By Tim Romero: Serial startup founder in Japan and indomitable innovator
Selling services in Japan is very different than selling products or software. Everyone knows that relationships are important in Japan, but not many people understand why they are so important, and how you can use that understanding to build a successful business here. Today Sriram Venkataraman explains how he grew InfoSys Japan from a one man operation to over 1,000 employees and how understanding why Japanese enterprises must trust their vendors far more than companies in other developed countries. We talk about hiring strategies and techniques he used to get his initial customers and some of the most common mistakes that western companies make with their senior leadership in Japan. It’s basically a blueprint for how to grow a services company from nothing to thousands of people in Japan, and I think you’ll enjoy it. [shareaholic app="share_buttons" id="7994466"] Leave a comment Links & Resources Follow Sriram on Twitter @japansriram Connect with him on LinkedIn Transcript Disrupting Japan, episode 72. Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from the CEOs breaking into Japan. Today we’ve got some amazingly good advice for anyone who wants to sell services in Japan. Selling products or software is challenging enough, but selling services where relationships mean everything and where the quality expectations for service is perhaps the highest in the world, that provides a host of very special challenges. Today we sit down with Sriram Venkataraman, as he explains how me manages to scale Infosys, which provides outsourced Indian development services, from 2 people, to over 1,000 people in Japan. In a very real sense, he did it with a strategy that is pretty much the opposite of what you would expect from an Indian software services company. This is a real insight into the mind and the buying decisions of Japanese enterprise customers and Sriram has a different, very compelling perspective, on why so many foreign companies have trouble gaining real trust in the Japanese market. We talk a lot about finding the right people here in Japan, and how to avoid the hiring traps that western firms commonly fall into. Really, this interview is basically a blueprint of how to grow from nothing to 1,000 people in Japan. But, you know, Sriram Venkataraman explains that much better than I can. So let’s hear from our sponsors and get right to the interview. [pro_ad_display_adzone id="1411" info_text="Sponsored by" font_color="grey" ] [Interview] Tim: I’m sitting here with Sriram Venkataraman, of Infosys, and you have been with Infosys from the very beginning in Japan, and you’ve seen it grow from a tiny team to over 10,000 employees here now, haven’t you? Sriram: Not 10,000. Tim: No? That was on the website. Sriram: Our total Japan business is probably about 1,000 people today. But given the business model, not all of them are here. Roughly 65 to 70% of the teams are in India and the balance are here. Tim: Okay, let’s actually back up a bit to 20 years ago. The Japanese market is obviously a very big one but system integration is always a very local game, so what attracted both you and Infosys to the Japanese market in the first place? Sriram: So Infosys was founded by 7 people. The senior founder, I think he’s a true visionary . So one of the important dimensions for Infosys was, “How do we move away from a large dependence on the market of the United States?” Because our business is quite dependent heavily on the mobility of people’s ideas. If you are dependent only on one market, if there is a regulatory change, or if there is something else that happens, then you are not going to be able to sustain the productions that you make. Tim: And back then, what percentage of the revenues were coming from the US? Sriram: The year I joined, this company had a global revenue of $26 million. I was I think sales employee number 10.