Typically, I am up early because I travel a lot. I divide my time between Singapore, Mumbai and Tokyo. I often go to Mumbai, where our main business is located, on a Monday morning from Singapore (yes, that is the 2:30am flight from Changi!) and back to Singapore on Wednesday, or Tokyo on a Friday morning. Starting early for me is very important as I get a lot done in the morning when most people are still asleep, like writing proposals or responding to emails. One of the best ways to start off for me is to see my daughter, Riko, now four years old, at home in Singapore, and take her to kindergarten after having breakfast with her and my wife.
Calls start coming in from Japan, Singapore and Mumbai and we have what we call MMM = Monday Morning Meeting, a great way to reflect on the past week and see where we are headed.
In Mumbai, we operate three food outlets. The first is Sushi and More, which is India’s first affordable and authentic Japanese take-away and delivery service. Sushi and More also does a lot of catering for weddings and parties. As you may know, Indian weddings may have 2,000 guests, and we do the Japanese food for these weddings. Sushi and More serves the best of vegetarian and non vegetarian sushi. Before we came along, there were only 5-star hotels serving some very expensive fare. We also produce an array of Japanese dishes like Japanese curry, teriyaki chicken skewers and bento boxes, hence the “more” in Sushi and More. Sushi and More’s team now is supported by a back-office team called maidoindia that does food imports and other imports from Japan for our ingredients, as well as marketing, PR and design support. Maidoindia also helps Japanese companies enter the Indian market and supports the Japanese government on a variety of projects. We are also extremely proud of the Cool Japan Festival, which attracts 100,000 people over three days in Mumbai, India’s biggest Japan event that showcases food entertainment and more.
Meetings are followed typically with visits to see operations as well as planning for the future of our projects. We speak to our Japan team, sometimes do tastings of our new menu and liaise with partners in India or elsewhere. I usually have lunch in the office and then in the evenings I mostly go out with business partners, clients, people from the Embassy or Consulate, or with media and other friends to understand what’s going on.
What’s challenging is that everyone wants everything yesterday, and because we have so many projects, it is the juggling part that is most demanding but also most rewarding when we get it all done. But there is no typical day. I may be speaking at a seminar at the Indian Embassy in Tokyo, or budding entrepreneurs in Singapore… but weekends I try to spend entirely with our daughter.
I do an incredible amount of entertaining as well as being entertained, which is fabulous. In a typical year, I meet at least 2,000 people, and in some years I have met 4,000 people. This network of people from all walks of life really is amazing and really makes life exciting for our enterprise as we learn so much from people. I always say the more we know, the less we need and the more we realise we need to learn more from others.
We’re pioneers in our field, but that means we have a huge responsibility to always raise the bar and improve what we are doing every day, both as a business and to cooperate and see what we can do as a Japanese business in India.
We’ve been in India now for seven years and hope to open at least 100 of Sushi and More outlets. It’ll take time but it’s wonderful doing challenging things that no one’s done before. Let’s see what happens!