Sanyo's green ambition

Sanyo Middle East's chief regional officer, Takashi Hirao, on the company's plans to go green.

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By  Laura Collacott Published  August 8, 2008

Sanyo Middle East's chief regional officer, Takashi Hirao on the company's plans to go green.

I feel like I'm up in front of the panel. I've come to interview Takashi Hirao - Sanyo Electric Company's chief regional officer, MEA & India - and not one but a whole legion of businessmen are sitting on the other side of a gargantuan conference desk.

It is a little intimidating. Gingerly, I switch the dictaphone to record and push it across the table towards the man in question.

Because we were late in the Japanese domestic market, our focus has been on offshore markets.

Fortunately my unease is unwarranted. Those sitting before me are perfect gentleman, not least Hirao. He has impeccable manners and succinctly answers all my questions in accented but near-flawless English.

The board flanking him is called upon for information as necessary with the polite efficiency that the Japanese are known for.

And this is a company that stays close to its Japanese roots, while establishing a strong global presence. Although it is a member of the Fortune 500 with offices worldwide, the company remains headquartered in Moriguchi, Japan and retains a strong local culture.

Hirao embodies this culture - unsurprising, given that he has been with Sanyo for more than 30 years.

In the modern world it is pretty unusual for a tenure to be so longstanding. "No, it's not unusual," he disagrees. "It is normal for the Japanese, at least those of my age."

In which case, the initial decision as to which company to work for is a pretty weighty one. How did he settle on Sanyo? "I wanted to work for trading firms, to deal with the foreign people," he says, going on to explain: "We were basically a latecomer in the Japanese domestic market. The founder of Sanyo worked for Panasonic in its early days, then he left the company and started Sanyo Electric in 1945. So because we were late in the Japanese domestic market, our focus has been on offshore markets."

This international outlook has served him well and Hirao has travelled widely with his job. Although he is now living in Dubai under his latest designation as chief regional officer, he lived in the United States for nine years presiding over the North American sales division there.

The prolonged stint in the States has left him with a connection to the country; his favourite place to be is Chicago and he has been following the presidential election process closely. I chime in with, ‘I'm an Obama fan'. "Then let's not talk!" he laughs. I've rumbled a disappointed Clinton supporter.

The global perspective that attracted Hirao to the company is to this day very much embedded into the company philosophy. And now it's gone a step further. The corporate vision that Sanyo pushes at the moment is one that the leaders have named ‘Gaia'.

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