Kodawari/Komakai: Japanese 'Uniqueness' means business

Posted online: Friday, Jun 13, 2014 at 0000 hrs
Out of Many Japanese business philosophies Kodawari and Komakai concepts has been the driving force behind the best of everything in Japan, Be it design of industrial control products or Manufacturing of some minute electronic to Robust Robot Systems. These Two concepts [Kodawari and Komakai] results in the form of meticulous attention to detail and fierce dedication to quality produces a 360 degree approach which takes into account all aspects of a product or service in order to offer an amazing experience from start to finish –ultimately reaching to profitabiliy of business.

Recently, The Two Big names of Japanese companies – de-activated themselves from Indian Market, While the Big MultiBrand retailer from Japan is Keenly eyeing to foray in India`s retail market.

There are plenty of reasons always – which we get to hear for exiting an potential market such as India; not limited to quality, pricing, or other issues such as regulatory hassles, lack of infrastructure and so on. But what makes Japanese Companies grow and flourish in domestically where every natural resource is in scarce or elsewhere markets where adversaries are part and parcel of business. In this article let’s take look on how makes Japanese companies build their Brand, Business with their unique Style!

The Japanese are well-known globally to be meticulous and thorough. Particularly in the fields of manufacturing and customer service, this notion has not only spread throughout the rest of the world, but also amongst the Japanese themselves; hence, the Japanese are very loyal to and reliant on products and services that wear the label of “Made in Japan”. One of the main factors that allow the Japanese to be so trusting of the Japanese label are the kodawari and komakai –a Unique concept that are prevalent in the entire culture. As most people that have grown up in the midst of Japanese culture have become accustomed to everybody else to being extremely attentive to detail, this practice has become one of the foundations on which the Japanese build and expand their society, their global business and as part of their culture.

The concepts of kodawari and komakai are very similar yet slightly different. Kodawari captures more of the relentless pursuit towards achieving quality and other particular features that make the product or service unique in itself. For example, a restaurant might serve food made only of fresh organic ingredients or high-quality, domestic ingredients. [Here Kodawari means = Striving to Serve only fresh domestic grown ingredients].

Similarly, a craftsman might prefer to stay well away from machinery and continue to create items by hand while staying true to traditional techniques. These actions come from the kodawari mentality of the individuals who will steadfastly stick to their own ways in order to create something unique and exceptional.

On the other hand, komakai can be directly translated into English as “detailed”, and signifies meticulousness, an aim at perfection, as well as a persnickety individual that makes a fuss about unnecessary things. In this way, it can be used as a compliment when perhaps referring to elaborate decorations or a product that has no defects to it whatsoever, but it can also have negative connotations when used towards a person.

Thus, both the kodawari and komakai concepts have various meanings and usages, but when each of their positive aspects are infused, they have the power to potentially conceive something that can be appreciated by people from all over the world.

A sound example of the application of both kodawari and komakai is the Japanese food industry. As the food industry in Japan has continued to grow and evolve throughout past decades, it has become ever more distinguished as its own fully-established culture. In traditional Japanese cuisine, kodawari would likely refer to the fresh, seasonal ingredients that are used and changed accordingly depending on the time of year and occasion. Komakai would manifest itself in the elaborate presentation of the food, such as with vegetables and fruits cut into decorative shapes and the planned-out combinations of food and dish that are chosen depending on the colors and textures of the food and dish respectively.

The customer service at restaurants is also important to note when talking of the food industry in Japan. Some services such as getting the food out as swiftly as possible has become the norm, and while new types of service are being invented every day, what makes the dining experience exceed one’s expectations is certainly the komakai customer service where the waiters not only serve your food but take notice of who a customer is with, what his or her background might roughly be, and other information in order to cater to the needs of each individual diner.

It is true that from these concepts of kodawari and komakai in Japanese culture the Japanese have become somewhat nitpicky when it comes to getting what they expect to receive. It has, however, made them grow at the same time. Through these two concepts, the standards of the kinds of products and services that go on the Japanese market have become extremely high, and have therefore contributed to the production of reliable products and services that can be exported to other countries that goes for mass acceptance. In global atmosphere where Mass Production means cheaper products – Japanese products and business models have been always on Super performance, Premium Pricing yet with Mass acceptance. In a Global market where full of Mass Production competitors exists with much cheaper products, these Japanese concepts may appear to be failure. However that is not the case so far! Japanese Companies ensure that all stages of the customer journey are extraordinary with these two concepts build their brand and business Soaring! There are more than 1000 Japanese companies which are 300 plus years old and still in operation with profitabiliy. Sustaiabaility sustains these philoshophies.

With natural resources relatively scarce in Japan, these two concepts have stood imperative for the growth of Japanese economy and the entire society. The growth of the economy from this angle has also been essential in further developing Japan’s relationships with the rest of the world, as well as for the country’s own maturation. On the more individual level, the kodawari and komakai Unique concept of the Japanese are sure to keep acting as triggers that will help bring new ideas and high-quality products and services.

So the question is, Why Japanese companies are unable to bring or implement these business philosophies in Indian Market, Why they exit or deactivate themselves for number of reasons that are seen everywhere else in the world or for that matter not new only to India. One can assume that Japanese companies are unable to implement their business concepts on the services and products they introduce in India or there may be no simple answer exists. Arguments can be made on many different dimensions why a complete exit is necessary from an Potential Market. If one market Business philsophy is unable to get the edge in another market then Perhaps Business Philosophy itself needs to be changed according to the Market specifics for survival.

Junko Nirmala

Junko Nirmala is a Tokyo resident with 15 years of experience in technology and business consulting services mainly focusing on India-Japan Market and cross border related services. Her diverse background even includes a short stint as a Venturepreuner. During the last few years she has helped several Japanese companies with their India market entry strategies. Writer can be reached at junkonirmala@gmail.com

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his/her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of the The Financial Express, or any other entity of theIndian Express Group.