Interviewed by Isao Tokuhashi, Emma Withrow
Edited by Emma Withrow
Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fariza Abidova (Uzbekistan)
CEO & President of SOPHYS Corporation / Trusted Corporation
Earlier last December just as the holiday season began showing itself here in Tokyo we were fortunate to have the chance to sit down with Fariza Abidova for a cup of tea and a chat on referral from Verena Hopp. Over the course of our talk her tenacity and dedication was evident in her journey from Uzbekistan to Tokyo, and in the hopes and plans she has for her future.
To best understand what sets Fariza at the forefront of her business sector, we must first understand her journey.
*Interview in Shinjuku
What brought you to Japan?
Originally from Samarkand Uzbekistan, Fariza grew up with Japanese media and products around her. Her hometown is full of foreign tourists, and as a child Fariza was interested in the different languages they spoke and the cultures they came from. As she grew up she learned not only her native tongues of Tajik, Russian, Uzbek, Turkish and Persian, but later expanded into English and Japanese.
“Growing up I was fascinated by Japanese styles, like houses with the sliding doors and kimono, it was a style that was very new to me. I was always curious about the country, but just never had a chance to learn about it until I grew up.”
A chance to explore Japan came about during her university years, as her English linguistics program allowed the students to study a second language. After a long time of developing her curiosity, she chose Japanese. A large part of her decision was a fascination with kanji (漢字, Chinese characters) and the ways that each character depicts a word or idea, something completely new to her linguistically.
As she continued in her studies the opportunity to apply to the MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology; one of the ministries of the Japanese government) scholarship program and further her studies in Japan came about.
How did you feel when you first came to Japan?
“Japan was completely new for me, even just seeing the ocean was a new experience. My hometown was quite small and I had never been abroad, so seeing all these skyscrapers, the ocean, all the people, it was all so exciting.”
Didn’t you think about going back to Uzbekistan?
After experiencing life in japan she wanted to have an independent life by building her own career. As difficult as this time was she was encouraged by her own independence and desire to achieve her dreams.
Once she was able to achieve her independence she began considering what her next step would be. A friend of hers suggested that she use her cross-cultural education as the main ingredient for her business, an idea that she hadn’t considered at the time. As she moved towards the idea of having her own business she established her first company in 2010 that rapidly became to be known as SOPHYS corporation, a global talent development consulting firm for the biggest Japanese companies in various industries.
Beginning her new company
It was a slow start, as the biggest part was building up a network and getting her name out there. She began by running free globalization seminars for businesses which focused on the case studies from the research she had done at Kobe University. It was through those teachers that she was introduced to her first big client company, increasing her track record exponentially and allowing her business to grow further.
“The way that I stand out in this industry is by having a very unique approach. When I developed my seminars I did it without looking at the examples of others, I created things with only my own ideas. I think that’s been a huge factor in setting me apart from other consulting and seminar groups.”
As for the the diversification of Japanese companies, what do you think about it? Are those getting more multifaceted compared to the year that you became a multinational HR consultant?
Fariza explains that while the biggest companies are becoming very global the next challenge is getting foreign projects and growing their talent pool. They have the technology and the desire to go overseas but few employees in their company who can handle sales or get clients in the other countries. Most are trying to fill those gaps, but are struggling with how to define global talent within their company. With their quick growth abroad they need to incorporate high quality talent to handle that, people with the correct skills and know-how to handle these new environments.
What do foreign employees have to do or learn in order to work with Japanese employees or Japanese bosses? And what do Japanese employees need to learn in order to work with foreign talent?
“The biggest issue I see happening between Japanese and foreign talent are miscommunications. While they can all communicate linguistically in English, there are a lot of other factors they haven’t taken into consideration, such as cultural norms and ways of expressing yourself.”
Fariza feels that each side needs to share their culture with the other, but also retain their own cultural identity. By being themselves and actively trying to understand the other, they can hopefully avoid these miscommunication pitfalls. Employees and companies need to retain their own individual identity and originality while respecting each other’s cultures.
What can Japanese companies do to succeed abroad?
Fariza says it is very important to build your own credibility when dealing with international business people, as the humble approach of Japanese companies tends to be misunderstood and not taken seriously.
In Japan credibility is built up by sharing how important your company is, almost a brand-to-brand communication style but foreign companies place a high importance on the credibility of the individual in the company.
What is your next goal?
In February 2017, Fariza has an exciting new business plan that she will be implementing as a solution to help businesses that are looking to expand abroad.
She established Trusted Corporation, a membership-based, pre-screened cross-border B2B platform primarily for small and midsize companies of any industry/country.
The platform makes it possible to find business partners without middlemen and to reach any company’s decision makers directly. Customers benefit from direct sales leads and interesting collaboration offers from abroad.
We here at My Eyes Tokyo are incredibly excited to see where Fariza’s next steps take her, as her journey here to Tokyo and her success with her business is quite a motivational story. We are sure you join us in expecting more successes headed her way and SOPHYS and Trusted Corporation will continue to grow and expand.