Yamaha to develop local leaders in global drive

Murali Gopalan Mumbai | Updated on January 20, 2018

Yamaha Motor President & CEO Hiroyuki Yanagi (file pic)

CEO keen on transferring management functions overseas

Yamaha Motor is keen on developing local leadership pillars across key regions as part of its new medium-term plan to create regional competencies.

In its 2015 annual report released in Japan last week, President & CEO, Hiroyuki Yanagi, has gone on record to say that the company will transfer management functions overseas and is implementing training programmes to cultivate local leaders.

In addition, Yamaha will promote “diversity in human resources management by hiring and appointing non-Japanese staff and women to management positions”. This will doubtless have enormous implications for India, which is tipped to be its largest market by 2020, even ahead of traditional heavyweights like Indonesia.

Since India has already been identified as the region to steer Yamaha’s operations in Africa, local leadership is expected to be nurtured for this exercise. This will perhaps become a reality by 2018 when the world’s most affordable motorcycle is shipped from the Chennai plant to Africa. If things go according to plan, an assembly operation could perhaps be conceived in Nigeria where Indian leadership will navigate operations for Yamaha.

“We are targeting high growth in the Indian market, and aim to increase volume scale by expanding the product lineup focusing on the mass-market segment. Specifically, we will launch strategic models for emerging markets,” says Yanagi in the annual report.

As for gender diversity, Yamaha kicked off this initiative in India at its Surajpur plant some years ago where 200 women are part of the scooter assembly line. Going by what Yanagi says, it is quite likely that women will play far more important roles in the coming years.

Yamaha’s new approach to globalisation is keeping in line with other companies which realise that it is important to think local first. Its Japanese counterpart, Honda, has already decided to make English its official language for international communications by 2020. Interestingly, Nissan has a non-Japanese CEO in Carlos Ghosn, who spearheaded its turnaround 15 years ago after the Renault acquisition.

Automakers have realised that they can no longer stay culturally isolated in a rapidly changing global arena. With the new focus on emerging markets, it is far more pragmatic to build local leadership verticals and forge stronger bonding among employees. This is precisely what Yanagi has in mind for the new look Yamaha of the future.

He is no stranger to India either having headed operations here a little over a decade ago. At that point in time, Yamaha had just embarked on its own after parting ways with the Escorts group. Today, Yanagi is the global boss but knows only too well how important India is in the overall scheme of things.

As he reiterates in the annual report, Yamaha is already a worldwide brand with overseas sales accounting for roughly 90 per cent of numbers in products like motorcycles and marine products. Hence, the next logical step is to replicate this in human capital, especially when emerging markets like India are the pivot to its future business.

As part of the midterm plan finalised some weeks earlier, Yamaha is targeting 35 per cent of development in the motorcycle business, including vehicle bodies and engines, carried out locally in three years. In the process, R&D skills will also have to be stepped up sharply, which means hiring the best local talent available.

Published on April 26, 2016

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