepreneurship they are innovative in developing their business, even with very traditional products and are adaptive to changing market conditions. With these qualities, they will absolutely continue to be successful, not only in their operation in Japan, but also when they decide to look outward, expanding abroad at a time when Japan is further integrating its economy with the region, including CLMV. This, of course, will require appropriate support from the government. Not only Japan, but also CLMV, will need to facilitate activities of SMEs, to protect our beautiful traditional culture and craftsmanship during our integration process. We also found a lot of opportunities for cooperation between Japanese and CLMV's SME and do hope that these opportunities will be realized in the near future, especially when Japan and CLMV are making steps to bring their economies closer.
A very important factor that made the Program a success was the careful preparation and excellent organization of IIST. On behalf of all participants, I would like to express our appreciation and deep thanks to METI and IIST for bringing us together in this very useful Program in Japan. For me, although having been to Japan before, but the 6th CLMV Leadership Program was the most impressive and memorable one. We are very convinced that the knowledge and the bond developed during the Program will help us in our work, including cooperation activities with Japan.
(original article : English)
• The 6th CLMV Leadership Program in Japan (FY2012)