5 Minutes With... President and CEO of Shiseido, Masahiko Uotani
President and CEO of Shiseido, Masahiko Uotani, wants to make the world a beautiful place. And no, he’s not just talking about lipsticks and sunscreens.
Towering in the all-white room at the Shiseido office in Singapore was a man with an arresting smile and a firm, warm handshake. Shiseido’s president and CEO Masahiko Uotani, who was running behind schedule, offered an apology for the delay. I replied by thanking him for his time, to which he said with a laugh, “It’s also my job to be here. We get paid to do this, no?”
Perhaps his sincere attempt to level our grounds is an allusion to our upcoming discussion. As he talks of breaking traditional corporate structures within the 144-year-old Japanese brand, he shares some of the core values he hopes Shiseido will live up to.
What is your mission at Shiseido?
The most important thing isn’t how we see our goals to fruition. I prefer to work in the opposite direction. I ask myself this: What is important to us? What kind of company do we want to be? What is our real longterm goal? We realised that our mission is to inspire beauty within cultures. To achieve that, we need to start within; we need a company that builds relationships, a company that celebrates diversity. First, we see our customers as part of our Shiseido family. We see our employees as part of our family.
I believe Imaan Hammam is the first black model to appear in a major Shiseido campaign. Is this diversity something we’ll see more of?
I think so. Diversity is indispensable. The Japanese society is going through a huge change in terms of diversity. Not just between men and women, but Japanese and non-Japanese, the more senior and the young. The mosaic of different backgrounds, nationalities, languages, religions helps us go in depth with the things we do and the values we bring in. We have different ideas. We ask each other difficult questions. These make us dig deep into details. It only makes us stronger.
Is hierarchy or homogeneity more important?
I don’t like hierarchy. We are closing the gaps, working together as a team, and not just at the office. The principle applies to the relationship between our customers and us. The new Shiseido concept is about cultivating empathy, communication, sharing. Society hierarchy is already becoming flatter and everyone should be treated with respect. Our approach shows our customers that whatever they need from us, whatever values they stand for, we are with them. We are together.
What are the values Shiseido operate under?
Companies never survive standing alone. We are not just a part of a Japanese society anymore; we are a part of a global society. What we do to better the lives of others, betters us. We want to continue creating value for our customers, and that isn’t product talk. It’s in everything we do. We recently sent our team to Bangladesh to educate women on skincare, to provide them with the means to care for themselves. Our cosmetic products are tools to help us deliver our values into society. That’s how we change the world.