Timeless Ventures

Recently I read a book titled Timeless Ventures. It is an English translation of an original book in Japanese written by Professor Haruo Funabashi and published by Tata McGraw Hill.

The author is a professor at Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy. The title of the original book in Japanese is “Mohameda EL-ERIAN – When Markets Collide” which translated in English means principles of corporate strategy. The title Timeless Ventures selected for the English translation gives insights into the philosopher’s thinking for selecting   success stories of selected 32 Japanese companies which have a history ranging between 200-1400 years. Prof. Funabashi has made a detailed research and has studied the factors beyond the motives and success of these companies. He has gone through available records of the companies , he has interviewed and had detailed discussions with the top management personnel and has produced a very interesting book. The book presents  the principles of which these companies have operated and thrived, throws lights on their thinking and the work culture of the people who operated the companies successfully. One common factor he has observed after such extensive study is that these companies have not kept “profit” as a sole motive of all along. They have functioned with a deep sense  of responsibility towards the community in which they operate. The factors which make these companies successful over the centuries are the vision, principles, honesty and professional excellence. Along all these, the companies have strongly displayed their willingness to support the community in which they operate and thrive. Their actions show that the companies considered it as  their duty to support the community.

The book has identified eight principles over which these companies have been time tested. The same factors  of success are evident in the Japanese religion, culture and ideology. Owing to such a philosophy one can note that there are over 20,000 companies inJapanwhich are over 100 years old. The number of companies which are in existence over 200 years are approximately 1,200. There are 600 companies which have been successfully performing  over 300 years. There are 30 companies which have thrived for over 500 years. What is more interesting to know is that there are five companies which have a successful legacy and history of over a 1000 years.

Social responsibility of the commercial organization is a much talked about subject these days. All the companies which have been talked about in the book  “Timeless Ventures” present an altogether new, fresh and different view point on this. The Japanese way of doing business and thinking about it is quite unique. Individual ownership of the company and profit is not the thinking. Guiding principle is to preserve the company, to ensure its growth and offering it to the future generation is considered as the primarily responsibility.

After extensive study of the 32 companies in different sectors of business and located in different geographical regions inJapanit is observed that the companies  engaged in provision of food; shelter and clothing have survived the days of longevity. Secondly , it is seen that the companies that have family ownership and the once with the influence of Japanese culture and religion have been successful over centuries.

These companies may not be very big or rich but they have been successful over a period of decades and centuries. The companies mentioned in this book are the manufacturers of products like soya-sos, starch, cake, medicines, salt, chopsticks etc.

The factors contributing to the success of the companies who proved the stiff tests of longevity are  as follows

  • Leadership driven by clear values , vision & mission
  • Long term viewpoint & strategic approach
  • Customer oriented & building the economy
  • Socially minded & building the nation
  • Continuous Innovation & Improvement
  • Frugality & efficient use of natural resources
  • Efforts to embody and generate culture/legacy

(by Dr. Dhananjay Keskar, Director, IBS Pune)

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