With more than a decade of international business experience, Yugo Shima currently oversees operations at PT Fast Retailing Indonesia. What are his approaches and priorities when it comes to running a business overseas, and what "encounter" influenced him the most?
I want to do all I can to help break down barriers and connect Japan with the rest of the world, which is precisely why I joined MC. Up to now, my career has involved me in food imports and exports, as well as managing investments in food manufacturing businesses. I am currently on secondment as COO (Chief Operating Officer) of PT Fast Retailing Indonesia, the developer of the Uniqlo clothing brand. I am involved in the company's day-to-day management and I am learning a great deal.
If you want a lot of people to use your products, then you must first convince them that the value of the products matches their ideologies and lifestyles. The only way to do that is to understand them, and that takes even more time and commitment when you are in an unfamiliar country.
Over the course of my career, I have always endeavored to put myself in the position of the locals and try to think and act as they do. After one particular encounter, I began asking myself something that has remained my go-to question ever since: "Is our business really going to make the people here happy, in a truly meaningful and sustainable way?" That encounter was during an assignment in Pakistan. One of my colleagues, himself a local, would always talk passionately about how he wanted to make his country richer. He taught me the value of reflecting on the true purpose of doing business in developing countries, and he got me think hard about the essence of each project and what it means to the country's citizens.
"Who am I really working for?"
"What am I really working for?"
Ever since that encounter, I have given a great deal of thought to those questions, regardless of the project or region I am involved in.
That experience has proven beneficial in my current work as well. Having made sustainability a core component of its businesses, Uniqlo is working very closely with the local people in every region it operates in.
Recently, something delightful happened. A woman from a rural part of Java who had worked as a sales rep at the first Uniqlo store in Jakarta was appointed manager of a newly opened store in her hometown. While in Jakarta, she had been sending remittances to her family back home, and all of them came out to witness the new store's grand opening. When I witnessed their tears of joy, I was reminded how my own greatest pleasure comes from seeing the happy faces of our customers and the growth of our employees.
I will continue to give 100% to my work, and I will never forget the fundamental reasons for doing business and the people and causes behind them.