Japan's Stable Business Environment Supported by the Government

Eriko Asai
Co-Founder & Partner
TRINITY Indo-Pacific Partners

March 2024

Eriko Asai, Co-Founder & Partner of TRINITY Indo-Pacific Partners

Eriko Asai's journey, from adapting to Japanese culture as a young child to her rise in Japan's corporate sector, presents a unique story of success. In this interview, Asai, a former president of GE Japan and Co-Founder and Partner of Trinity Indo-Pacific Partners, shares her insights into Japan's market dynamics and its attractiveness as an investment destination, as well as the evolving role of women in business. Her perspectives will be of interest to any business leader exploring opportunities in Japan.

Embracing Change: From Cultural Adaptation to Corporate Leadership

Asai describes her life as a journey marked by constant adaptation and learning. "Born in the UK, I came to Japan at three without speaking Japanese," she shares, highlighting her early encounter with cultural adaptation. Reflecting on her career, Asai says, "My background has always been about embracing change, adapting to new cultures, and continuous learning." She details her diverse professional experiences, "I have worked in Japanese companies, global companies, small startups, from hardware to software, and various infrastructure companies."

This journey eventually led Asai to become President of GE Japan in 2018, a position that harnessed her expertise in government affairs, innovation and leadership. She concludes, "Now I'm putting all this together to start a new company, thinking about how I can contribute my experience to building new businesses across Japan, India and Australia."

Japan's Unique Strengths and the Path to Innovation

Asai offers a detailed perspective on the unique qualities of the Japanese market, drawing from her experience at GE. "Japan has always been a special market for GE. There are no other countries like it," she states emphatically, identifying market size, advanced technology and capital abundance as key strengths. She underscores GE's sustained incorporation of Japanese technology, noting, "GE has always partnered with Japanese technology because Japan has such strong technological capabilities."

Delving into the subject of innovation in Japan, Asai observes, "There's good collaboration going on, thanks to the government and organizations like JETRO," noting the positive interactions between different businesses and startups, facilitated by government efforts. She praises Japan's expertise in basic research and material science, while also acknowledging challenges in commercialization and risk aversion. Still, she remains optimistic, stating, "If we can overcome these challenges, I believe there will be a great match."

Asai further discusses the societal challenges Japan faces, such as an aging population and reliance on fossil fuel imports, which affect its energy security. She sees these challenges as opportunities for building a more resilient society and sparking innovation. "There are many young startups, including ones headed by women entrepreneurs, and there's clearly an appetite for more investment," Asai concludes.

An Attractive Investment: Dialogue, Stability, Quality and Trust

Drawing on her extensive experience in government affairs and Japan's policy environment, Asai offers a positive review of the government's efforts, stating, "I genuinely think the Japanese government works very hard, and they engage with industry very well." She further emphasizes, "There is a very good dialogue with industry and business organizations, such as the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan." 

Asai answering questions in the interview

Asai also underscores Japan's appeal as an investment destination, particularly its stability and emphasis on long-term relationships. She notes, "Japanese society is resilient and stable. Stability is as important as sustainability."

She places great importance on the Japanese commitment to quality and safety, describing it as "exceptional" and highlighting how it serves as a unique selling point for Japanese products worldwide. According to Asai, "The people who work here are skilled, and Japanese teamwork is exceptional." She notes the enduring significance of long-term relationships in Japan, a unique feature that fosters trust and reliability: "Once you have that long-term relationship, it lasts a very long time."

Investing in Change: Women in Business and Market Wisdom

Thinking back on the position of women in business, Asai expresses her optimism, stating, "I'm very optimistic about all the changes. Obviously, the government is putting in a lot of effort. Companies are putting in a lot of effort, which is not just female driven, the male workers' mindset is changing." She highlights the positive shift in corporate culture, particularly among younger generations, in their approach to family, work and work style. Asai emphasizes the importance of providing early career opportunities for women and creating a meritocratic environment, asserting, "The future is going to be much, much better."

Asai concludes by reflecting on the positive experiences of the business executives have had in Japan, stating, "I host many business executives in Tokyo, and every single person who comes to Japan loves the experience, from both business and cultural perspectives. They think this is one of the best places to do business. So, if people come and experience that, that's the most important."

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