Ladies and Gentlemen:
My name is Masami Iijima. As President of Mitsui & Co., Ltd., I would like to congratulate you all on becoming employees of this company.
This morning you will be thinking about the future from various perspectives as you start the first day of your working lives. Like you, I tried to imagine what my life with Mitsui & Co. would be like as I attended a similar induction ceremony 39 years ago.
An Era of Dramatic Change
I joined Mitsui & Co. in 1974. That was the year of the first oil crisis, and it also marked the end of Japan's high-growth period. We entered an era where we had to improve our international competitiveness as a result of environmental changes, including the high yen and rising energy prices. My first few years as an employee of Mitsui & Co. coincided with the era of dramatic change that began in that milestone year.
As new employees joining Mitsui & Co. in 2013, I sense that the years ahead for you will be another era of dramatic change on an even greater scale than the changes that I experienced after joining Mitsui & Co.
In today's world of economic globalization, changes and events in one country can instantly trigger unexpected situations on the other side of the globe. The shale gas revolution in the United States has left Qatar with surplus gas, which was imported into Japan after the earthquake to meet Japan's electricity supply needs. Social networking services (SNS) have spread globally across cultural and religious boundaries. Today those networks are being used as tools to topple long-standing regimes in the Middle East and Africa. Changes spread globally and at an accelerating pace around our increasingly borderless world, continually triggering complex chain reactions of change. This is truly an era of dramatic change.
To survive in this world of complex and dramatic change, Mitsui & Co. must ensure that its business models evolve in step with change. That is why my New Year message this year included a call for all employees to develop sensitivity to change and agility.
In times of rapid change, it becomes very difficult to predict what will happen next. However, I am convinced that the world economy will expand and people will become more prosperous over the medium/long-term future. That process will generate a variety of needs, including reliable access to supplies of essential items, such as energy, food and water, the improvement of basic services, including healthcare and education, and the development of infrastructure, including systems for electric power, transportation and telecommunications. There will be increased business opportunities as industry works to meet those needs. There will be new opportunities for Mitsui & Co., as a company that originated in Japan and has grown globally, to create new business in Japan by channeling the vitality of an expanding and increasingly prosperous world into Japan.
To discover opportunities and create new business, we need every employee to be alert to the signs of change. Only by using our imagination to anticipate possible future events and preparing for situations that are expected to arise can we move with agility to seize opportunities. Please remember that as new employees you will be judged on your ability to apply your imagination and make persistent preparations.
Development of nations, Development of a new era
I have a special message that I want to impart to you today. We want you all to become people who can play a key role in development of nations, development of a new era, and creation of a better future.
Mitsui & Co., the company that you have joined, was originally founded by Takashi Masuda in 1876 to meet the contemporary social need for the development of industry. The establishment of Mitsui & Co. was inspired by a strong commitment to development of nations and creation of a better future, an ambition to build Japan into an industrial and trading nation that would rank alongside the nations of the West.
That commitment is best expressed in the words of Takashi Masuda himself: "Avoid infatuation with immediate advantage. To achieve enduring prosperity, harbor grand aspirations."
As someone born into a samurai family, Masuda was motivated not by the mere pursuit of profit, but by the samurai spirit, which emphasizes the high ideal of working for the good of society and people. At the same time, he demonstrated the pragmatic acumen needed for business and was able to contribute to national development. This combination of the samurai spirit with business acumen is the true DNA of Mitsui & Co. Mitsui & Co. has since worked continuously to meet the needs of society in each era, by promoting the development of light industries in the prewar period, by importing raw materials and exporting finished products in the postwar high-growth era, and by securing energy resources.
As an example of our approach, I would like to talk about our activities in Africa. Mitsui & Co. has designated Mozambique as a corporate priority region, and we are currently involved in the development of one of the world's biggest gas fields there. Many people would assume that we have designated Mozambique as a priority region because of our intention to increase our emphasis on resource development, but in fact we are looking beyond that.
Obviously, resource development will bring benefits to Mozambique as the country that owns those resources, but Mozambique needs to channel income earned from its resources into the development of industries, including manufacturing, and the improvement of its industrial infrastructure.
When Mitsui & Co. engages in business overseas, our approach is always guided by our determination to help the country concerned to achieve genuine prosperity. In Mozambique, we will engage in a meaningful project to contribute to national development by using our integrated strengths to meet the local needs not only through gas field development, but also in other ways, including the development of thermal power stations and port facilities, the exportation of titanium ore and the importation of rice from Myanmar.
Emphasis on the Front-Line
Two things are vital in this context. First, we must always be ready to go to the front line of business.
The year before last, I visited Mozambique for the first time in 30 years. I found that the country had achieved amazing development. The people walking in the streets were much better dressed, and there were fine cars on the roads. There was also plenty of food. I still recalled the impressions that I had formed 30 years earlier, and I was completely amazed by the transformation. Yet with a per capita GDP of US$652 in 2012, Mozambique is still ranked only 164th among the world's 185 countries. All of the customers and government leaders that I met spoke with great intensity about the need to develop a wide range of industries. Unless we achieve a deeper understanding of the real situation by combining statistical data with information based on first-hand observations in the country concerned, we cannot hope to respond effectively to the needs of that country ahead of our competitors.
The Mitsui & Co. approach is to go to the front line of business so that we can make our own observations and form our own perceptions. We hone our imaginations so that we can anticipate changes, and we think deeply about how Mitsui & Co. can contribute through business. After seeking the cooperation and advice of our colleagues, we make preparations and take action. Repetitions of this cycle eventually lead to major projects that contribute to development of nations and creation of a better future.
People with a Good Balance of Skills and Spiritual Qualities
The second vital requirement is a commitment to work to the best of one's ability to contribute to national development and the development of future generations with a strong sense of ethics, high aspirations, humility and a sense of gratitude, and with a determination to carry out even mundane, everyday tasks in good faith and with a sense of responsibility. Eventually, people with a good balance of skills and spiritual qualities are able to earn the trust and respect of those around them and can play an active and wide-ranging role.
Opening up before you is an expanding vista of opportunities to respond to the needs of a rapidly changing world. We want you to seize those opportunities and take up the challenge of development of nations and creation of a better future in Japan and globally. Never forget that, to achieve these goals, you need to develop a good balance of skills and spiritual qualities, to be ready to go to the front line of business, and to apply your total abilities to the task in hand.
Mitsui & Co. will work hard through its human resource development programs to develop you into people who can contribute to developing nations and creation of a better future. This is what we mean when we say that "Mitsui is People." We promise to give you opportunities to improve your abilities and achieve your full potential. In return, we want you to work with commitment and determination. We have high hopes for you.
I will conclude by offering you my best wishes for good health and a fulfilling and rewarding career with Mitsui & Co. Once again, congratulations.