Sophia Magazine vol.1 / SUMMER 2015

Over the past 30 years, Fumihiko Ike, Chairman of Honda Motor Co., Ltd., has been at the forefront of global negotia-tions. “When our rival companies visited us seeking part-nerships, as we exchanged business cards I learnt that the job title ‘negotiator’ existed. I was envious because that title perfectly explained what I did.” Ike has been an important global player in enhancing the brand value of Honda worldwide, and has also played an important role in developing its corporate global strategy in a competitive market. “The key element was that I could negotiate in English face-to-face. I always thought the Eng-lish language was suited to speaking logically. Rather than using an interpreter, it was to my advantage to be able to present the corporate standpoint at international negotia-tions.” Ike majored in English Studies at Sophia University, and his English language skills acquired during his study opened the door to opportunities. After graduating in 1976, he began his career working as an audio equipment sales ofcer handling businesses with US military bases in Japan. After six years of such experience, he applied to Honda in response to a recruitment advertisement seeking interna-tional sales staff. Only three months after Ike joined Honda, an opportunity arose to conduct business again in English: he was sent to India to help coordinate the establishment of a joint venture with a local company there. “I was devastated. It was about 30 years ago and as we landed in Bombay (Mumbai), there were countless impoverished people begging for help.” Ike’s mission was to visit more than 100 companies in India with a team of engineers to conduct a feasibility study to deter-mine whether Indian companies could produce motorcycle parts equal in quality to Honda’s. At that time, consumers in India had to wait as long as 20 years to buy a motorcycle. After Honda and an Indian company successfully formed a joint venture, Hero Honda Motors, it became the biggest motorcycle company in India, producing more than 5 million bikes per year. “In order to earn people’s trust it was important to talk ‘real,’ to speak from my heart.” After his success in India, Ike was often called upon to join Honda executives for negotiations in various projects and special missions. “I have learned how to think logically,choosing the right words to express and conclude agree-ments in English. It is quite different from Japanese busi-ness communication, which tends to focus on impressionsor reading between the lines.” Ike, who has never been ambiguous in his negotiations, was brought up in a typical Japanese family and went to local public schools before entering Sophia University. Since he was little he had always wanted to be able to speak English. His parents and sisters had mastered English and his respect for them encouraged him to learn English. When he entered Sophia, campus activists were still demonstrating in the student movement, distributing bills, making speeches and carrying placards to express social and political opinions. Ike also participated by publishing journals, promoting awareness of social issues like environ-mental pollution. “The atmosphere of the English Studies department at Sophia was stimulating because almost half the students were returnees from overseas. It was a diverse environment.” Looking back on his path, Ike emphasizes the importance not only of English skills but of developing awareness. He encourages students not only to cultivate knowledge but to gain experience. He stresses that they should gain ap-preciation of nature, art and people of various cultures and backgrounds. “I would also like students to value the crafts-manship and manufacturing of Japan, which are our great strengths. These elements are still our future potential. Al-though we live in a digital age, quality products and skilled people are our greatest assets, which we should promote in the global community with pride.” Talk ‘Real’ to Win People’s TrustIke in Oshima to teach English to junior high school students on the island. Here, he is seen with fellow members of the Sophia Teaching Pro-gram, which include Ken-saku Yoshida (far left, with an elbow on Ike), current-ly Sophia’s Professor and Director of the Center for Language Education and Research, and also Profes-sor Michael Milward (far right), English Studies.Sophia: Diverse Students, Stimulating Learning EnvironmentIke (standing, second from left) at the signing ceremony in 2000 of a powertrain supply agreement between Honda and General Motors, in which Honda agreed to supply its V6 engine and au-tomatic transmission to GM. Pictured sitting are Honda’s and GM’s respective chairmen at the time, Yoshihide Munekuni and Jack Smith.Ike, with Prime Minister Shinzo-Abe, attends the Japan-US Eco-nomic Forum in 2015 organized by JETRO as a delegate. Ike also serves as chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers As-sociation.Sophia People19

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