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

I often get asked about two places, especially Japan and India. Texas is the only place I know since I grew up there. Texas is like the third wheel and matters more these days. India is my home base when I think about my ancestral roots. Japan would be 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’s sports teams with Oakland’s, two different worlds avoiding overlap.

India is a software culture. Japan is a hardware culture. India is diverse yet unified. Japan is monocultural and unified. Indians speak many languages. The Japanese rely on one and prefer the world learns this remarkable 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 versions of foreign foods, nemawashi & respect for tradition even at foreign companies). 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 excellent blueprints for good customer experience.

Indian culture is overwhelmed by pedantic philosophy and storytelling. Japanese culture emphasizes process improvement. One culture offers a curated template for soul searching, while the other provides a detailed playbook with some undocumented 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 that can offer a customer experience overlapping Indian and Japanese attributes. Steve Jobs was a massive 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. I’m proud to be a consultant to Apple, the world’s most creative company.

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