Psychological Distance


Difficulty in observation

Vagueness within complexity in a wide of gray

Ambiguity between black and white

Views on Asia

India calls "East Asia" the region that Japan simply terms Asia

The winds of modernity blow from West to East, hence Western culture and technology are well known and appreciated by Indians.

Indians think that India is geographically located in between East and West but culturally "unique".

Japanese definition of "Asia" is very narrow, namely the area within "East Asia" only.
Down-wind Japan is considered unfamiliar and difficult to understand in India.

Japan views India as far from Japan's neighbours, beyond China and ASEAN countries. Thus India is a remote country from the Japanese point of view.

Characterization of mindset


(Indians want to do something different)



Secularism vs. Hindu nationalism vs.
(Hinduism is secular in character)

The influence of religion on most Indians affects their daily life, whether Hindus, Muslims or Christians.
Many people are named after Hindu Gods or Saints. (Similar to Muslim or Christians)

Full of philanthropy towards poverty-ridden people.

Cosmopolitan by birth


(Inherent strong desire for standardization)


Polytheistic indifference

Constitutional secularism vs. Shintoism

After World War II, religion does not affect the daily life of most Japanese. Going to temples and shrines is only a formality.
God's names are too august to worshippers who dare not name people after God.

Lack of philanthropy despite culture shock seeing poverty or disaster.

Self-criticism in Japan is that the Japanese are not internationally minded, but are nervous about their international popularity.


18 official languages

Easy to accustom to foreign languages, having talent for multi-lingualism

Dexterity in English is a yardstick to evaluate a person's education and culture. Mutual understanding between Western countries and India through a common language (English) is readily developed.

Communication should be expressed in specific words to be thoroughly understood by others, it may need direct verbal argument. Japanese quietness is often misunderstood as secretiveness and cunning.

Single language (spoken and written)

Poorest linguistic talent for words other than mother tongue.

English is merely one of many foreign media for communication. Cultural distance between Japan and India is far greater than that between the West and India.

Communication of thought without the medium of words. It means "what the mind thinks, the heart transmits", but does not work with all foreigners. For example, " I will think it over" means a polite way of saying NO.


Indian cuisine though tasty, is heavy to digest for the Japanese, who do not mind spicy food, but dislike too oily cooking.

For many Japanese, a diet of Japanese food is indispensable, but this is not easily available in India. Indians think the taste of Japanese cuisine is too bland and thin.

Business management
(The Japanese features mentioned hereunder are the traditional ones which are now being transformed gradually.)

Indian people are individually motivated.

Individualistic brilliance

Self-assertion, self-sustaining

Self is more important the company.

More keen to talk than listen.

Little regard for other person's point of view

Previously, India exported some affordable goods and exportable surplus only, because India is large enough to be self-sustaining domestic market.

Upon seeing profitability, businessmen generally commit before making a detailed study of the proposal.

Decision by top-downward process From Indian businessmen's point of view, negotiations with Japanese are long and tortuous, too secretive, too clannish, too reserved.

Can make requests to other side for providing more and more information without obligation and regard for other person's efforts and time. History of seller's market has prevented development of sense of customer-oriented service in India.

In case market's demand is for low-price, it would be of secondary importance to keep quality production. Prices take precedence over quality because of lower purchasing power of the people.

Indian firms are more flexible concerning the issue of time schedule. The Japanese party does not understand the difference between India and Japan in the standards of efficiency and output.

People generally have a mathematical bent of mind, besides they are highly philosophical.

Rupee has been gradually depreciated since 1966, stage by stage.

Individuals are willing to take chances by job-hopping for better personal benefits, namely self-development and self-reliance, without much regard for corporation.
Job-rotation with in a company helps to
inconvenience that may be caused to the company.

Groups within big business houses, even family-run companies, tend to segregate themselves divided houses.
Achieve profit to finance growth allowing freedom of action to the individual.

Rewards are salary and position, based on business acumen.

In public Sector Units (PSU), there are many "Authorities", namely Steel Authority of India Ltd., Gas Authority of India Ltd., etc. Set-up of regulatory authority in vogue.

Bureaucrat elites do not like to change their career course into politics.

Being a large county, political management becomes far more difficult, specially for high proportion of rural population, which is tradition bound where many people are below poverty
Indian businessmen invite guests home as a sign courtesy.


Japan is a society based on group motivation.

Team-work / Team-effort / Team-spirit

Self-effacement, self-sacrifice

Company is more important than self.

More keen to listen than talk.

Much regard for other person's point of view

Japanese exporters always try to find out what the buyer want today and may need tomorrow: :Think more what the buyer wants rather than what you want him to buy."

Businessmen study the proposal cautiously before making a commitment.

Bottom-upward process for consensus conclusion the
Delays are caused by communicating down and listening which is required for consensual decision-making.

Will fell a lot of responsibility before requesting other party to provide information, which takes time and effort. Severe competition has developed sense of service in Japan.

Japanese manufactures are characterized as being thoroughly and resolutely customer-oriented, and the Japanese compromise less on quality than price.


Japanese are highly strung with regard to the concept of time, meeting the deadlines being sacrosanct in all aspects of operations.

Except in commercial dealings, people pretend not to be calculating mercenaries.

Yen has been rapidly appreciating till recently.

Attachment to corporate loyalty. Workers' sense of identification with the line. This greatly influences the agenda of political parties.
create COPMANY-MEN who has the interests of the entire organization at heart with a sense of participation. But the alienated worker feels like a cog in a great corporate machine.

Group harmony to value interdependence within the group

Long-tem perspective and life-long education in the corporation Selflessness under group mentality. This may not create active venture capitalist.

Naming of "Authority" can be a brand estimated by customers and not by self-esteem. Public Sector is for public service, therefore PSU should try to avoid the name, which reflects authoritative image.

Bureaucrats are called public servants. While many bureaucrats are ambitious or ambivalent vis-à-vis politics, businessmen are generally discreet and not inclined to become politicians.

Being an island country, political management is relatively easy to keep watch by the people, though it is not transparent.
Encouragement is given to offer shares for public subscription in the stock Japanese do this less, though more of generous in formal entertainment outside home.

Industrial relation with worker' union

Craft or industrial union

Indian unions are often guided by professional unionists with socialist traditions. Workers are not well organized and disciplined. Most political parties have trade unions.

Workers are against corporate automation and restructuring because of the fear of losing jobs.

Ambitious climber to run the fast track and adapt short cut.

Exit policy: Redeployment by National Relief Fund

In-house union

Basic trust and mutual understanding between labour and management have been built up over the years. Employees identify their interests with the company where they work.

Little resistance to corporate automation progress

Promotion is slow in life time employment system with seniority-based pay-raises.

Attrition and voluntary retirement for downsizing

Large and small enterprises

Large business houses and small scale industries (SSI) are separated by law. 836 industrial items are reserved for SSI only, though the number of items is being reduced. Effective cooperation between the two is rare, resulting in their supplanting each other.
Investment atmosphere is not kind to venture-capitalists due to tight barrier
market by even small venture capitalists if they have the sprit of creativity

Number of listed companies in the stock market is around 7300.

Air India operates 6 flights weekly between India and Japan.

Though there is some competition and friction between the two, coordination is organized by grouping of large and small companies as a two-tier structure of industries, supplementing each other.

and the high hurdle to regulations. Besides, stockholders prefer larger establishments over new-entrant, however promising the later may be.
Number of listed companies in the stock market is slightly over 4600.

Now JAL and ANA operates weekly two flight to New Delhi.

Diplomatic relation

Understanding in different ways from many points of view is needed towards India, country of immense diversity.

Under Non-Aligned Movement, India was trying to benefit from East and West balancing between the two. But in 1970s, Japan saw India as pro-Soviet.

No adverse war-time memory in India against Japan (cf. Justice Radhabinod Pal's dissenting judgement in the Tokyo war crime trial).

India is a large country surrounded by smaller neighbours.

Tactful excuses
The Japanese tend to have uniform, single perception of India as a whole, ignoring the immense diversity.

Until recently, India saw Japan as an American surrogate, having no independent foreign policy of its own. It is still a puzzle, except in terms of Japan's needs for the American market.

No sense of rivalry between each other.

An "island country" syndrome and shyness.

Tactless repetition of profuse apology


1.  Psychological distance towards India seems to trouble the Japanese businessmen, and not vice versa. Even if the Indian businessmen perceive any psychological distance, it would not affect their doing business with Japan.
2.  Foreigners have a view that the Japanese businessmen are most conspicuously nervous about psychological distance from foreign countries.
3.  The conclusion of this observation is that the Japanese themselves must become conscious of their own above-mentioned peculiarity, and become more at ease while interacting with foreign businessmen.
4.  Nevertheless, in order to overcome the psychological distance in their stride, it may be useful for Japanese businessmen to keep in mind the above-mentioned generic contrast between India and Japan. After all, the distance in question is mostly, and such a realization will create a closer and deeper relationship with mutual understanding. Geographical distance can be abridged by improving transportation and communication. Psychological distance may recede through interaction with open mindset leaving psychological obsession.
5.  Though requests have been made to me by a few parties to identify the distance between India and Japan, it is high time now to interact more on synergies rather than thinking of differences between the two, together with the spirit of mutual benefits for a more rewarding relationship.
6.  Since various comments on the above list are being given to me from many friends of mine in India and Japan, the contents of the ab0ove list may be enlarged and more amplified in future. However, most probably above would remain unchanged.