Sony University opens in Singapore

update Japanese electronics giant opens first overseas campus and will invest S$4.5 million over next three years to equip future leaders for both developed and developing markets, company states.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

update SINGAPORE--Japanese consumer electronics giant Sony is looking to groom its next generation of business leaders and decision-makers from a new base after it opened its first overseas Sony University campus here. This will, in turn, help equip the company with the requisite talent for its expansion into the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions.

The company officially opened its 3,362-square-feet Sony University campus here Wednesday, which is its first outside Japan, and will be a talent nurturing ground to educate Sony's future leaders for emerging markets worldwide. Sony will be investing approximately S$4.5 million (US$3.5 million) over the next three years to ensure the next generation of decision-makers are well equipped to work in both developed and developing markets, the company stated.

The original Sony University, located in Tokyo, was first established in 2000 to boost cross-border and cross-business cultivation of leaders within the company. There are about 10 programs offered annually and the university has about close to 1,000 alumni members since its inception, Sony said.

Around 70 to 100 participants--from the Asia-Pacific region as well as around the world--are expected to attend the Singapore campus annually, it revealed. The first intake of senior executives will commence in March this year.

On the differences in the two campuses, Narihiko Uemura, managing director of Sony Electronics Asia-Pacific and Sony Electronics Singapore, said the Japanese institution continues to focus on developing senior executives across all of Sony's business units around the world.

The Singapore university, on the other hand, aims to provide leadership education for Sony's future leaders to drive growth in the company's businesses, particularly in key emerging markets such as China, India, Vietnam, South Africa and the Middle East, he said during a media session held in conjunction with the campus opening Wednesday.

There are currently two courses--business leaders program (BLP) and strategic leaders program (SLP)--offered by the Singapore campus, the company disclosed. The BLP is aimed at mid-level executives to prepare them for senior management roles, while the SLP is meant to equip senior managers to take on regional roles, it stated.

The actual training for the BLP and SLP courses last six and nine days, respectively, but participants graduate much later, said Hew Evans, director of regional human resources (HR) at Sony Electronics Asia-Pacific, who was also at the event on Wednesday.

"First it's a deep dive in the classroom, and then [students] leave with homework and projects for about three to four months, and there's coaching and video conferencing. Then it's back to the classroom, and then more coaching… So [the entire program] is about nine months," Evans told ZDNet Asia on the sidelines.

According to the HR director, course participants are nominated by Sony's various business lines managers, who are then evaluated by the regional HR department to assess their suitability.

Long-term investment in talent
As for why Sony decided to set up an overseas campus, Evans said the idea was first mooted in March last year as the company saw that with the rise of Asia and its middle class, it would need strong leaders to execute its "big growth plans" for the region.

He also emphasized that investment in talent remains an important philosophy in Sony, and the company takes a long-term view with regard to reaping the fruits of its investments.

"We invest in product design, we invest in people," Evans reiterated.

Ultimately, Sony will have "quality leaders" who are systematically groomed from the University initiative. These executives will also have a stronger affinity to the company, which helps in talent retention, he concluded.

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