Nine years have passed since KUURAKU India was established. Did you expect the success you have achieved today?
Yes, as I expected. Because from the very beginning, I knew that “with Mr. Honda, there would be no doubt. From the first time I met Mr. Honda, he was a very passionate person. Moreover, he had actually lived and conducted business in India, so I was confident of his success.
My first connection with President Fukuhara was that my cousin was a member of the KUURAKU Group. Before I met President Fukuhara, I visited KUURAKU’s Ginza 1-chome branch. I still remember how wonderful it was to see you smiling so happily at customers and staff. Since that time, there have been some Japanese restaurants in India. I strongly felt that KUURAKU’s concept of “eat, drink, and enjoy” would be a hit in India, and that if people came to like Japan through KUURAKU, they would come to Japan. I am very happy to be here.
Our company was established in 1999. We want to provide meals and services that not only satisfy the hunger of our customers, but also energize their hearts and minds. We can achieve this through the staff who work with us. We have continued to manage our business with an emphasis on believing in the potential of each individual and entrusting them with their work. 2004 marked our entry into Canada, and since that time we have always had the desire to “make people around the world happy through our restaurants. So, while I was thinking about where to take on the next challenge after Canada, it was the best timing for me to be approached by Mr. Honda.
Mr. Fukuhara especially takes great care of his staff, and everyone at KUURAKU seems to be very happy working there. Seeing this, I thought it would be interesting to work with him to attack India. In India, there is still a kind of occupational caste that is deeply rooted, and sometimes bosses shout abuse at you. However, I also thought that together with President Fukuhara, we could change such a culture. When I met him for the first time, I gave him a presentation saying, “This is the kind of place India is” and “Japanese food is lacking,” and he immediately invited me to visit India!
That’s right. When I heard Mr. Honda’s passionate talk, I couldn’t stay away. I was very excited to hear that Mr. Honda’s company would be supporting the restaurant of the hotel to be constructed in Neemrana, India. When we actually toured India, we saw a chaotic situation with a mixture of modern sights and impoverished streets. Seeing this, if we had been on our own, I don’t think we would have had any idea what kind of business we should do or where to start.
You looked at the market with a focus on Gurgaon. I have memories of calling local Japanese expatriates and asking them about the problems they were having with Japanese food and what kind of restaurants would be accepted. I think it was very meaningful that we were able to conduct market research that incorporated the real voices of the local people.
It was very helpful to hear directly from the Indian and expatriate employees of Mr. Honda’s company about their opinions on Japanese food. Furthermore, it was also very helpful that you set up a specific schedule for the inspection tour and prepared all of our requests.
We are glad to hear that you actually came to the site and felt a strong sense of satisfaction. After the tour, a staff member was sent to India, and I was surprised at how quickly the process to get there was. I was trying to cut costs by living in the same room with him. I think it was important now that we were able to reduce expenses at a time when sales were slow before the opening.
Thank you very much for taking care of the expatriates sent from our company. It was also a good experience for us to help Mr. Honda with his hotel meals. It was very easy to work with you because you did not suddenly say “let’s invest hundreds of millions of yen” from the beginning.
In the meantime, we were traveling around to find a location for the restaurant. At the time, half of our target customers were Japanese, so we were looking for a location where both Japanese and Indians could easily visit the store. It takes about six months to open a restaurant after deciding on a location, so I think it was very good that we were able to incorporate KUURAKU’s corporate culture into our staff while training them in operations at a hotel in Neemrana during that time.
That support was perfect. We had time for running, so when we opened the store in Gurgaon, it was in perfect condition. There were various hurdles regarding the liquor license, and it took both more time and money than expected, and we had to ask people to bring in their own alcohol at that time, but that is also a good memory.
After the opening of the first restaurant, a Japanese acquaintance of mine said to me, “The Japanese restaurant market has completely changed since KUURAKU came to India, thank you! Thank you! We also received feedback from Indian customers at the time that they were impressed by Japanese food for the first time and that they wanted to visit Japan. I am very happy that we were able to team up with President Fukuhara and create an opportunity for people to experience Japanese culture.
Thank you very much. I am really glad too.
It is also good to see the staff working so energetically. There was a case in which a former dishwasher became Kitchen manager.
Yes, that is correct. Through the leaders we dispatched to India, I believe that our desire to “make people happy all over the world through our restaurants” was conveyed to the local staff. Thanks to them, I feel that we were able to create our corporate culture in India as well. It was also good that we established a personnel evaluation system. Since there were many young staff members in India, they were able to work with dreams in mind. I believe that giving opportunities to those who work diligently because every person has potential will be a good opportunity to change India, even though occupational caste is still strong.
It is unthinkable in the Indian culture until now that staffs washing dishes can lead to career advancement! For us, KUURAKU joined us at the stage of building and operating the hotel to brush up the quality of our food and service. It would have been impossible for us to start a Japanese restaurant from scratch. It was great that we were able to borrow experience and know-how from KUURAKU, which is developing stores in Ginza.
I am glad to hear you say so, it brings back memories of nine years ago! Mr. Honda’s words, “Let’s succeed in India together! I was very encouraged by Mr. Honda’s words, “Let’s succeed in India together! I have always placed importance on who I work with, and I was convinced that together with Mr. Honda, we would be able to create a good joint venture company. And that is exactly what we are doing now.
Thank you very much. We currently have six restaurants, but we plan to open one after another in Bangalore in August and Mumbai the next, reaching ten restaurants in two years. After that, we have a common goal of going public. In other words, as an Indian dream, we hope to be able to show a Japanese company playing an active role in the market.
It has been nine years since we joined forces, and we have built up our track record to the point where we were able to open our sixth store in August of this year. I don’t think we would have been able to achieve this much if Mr. Honda had not been our partner. I am sure there are other consulting firms that provide support for overseas expansion, but some of them only have a superficial knowledge of what they are doing. However, Mr. Honda has a track record of doing business with his own hands. In addition to our joint venture, he has his own company and another company in Sri Lanka. He has overcome all kinds of difficulties and has a lot of wisdom and power, which gives us a great sense of trust in him. We are very happy to have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Honda.
Thank you very much. India is a large market, and I look forward to its further growth in the future.
Yes, I agree. I think that if we stay in Japan and do business, we will not be able to create the future. Taking on the challenge of India, which will surely grow in the future, will be a great strength for the company and its employees. In addition, although we now receive media coverage, there was almost no media coverage at that time. However, the spirit of “We are creating a Japanese food boom in India,” not only motivated the team, but also increased the social significance of the project. And if people in India like Japan after eating Japanese food, they will eventually come to Japan, creating a virtuous cycle.
The Indian market still offers opportunities for many Japanese companies. I am looking forward to the future. It seems that there is no time to make excuses because of Corona.
I would like them to visit the site now and feel it with their eyes and bodies.
What I want to do is not to “go broad and shallow,” but to make each company’s technology and services make a solid leap forward in India. Currently, I am often in Japan, so I will first conduct interviews in Japan. Then, once we are able to formulate a management strategy, I will take them to India with such vigor that they will pull my hand (laughs). I would like to contribute to the creation of opportunities for one or two companies.
I am happy to see more Japanese companies like ours succeeding.
With the success story of KUURAKU, I hope we can create many more companies to follow in its footsteps.
Let’s do it by all means.
Yes, I look forward to continuing to work with you.