Culture & Customer experience: India vs Japan (has Apple figured it out?)

I often get asked about two places. The only place I really know is Texas, where I’m from. It’s the third wheel and matters less these days. India is my home base when I think about my ancestral roots. Japan is my home if I stayed true to my modern values ranging from Zen Buddhism to an aesthetic way of life. Texas is my wildcard culture since I’ve spent more time there than anywhere else. Texas may be just as patriotic as India or Japan. It offers a lot — low taxes and maybe, the friendliest people in the world. You won’t meet Texans who aren’t proud.

Being an expert in different cultures is common in San Francisco. Everyone has a strong understanding of one or many cultures. There may not be two more divergent cultures than India and Japan. The customer  experience in India versus Japan is like comparing San Francisco sports teams with Oakland’s; two different worlds avoiding overlap.


India is a software culture. Japan is a hardware culture. India is parochial, yet unified. Japan is monocultural and unified. Indians speak many languages. The Japanese speak one and prefer the world learns this special language. Indians are highly adaptive and do as the locals do, wherever they are. The Japanese seek familiarity and like to maintain a Japanese version of their culture wherever they are (like Japanese curry, nemawashi & respect for tradition). Indians put up with the grind; haggling and fighting for small, immediate victories. The Japanese seek perfection, and will wait (for a long time) to make it happen. The pursuit of speed versus quality sometimes generates neither.

Indians boast of their spirituality and yoga through indoctrination. The Japanese like to showcase their Zen appreciation of the world through simplified design and physical presentation. Both cultures impact the user experience and offer nice blueprints for good customer experience.

Indian culture is overwhelmed by pedantic philosophy and storytelling. Japanese culture is focused on process improvement. One culture offers a curated template for soul searching, while the other offers a detailed playbook with documented rules. Both cultures have sparked a wave of  creativity across the world. Indians lead the largest software companies. Japanese influence the mobile, gaming and automotive industries.

I believe the future belongs to companies which can offer a customer experience with overlapping Indian and Japanese attributes. Steve Jobs was a huge fan of both cultures and studied them like an apprentice when he began his career. Through Apple, he uncovered a secret sauce from mixing these cultures. Every time Apple launches a new product I see something influenced by these seemingly opposite cultures. Nearly everyone in Japan and India loves Apple products. It’s rare for any company to do well in these unique markets at the same time.

Look forward to Apple’s announcement on Sept. 9:

Apple announcement

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