INSEAD Participant Interview

Senior Management Challenges in an Asian Context

Michel Korenian

Head of Marketing - Merial Japan
Tokyo, Japan
August 2013

"It really helped me to better understand the challenges we face in this part of the world."

Can you please introduce yourself?

I am presently the Head of Marketing Companion Animal and member of the Country Leadership Team at Merial Japan. Merial is the Animal Health Division of Sanofi (a global leader in the pharmaceutical industry) with 6,000 employees worldwide and €2.2bn turnover in 2012. I am in charge to market our pharmaceutical products and vaccines for Companion Animal and Equine in Japan.

Born and raised in France, I have a double qualification in Science (Microbiology and Biotechnology)and Sales & Marketing. I worked in Europe for 16 years in various Sales and Marketing roles before moving to Japan.

I started a new career in Japan in 2003 as a new personal challenge but also for family reasons. In 2005, I worked one year with Nippon Zenyaku located in Fukushima prefecture.  In 2006, I joined Merial Japan as Head of Marketing CA.

What are some of the key challenges in your role at Merial?

The main challenges are with communication amongst my Japanese team and colleagues. It is sometimes difficult to be well understood and also to understand each other. This can lead to many frustrations from both sides.

I find a key difference between the French and Japanese business cultures is that the French are fast to execute but may make mistakes whereas the Japanese will execute slower and mistakes are strictly forbidden. We need to find a happy medium to communicate and, ultimately, work effectively together.

What made you decide to come on the Asian International Executive Programme?

Merial Japan is working to implement a new business strategy to support the future launch of new products.

I was looking for a short but intensive and high level programme in Management, Strategy and Marketing focusing in the Asia region. INSEAD proposed this very unique Asian International Executive Programme.

I considered other Sales and Marketing related programmes (at alternate institutions) but they lacked the global Asian perspective I required.

Were your expectations met?

INSEAD was highly recommended to me by one of my colleagues as an internationally recognised academic institution.

The learning process itself was an excellent aspect of the programme as we studied a mix of academic theory plus real life business cases. This took place in interactive lectures and in small groups of very diversified and qualified participants. For me the faculty was excellent and very knowledgeable.  I particularly appreciated the “World Class Speaking “presentation by all the Professors, which greatly increased the interaction with the audiences.

In my particular case, I am able to use and apply a large portion of the programme which confirms the good choice I made with the Asian International Executive Programme.

What were some of the key takeaways from the programme?

As a direct result of this programme, I have implemented new business and marketing strategy plans, leading to enhanced innovation to prepare for our new products portfolio launch.

I would say 90% of the content was a key takeaway for me as all trainings directly related to my learning needs and challenges. I highly valued the teachings on creating value, competitive advantage, and improved decision making processes.

The training on leading change and coaching will definitely help me better lead and communicate with my team, my colleagues and our distributor. The coaching aspect will enable me to install ownership and provide motivation to my team.

Did you benefit from the diversity of participants on the programme with you?

Yes, the diversity of the participants – from Asians, to non-Asians working in Asia - has allowed me to gain different perspectives from varied business backgrounds and industries. The broad range of participants was definitely a unique aspect to the programme and has confirmed the importance of having diversity in a group.

I have already organised a networking party with the Japanese participants in Tokyo as a follow up and experience sharing opportunity.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of doing the Asian International Executive Programme?

I would definitively recommend the programme to my executive colleagues working in Asia. It really helped me to better understand the challenges we face in this part of the world.

Note: To address the evolving needs of senior executives operating in the region, the Asian International Executive Programme has been succeeded by Leading Business Transformation in Asia.

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