【May, 2004】Newsletter -University of Pittsburgh The Katz Graduate School of Business 'Katz Gradu
By: Supriya Singh
Katz graduate Kiran Sethi had the unique experience of meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Sethi graduated from Katz in the class of 1988 with an MBA in the specialties of International Marketing and MIS. He was also the co-founder of the International Business Club at Katz. Sethi was raised in Kobe, Japan where he has returned to and resides today. He is currently Managing Director of Jupiter International Corporation, a specialized international trading company.
In August 2003, he participated in a town meeting in Kobe as a speaker along with the former Minister of Special Economic Reform Zones, Yoshitada Konioke. Town meetings are sponsored by the Cabinet Secretariat and are now apart of Koizumi's policy of listening to the voices of the public, while providing an opportunity to the members of the Japanese cabinet to directly explain numerous government policies to the general public.
In light of Sethi's unique views of Japan while living there most of his life as an American citizen, Sethi had been invited again at the end of February of this year to Prime Minister Koizumi's official residence to participate as a guest speaker in their commemorative 100th Town Meeting. Discussions in the meeting revolved around such topics as deregulation, tourism, the general position of Japanese economy, and banking. In light of Japanese expanding responsibility in the international community, one of the main suggestions Sethi had in his speech was to put an education system in place where all Japanese be truly bilingual.
Katz Access was able to ask Sethi a few questions about his experience.
Katz Access: How did it feel to be the only American at the town meeting?
Sethi: It was an honor to be requested by the Prime Minister's Office to make suggestions and conduct general discussions on the future of Japan as an ethnic Indian American. I try to portray indifference to my background when in public in Japan. Such messages may lead to listeners to feel my thoughts or comments to be biased and thus lose its effectiveness.
Katz Access: How did the Japanese react to you being the only American there?
Sethi: There are many Americans living in Japan, but they may have been surprised with my Japanese language skills and understanding of their culture. However, I hope that my opinion and comments with my unique background has been perceived in a positive manner enabling listeners to reflect on the country and the individual from a global perspective.
Katz Access: What did you mean when you pushed for an education system
where all Japanese are truly bilingual?
Sethi: The number of Japanese that are fluent in a language other than Japanese is understood to be rather low in comparison to other developed countries around the world. In order for the Japanese to increase their level of awareness and understanding of other cultures, while simultaneously enabling the rest of the world to gain further
understanding of the enlightening aspects of the Japanese culture. It is important to have effective communication. Thus, I suggested the foreign language skill of the Japanese be strengthened. Moreover, language skills are effective tools for enhancing direct foreign investment and tourism into Japan, which are both thought to be important parts of the current cabinet's strategic goals.
Katz Access: What languages do you speak?
Sethi: I speak Japanese and English fluently and can communicate in Hindi and Punjabi as well.
Katz Access: As far as Japan's expanding responsibility in the international community, how do the Japanese understand this responsibility?
Sethi: Japan understands the need to be more involved in the international community, and they are seeking ways to develop a strategic alliance with the United States and numerous other countries, especially its neighbors in ASEAN. Being the second largest single economy in the world, the imbalance of foreign investment and tourism is being
highlighted in the economic circles. This is especially so with one of its primary trading partners, The United States of America. Thus, the general population senses the need to create an unique identity of its own in contrast to its historic position of concentrating on maintaining a conformist society.
I find the Japanese people to be ever more eager to add strategic value in the corporate world. Nevertheless, a continuous battle between traditional thought and new mind can be seen. An example would be Foreign Direct Investment, which is aggressively welcomed by open-minded senior policy makers, but undergoing some resistance from the conservative and status quo oriented politicians and business leaders. Like some other developed countries, Japan is experiencing the complexities resulting from globalization and competitive advantage. But, Japan sees the value added to products and services and recognizes them as a priority for corporate success and also for building national identity and raising the quality of life for its citizens.
Katz Graduate School of Business