Messages from Monthly Keidanren, March 2001

Each Individual Playing their Own Unique Part on the Stage of the 21st Century

Keiichiro Takahara
Joint Chairman of the New Industry/New Business Committee, Keidanren
President, Uni-Charm Corporation

The ideal society that I envisage for the 21st century is one in which each individual is able to play their own unique part, one in which everyone has not only the chance but both an abundance of ambition and the power to be able to achieve their full potential.

It is a place where people can birth, foster and realize their dreams, and if for some reason they fail, then they are given another chance to succeed. And when as a result of their courage, sweat and perseverance they do succeed, they are showered with the praise that they deserve by that society. The fact that these people who overcome and do succeed are able to be recompensed according to their efforts on the basis of the chance that they are given is the true hallmark of the society I am talking about.

In Japan there were three venture booms during the 30 years of the 1970s, 80s and 90s. During that time many entrepreneurs appeared and while some of them are still active today, the majority of them have disappeared together with their creations, never to be seen again.

On the other hand, in the US during the 1980s, major restructuring of individual enterprises together with a flexible labor market, tax reform, deregulation, increased outsourcing and investment in information technology produced venture enterprises that were flexible enough to be able to take the risks associated with innovative new ideas. Furthermore, during the 1990s the US then proceeded to formulate a long-term economic growth mechanism.

After having spent some time reflecting on both the venture boom in Japan the success of the US in renovating their economy, the New Industry and New Business Committee is now encouraging the creation of the ideal 21st century society in which the entrepreneurial spirit can be fostered and new businesses and venture enterprises can thrive.

The environment surrounding new businesses and venture enterprises of today is vastly different from that of 30 years ago. For example, government and private structures for fostering entrepreneurs and birthing, fostering and growing venture enterprises are working together and both the legal and tax systems are changing. Furthermore, a large number of companies now acknowledge the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit and the number of corporate ventures (new businesses started up within existing enterprises) is increasing against a backdrop of management buyouts, etc.

Problems facing the realization of the "each individual playing their own unique part on the stage of the 21st century" concept mentioned in the title include the fostering of managers who are willing to take risks of their own initiative, the creation of a flexible labor market, and the reformation of various regulations hindering the vitality of the private sector.

On the other hand, not only government structural reform is required, but economic change that leads to corporate governance which is able to cope with the increasing globalization of the industrial world. A radical change in the thinking of each individual is also required.

On the basis of this awareness, we need to therefore boldly face the problems confronting us both now and in the future, and contribute to the reformation of our country in terms of software, hardware and human resources in order to realize the ideal society that we envisage.

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