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Global Management Forum 2021

Samsung plans multi-device 'experiences,' from fridges to phones

Takeda, Google, Salesforce and other execs share management tips at Nikkei forum

Samsung Electronics President and CEO Kim Kyun-suk shares the company's vision for connecting devices on Nov. 10. (Photo by Karina Nooka)

TOKYO -- Samsung Electronics aims to deliver multi-device experiences targeting millennials and Generation Z customers, taking advantage of a product lineup that has reached a staggering proportion of the world, the South Korean company's top executive said.

One-third of the global population owns a Samsung device, President and CEO Kim Hyun-suk said during an online appearance at Nikkei's Global Management Forum on Wednesday. Noting that the company sells over 1.5 million devices every day -- from smartphones and televisions to home appliances -- he said the conglomerate plans to link them in innovative ways.

"We would like to provide customized and automated services to make customers' experiences within their homes richer," he said.

One example would involve a range of health tools. A Samsung refrigerator would recommend food and recipes, while a Galaxy Watch monitors key health metrics and a Galaxy smartphone analyzes data collected through various devices.

Kim said sensors, motor control algorithms and artificial intelligence would be among the key components and technologies supporting such services.

Millennials and Gen-Z users, who are in their 20s and 30s, are the target because they tend to value experiences, Kim said. Calling this cohort "Gen MZ," he said Samsung employees from this set often inspire new products and services. One example he gave was a foldable smartphone that can be used without opening it.

This year, Samsung established an internal department for promoting multi-device experiences, where the heads of the smartphone, TV and white goods segments work together on connecting products.

"Sometimes we face difficulty" in this collaboration, Kim acknowledged. "We set the same vision and share it with all employees. It's easy to say, but difficult to realize."

Reporting by Eri Sugiura and Kosuke Iguchi.

Diversity is an 'existential necessity': Takeda CEO

Building a diverse workforce is essential for Japanese companies, not just because of pressure from investors and society, but to enable the smart decisions that will determine survival, the chief executive of one of Japan's leading drugmakers said on Wednesday.

Takeda Pharmaceutical CEO Christophe Weber called diversity an "existential necessity" if a company wants "to still exist in 50 years or 100 years." Speaking at Nikkei's Global Management Forum in Tokyo, Weber stressed, "It is so critical for the future of Japanese companies and for the future of Japan."

Weber, who is French, joined Takeda as its first non-Japanese president back in 2014, and he said its executive team has naturally grown more diverse as he strives to globalize the company -- in terms of both gender and nationality.

Takeda Pharmaceutical CEO Christophe Weber, center, engages in a discussion with Shiseido CEO Masahiko Uotani, right, on Nov. 10. (Photo by Suzu Takahashi) 

"It is not easy to manage diverse teams" because that leads to a diversity of views, Weber said. But as the world becomes more complex, "with a more diverse organization, you can solve better our complex problems, and we can understand better the diversity of the world."

Joining Weber in the same session was Shiseido chief executive Masahiko Uotani, who said diversity can have a variety of meanings -- age, gender, ethnicity and so on. He argued that even bringing in people who have worked for other companies, as Uotani himself did before joining Shiseido, contributes to diversity in a country known for lifetime employment.

"If you have known everything [in a company], you will not be seeing things with fresh eyes," Uotani said.

Takeda and Shiseido both have more than 100 years of history.

Weber said that the values, or the "DNA," of a company are as important as the right strategy. Uotani said businesses need to embrace both "tradition and innovation," insisting there is no conflict between the two.

Reporting by Akane Okutsu and Kana Watanabe.

Effective leadership starts with 'listening and learning': Sanrio president

Company leaders should move beyond talking about diversity to implementing it in their daily operations by listening to their employees, said the president of Sanrio Entertainment.

Aya Komaki said listening to the diverse perspectives of Sanrio employees has supplemented her weaknesses, particularly her lack of experience in the industry when she was first appointed director of Puroland, Sanrio's Hello Kitty theme park.

Sanrio President Aya Komaki discusses her leadership style on Nov. 10. (Photo by Mizuho Miyazaki)

Komaki, who became president of the entertainment company in 2019, said she decided to establish her own management style rather than copying that of Sanrio's "charismatic" founder, Shintaro Tsuji.

"As a leader I must understand that I am ignorant of many things, so I always want to start by listening and learning from others," Komaki said.

In return, business leaders are responsible for maintaining the company mission, often forgotten by busy employees. For leaders looking to diversify their workforce, Komaki recommended communicating to employees how diversity will contribute to the company's original values and broaden its market.

Sanrio products, which also include popular characters My Melody and Gudetama, "are all built on the principle of helping people befriend each other," she said. "We always try to go back to the core values of Sanrio and I think that's the responsibility of the leader."

Reporting by Francesca Regalado.

Japan must foster talent to spawn giants like Apple: DeNA founder

Corporate Japan needs to rethink its employment practices to make the most of the nation's talent, Tomoko Namba, founder of mobile gaming and social media company DeNA, said on Wednesday.

"Japan lacks the mobility of human resources and this is why the Japanese economy is falling down for the past 30 years," Namba told Nikkei's Global Management Forum.

Namba, who is also a vice-chair of Japan's powerful business lobby Keidanren, described talent as "the most important resource" for the country. But she warned that the seniority and permanent employment systems in many large companies have failed to nurture young workers and allow them to move on to bigger things.

Tomoko Namba, founder of mobile gaming company DeNA, says she hopes startups she funds will someday outgrow her own company. (Photo by Karina Nooka) 

"Japan has yet to see the birth of companies that can win big in the world such as GAFAM," Namba said, referring to U.S. tech giants Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon.com and Microsoft.

Namba wants to change that. In 2019, her company established a 10 billion yen ($88.6 million) venture capital fund, Delight Ventures, to invest in startups. Almost half the entrepreneurs that receive support are ex-employees of DeNA, according to Namba.

Delight Ventures takes stakes of up to 25% in each startup, with the remainder usually held by the entrepreneurs.

Namba said she hopes that the startups in which she invests will grow bigger than DeNA. "We want to plant seeds to yield players in Japan who can win big in the world," she stressed.

Having her employees experience a wide range of jobs and build on their strengths is crucial, she said. "People can grow through work," Namba said, adding that assigning tough tasks attracts workers who dare to challenge themselves.

"I don't want to take the risk of not being able to foster people," she said.

Reporting by Rurika Imahashi and Kosuke Iguchi.

Tech for aging society can be Japan's 'advantage': Google exec

Google Japan aims to focus on developing and offering technology that supports the country's aging society, its top executive said at a Nikkei event on Wednesday.

"It is our responsibility to enable elderly people to maintain good health and access necessary information or jobs through our technology," President Shinji Okuyama said at Nikkei's Global Management Forum.

Google Japan President Shinji Okuyama vows to help tackle the country's aging challenge during the Nikkei Global Management Forum on Nov. 10. (Photo by Karina Nooka)

Google's Japanese unit hopes to turn the challenge of aging into opportunities. This includes providing digital skill training to seniors, as well as utilizing the tech giant's artificial intelligence to support physical and mental health while keeping older generations connected to society.

"We will work together with the government, the private sector, and medical institutions," Okuyama said. "The knowledge and experiences we can accumulate through such efforts will be very valuable assets ... and will be a big advantage for Japan."

Other countries, he added, should be able to learn from these endeavors.

Okuyama also stressed the importance of digital transformations, and said that Google Japan wants to help companies that wish to build new business models and innovate. According to research by Google, moves across the country to use digital technology to the fullest could unlock 67.7 trillion yen ($600 billion) in annual economic value for Japan by 2030.

"Through technology, we want to create a society where people can enjoy more knowledge, success, health and happiness," he said. "All of our products and services will start from this perspective."

The company began offering digital skill training sessions in 2019 and so far 7.5 million people have participated. Google Japan aims to bring that figure up to 10 million by 2022.

Reporting by Jada Nagumo and Kana Watanabe.

Entrepreneurs can pave way to better form of capitalism: incubator founder

The shortcomings of capitalism have become more apparent in recent years, but a "new shape of capitalism and a philanthropic economy" focused more on society's long-term well-being will emerge in the next 30 years, a serial entrepreneur predicted at Nikkei's Global Management Forum on Wednesday.

Entrepreneurship will have a crucial role to play in this economic evolution, suggested Sachiko Kuno, who co-founded Phoenixi, an incubator for social entrepreneurs based in Kyoto. She was speaking in a discussion session with Shintaro Yamada, CEO of Japanese flea market app Mercari.

Kuno urged startup founders to pursue their own goals while contributing to that new form of capitalism.

Mercari's Shintaro Yamada and Phoenixi's Sachiko Kuno discuss entrepreneurship on Nov. 10. (Source photos by Suzu Takahashi and Karina Nooka) 

Yamada, meanwhile, offered a reason for what he sees as a relative lack of successful entrepreneurs in Japan. He said there are few people willing to take the trial-and-error approach necessary to thrive. But he was optimistic this would change in the next decade. "Young generations now have strong global mindsets and they go overseas," he said.

Succeeding as an entrepreneur "is really difficult," Kuno added. She thinks a world-class entrepreneur is "a leader who has a vision and management ability." Even with those abilities, she stressed "it is important to have a shared vision" in a team.

Reporting by Nana Shibata.

No going back from COVID-fueled digital shift: Salesforce head

Digital infrastructure is vital for companies to succeed in a world transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic, even though physical offices will not disappear, the president of U.S. cloud software giant Salesforce said on Wednesday.

"Your digital headquarters is actually one of the most strategic investments you can make as a CEO, to enable your company to thrive in this new normal," said Bret Taylor, also Salesforce's chief operating officer, in an online appearance at Nikkei's Global Management Forum.

Salesforce President and COO Bret Taylor explains the new equilibrium between virtual and physical workplaces. (Photo by Karina Nooka)

Adding to its own portfolio of digital services, Salesforce bought workplace software developer Slack late last year. Slack's business communication platform has been adopted by many large companies during the pandemic to enable remote work.

Taylor, who has also worked at Google and Facebook, suggested that such trends are unlikely to reverse even if COVID-19 subsides.

"What we really are seeing is just an acceleration of the digital economy," he said. "And I don't think we're going backwards in this. And when I talk to customers all around the world, it's all about investing" in digital, work-anywhere capabilities.

He was quick to note, however, that this does not mean the end of the real-world office. "But they're going to be used in different ways," Taylor said. "The way we use our office space will transform toward more collaboration, more customer and partner engagement. And when we are together, it's more important than ever before."

Taylor said employers must lean into these changes and offer flexibility to attract talent.

Besides addressing the digital shift, Taylor touted Salesforce's efforts to help clients respond to climate change. Salesforce offers a Sustainability Cloud service that enables companies to play their part in carbon sequestration and move toward carbon neutrality. The service, which includes a range of data tools for analyzing and managing emissions, has been used by companies including MasterCard and GE Appliances.

Digitalization was a frequent topic during the two-day forum. In a later session on Wednesday, Charles Lake, chairman of Aflac Life Insurance Japan, also stressed that going digital is the only way to adapt to the new normal. Lake said that among Japanese insurers, Aflac was quick to develop systems for a digital transition. "No one operating the company is not talking about the DX," he said, using industry jargon for digital transformation.

Reporting by Grace Li.

COVID stokes small businesses' hunger for digital tech: Adobe CEO

Small and midsize enterprises are increasingly pushing digital transformations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a way to differentiate themselves from rivals, Adobe chief Shantanu Narayen told Nikkei's Global Management Forum on Wednesday.

This is prompting his U.S. software giant to develop products that are easy for businesses of any size to use -- from bakeries to restaurants or yoga studios.

"The organic demand [from SMEs], frankly right now, is very high because they all recognize that that's the way to expand their reach within the local economy, or, as a number of these companies have global aspirations, really deliver their goods and services globally," Narayen said on the second and final day of the forum.

"Whether it's an online channel exclusively or an online channel in conjunction with a physical channel, our job is to really help the small and medium businesses by enabling them to get to what we call 'value' with our products really soon," he added.

Narayen said Adobe's operations geared to SMEs are "thriving."

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen speaks during the Nikkei Global Management Forum on Nov. 10. (Photo by Karina Nooka)

The chairman, president and CEO stressed the pandemic has created a new urgency for Adobe to help customers integrate digital tech into their operations.

Adobe is promoting services broken down into three key segments: Creative Cloud, which includes content creation tools like Photoshop and Illustrator; Document Cloud, for storing and sharing PDF files; and Experience Cloud, covering online marketing and analytics.

"The pandemic has only accelerated the need for all of three solutions [that Adobe provides], and our urgency around innovating in all of them has never been greater," he said, adding that the next focus will be artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Narayen also touched on the rise of digital government, designed to make public services more efficient. In September, Japan established a Digital Agency -- aimed at upgrading online services and infrastructure in the public sector.

"If you ensure that the government agencies are, in a very private and secure way, sharing information, then you can deliver a great service to citizens because the same citizen is not providing the same information over and over and over again," he said. "I think that's important."

Narayen kicked off a day-two lineup of speakers that also includes Takeda Pharmaceutical's Christophe Weber, Samsung Electronics' Kim Hyun-suk, Google Japan's Shinji Okuyama and Sanrio Entertainment's Aya Komaki. The theme of the conference, organized by Nikkei with Swiss business school IMD and Harvard Business School, is "World Economic Revival and Corporate Management in the New Normal."

Discussions on the first day included Saudi Aramco's CEO talking about clean energy transitions, Shiseido's top executive explaining the company's plans for post-pandemic growth, and BHP's chief on his company's tightening focus on commodities needed for decarbonization.

Read a full run-down of the first day here.

Reporting by Eri Sugiura and Sayumi Take.

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