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Made in Japan

Akio Morita and Sony

Review by : Rohit Nerurkar M.Mgt SOM 12, 10927806

Nippon - the land of rising sun, and in my sense the rising phoenix itself lives up to its reputation quite remarkably when you go through quite a descriptive autobiography of a visionary, arguably one of the great managers of his times, Akio Morita san. Just imagine a country sized 1/10th of India which was literally annihilated post World War II, with its capital and prominent cities burnt and depilated into rubbles and debris, ascending to the position of 2nd largest economy in the world for a consistent long time, is nothing short of awe inspiring. The book as it claims to be an International Best Seller has been authored in the latter half of eighties when Mr. Akio Morita was holding the Chairmanship of Sony Corporation. The story here being told is about how a company started by few highly inspired, determined and equally intelligent engineers in adverse of situations, carved itself as one of the most successful companies in consumer electronics - Sony Corporation. Sony as the author claimed has rightly stood for quality and pioneered technology, as we had always known, and that was the whole ideology of those technocrats, never to compromise on quality, and the sales will be taken care of. I worked with a Japanese company for more than 2 years and found that the book has done fullest justice to what Japan actually connotes. There are instances that people from other cultures (western and south Asian) have misunderstood Japan due to quite a different culture. However reading this book most of these myths and misconception fiddled out of my mind. The book is being divided in nine chapters War; Peace; Selling To The World (My learning curve) ; On Management (It's all in the family); American and Japanese Styles (The difference); Competition (The fuel of Japanese Enterprise); Technology (Survival Exercise); Japan and The World (Alienation and Alliance) ; World Trade (Averting Crisis). The first two sections establish a flow of the author s life right from the pre war, during the war and post- war time, showing the stark difference in the picture of Japan, pre-war and postwar era. The pre-war Japanese economy was controlled by a handful of the ultra-rich family businesses thus resulting into a kind off polygamy regime. The Author belonged to one of the well to do business family of Nagoya. His father and fore-fathers were considered the connoisseurs of fine arts and music, thus indicating authors inclination towards sound & music in general which proved to be one of the reasons of Sony s existence. The Author along with the other co-founders including Mr. Masaru Ibuka had served in the Japanese Navy during the

war and had applied their engineering know how in the radio, air surveillance photography et all. After the war was over in which Japan surrendered, there was confusion amongst the armed wings of Japan, and midst this confusion taking adversity as the opportunity they decided to start a new venture which we know as Sony today. Post the war Japan was under Occupation of the USA and there were dramatic changes in the overall governing structure in Japan. Democracy was imposed and all the big wig family businesses were stripped off their fortunes, lands and properties. It was more towards equitable distribution of economy with opportunities shown to all the classes. Initially it was considered as an atrocious move, however the Japanese trait which was then created, of accommodating and tuning to the situation proved to be very beneficial in long run. As far as Sony s formative days were concerned the book also throws light on how Sony staff had the knack of adopting the new technologies of the world and applying their ingenuity and persistent work to come up with the best improved and modified version. In the next section Selling to the World , with the authors insight, Sony was one of the very few truly globalised Japanese company during those times. The authors determination of taking Sony to the nooks and corners of the world, made it possible for them to commission plants in USA and UK. The section also lays emphasis on the creativity aspect of the company s management which made happen few of the path breaking innovations in the field of media. Some of them were, Transistor based Radio, Trinitron technology in TV, Walkman, Betamax video recorder, Mavica camera (the primitive version of today s digital cameras) to name a few. The book is also a very effective guide on Management practices and is a must read for all the aspiring as well as established managers. The Author presses very high importance on company Loyalty and has strong reservation towards attrition which is so common in the USA. According to him it is the employees of whatever strata that makes a company and they are the company s most valuable assets, so it is necessary for them to think so in similar way. According to him Sony did not made much distinction between the blue collar and white collar jobs and the quality of leadership was given more importance. Even in labor ranks if a person became very successful as a union leader, he or she had very bright chances in Sony to move to the managerial ranks. The Author gave much more importance to the human skills of a person than his education or degree. He demonstrated in his book the kindoff relationship the labor and the management shared in Sony. According to him the ideas coming from the factory floor were as important as those that were brainstormed in the board rooms, hence there were provisions to welcome the ideas from everyone. His decision making prowess and the ability to take tough calls in thin situations can also be experienced in few of the instances mentioned in the book.

In one of the next chapters; American and Japanese styles, there are interesting comparisons drawn out between both the cultures, social as well as professional. The book has given justice to enrich the understanding of the readers with respect to both the cultures. Authors view about American legal system and the importance of lawyer seems to be tangible. According to him America is a country of excess and on the other hand Japan is the country of conservation. The further two sections covers Japanese conservation styles, minimalistic use of resources, and the respect shown by them to nature. The above traits described by the author find much more relevance in today s world where ecological conservation and fighting global warming is the need of the day. The book also throw some light on the political ties and international relationship of Japan thus transforming Japan from a Isolated culture pre-meiji era to one of the global forces to be reckon with. Thus over and all the book is an enlightening experience and is ofcourse a must read learning material for all.