Goran Pekez, Director of Corporate Affairs and Communications, JTI Serbia

Japanese business culture - Kaizen as a way of life

As a nation, the Japanese are very organized, polite, and diligent, which is why such qualities are highly valued in their business culture. The Japanese system of thinking and doing business is the principle of continuous improvement, with optimal use of all available resources, with an emphasis on development and investment in employees, which Japanese companies and JTI achieve by applying the Kaizen philosophy. This philosophy implies improving the business every day, in small steps, and is characteristic of practically all Japanese companies that have achieved great results in terms of quality and efficiency. Constant, gradual improvements are the essence of this Japanese business philosophy, or as the famous sentence from the movie "Father on a Business Trip" would say: "Every day I progress more and more in every way."

The backbone of this philosophy is professional, and dedicated employees, who are encouraged every day to propose solutions and present their ideas on business improvement - both Japan and Serbia can boast of such quality staff, which is a decisive factor for the continuous progress of any company.

When we talk about the appropriate profiles of candidates for Japanese business culture, they always depend on the needs of investors, but the fact is that in Serbia, high-qualified staff with knowledge of the English language is most often sought. It is a challenge to find such staff outside the big cities, but more and more young people are recognizing the chance to advance their careers if they accept a good position wherever they are. I think that Manpower can also contribute to spreading the culture of staff mobility within Serbia, which is needed by both investors and those looking for a good job.

Specifically, in our factory, the solutions proposed by the employees brought savings of up to 70,000 dollars. By the way, the JTI factory in Senta was the first in Serbia to start applying Kaizen in 2008. Since then, productivity has increased by 50%, while the amount of waste has decreased by as much as 70%. Precisely because of such good results, interest in Kaizen is growing and more and more companies in Serbia are applying this philosophy in their daily business. Before the pandemic, and hopefully, in the future, we are organizing an Open Day at our factory in Senta for all companies that are interested in progressing by respecting Kaizen's business principles. We usually have about 60 representatives of the largest manufacturing companies from Serbia at this event.

Successful companies around the world are characterized by a tendency of constant development, investment in employees and the community, and Japanese and Serbian companies are no exception in terms of this kind of business.

Unlike our country, Japan is a country with limited natural resources, and that is why they have always tried to be as efficient as possible in all segments of life and business. The Japanese are very organized, precise, and plan long-term, 10 years in advance, which was not the main feature for the domestic market in the past. However, given the stable economic and political situation in the country, companies have the preconditions for long-term planning, continuous investment, and employment, and now the differences in business between Japan and Serbia are smaller than ever before.

The fact is that Japanese investment in the EU, including neighboring countries, is at a higher level than Serbia. On the other hand, Serbia has a chance to attract them with its position, competitive labor supply, and trade agreements. Many production facilities in Central Europe can easily be connected to those in Serbia.

Many companies, not only Japanese, choose Belgrade as a business center for the Balkan region because it is efficient and rational.

To conclude, I expect the trend of increasing Japanese investments in Serbia to continue.