Interview with Prof. Kaoru Natsuda, visiting professor of BBS
In 2019/2020 the Faculty of International Management and Business of the Budapest Business School is happy to welcome Prof. Kaoru Natsuda, a visiting professor from the Ritsumeikan Asia-Pacific University (Beppu, Oita). He is involved in various activities during his stay in Budapest which includes a research in the Centre of Excellence for Cyber-economy (KiKK). In this interview we would like to introduce him and his activities at our university.
Prof. Natsuda, first of all, we would like to ask you to shortly introduce your background. What is your job at the Ritsumeikan APU and what are your main research interests?
I am a political economist and also development economist. I completed my Ph.D in Economics at Political Economy Department, the University of Sydney in Australia and MA in International Development Studies at the University of Bradford in UK. Before I became a professor, I worked for the industry, Ernst & Young as international consultant and Hitachi Metals as a production controller.
In APU, I belong to the College of International Management and teach economics related subjects such as Asian Economy and Development Economics. I was a vice dean of the college for 5 years, in charge of various administrative duties at the college as well as university. One of our main challenges at that time was to obtain AACSB (prestigious International Accreditation of Business School) and we successfully made it. My research interests are industrial development and rural development. Particularly, I have been researching on the apparel industry in Asia, the automotive industry in Southeast Asia and Central Europe, and rural and community development in Asia.
Why did you choose Budapest Business School (BGE)? Why Hungary? Did you have any prior contact?
I came to BGE to give a public lecture for the first time in 2017. In prior to this, Prof. Novak from BGE came to our conference at APU in 2016. Then, we started communicating with each other. I am currently conducting a research on the automotive industry in Central Europe, so Hungary is one of the most interesting countries due to Magyar Suzuki’s operation.
What kind of activities have you been involved in the past few months and what are your plans for the rest of your stay? Are you involved in teaching at BGE?
I am teaching a part of “Global Value Chains and Asia” (Prof. Sass) and “Innovation and Catch-Up” (Prof. Csonka) courses in the current semester. Beside BGE, I have lectures on the automotive industry and Japanese FDI at MNB and PAIGEO. I am also participating in various international conferences in Hungary and in other neighbouring countries. With regards to my research, I am nearly finishing the manuscript of a book, entitled “Automotive Industrialisation: Industrial Policy and Development in Southeast Asia”. It will be published from Routledge (Taylor & Francis) in 2020. At the same time, I am conducting the Hungarian automotive industry research in collaboration with Prof. Sass and Prof. Csonka (KiKK).
You mentioned your research on the automotive industry together with the colleagues of the KiKK. What are the most interesting research questions for you? What is your research method? What kind of results are you expecting?
My research interests are 1) to identify a comparative difference between Japanese (Suzuki) and German (Audi and Mercedes) supply chain networks in Hungary, and 2) to find out their impact on local firms (and industry), by examining how these supply chains enhance local development in Hungary. My research method employs the Global Value Chain theory and conducts firm-based interviews – local firms, Japanese firms, and German firms in Hungry. Japanese network seems to include more local capital firms in their supply chain in Hungary. While Germany networks seem to develop remarkable industry-university linkages in Hungary.
Could you emphasize a few findings from your international experiences? What are the most interesting features of the automotive industry in Asia and in Europe? What are the most important differences?
Before I became a professor, I worked as an Investment promotion specialist at Cambodian Investment Board in Cambodia and an Economist at Tashkent’s city water company in Uzbekistan under the Japanese government’s ODA project. As my research, I worked in many countries including Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore, China, Tajikistan, Czechia, Slovakia, Romania etc.
In the automotive industry, economic geography has changed dramatically since 2000. China is the largest producer in the World. India overtook Germany and became the 4th largest producer in 2018. While France (10th) and Italy (20th) decreased their global vehicle production share. It is also worth noting that rapidly growing regions are Central Europe (Czechia: 16th and Slovakia:19th) and Southeast Asia (Thailand: 11th and Indonesia:17th). Fundamental differences between European and Asian automotive industry can be identified in the policy and the role of local industry. Firstly, under the EU treaty (article 107), sector-specific policy such as automotive development policy is banned in EU members, while Asian countries can use a sector-specific policy. In Southeast Asia, the Thai and Indonesian governments selected product champions (particular models including eco-car, pick-up truck) and promoted these models by providing tax incentives for both producers and consumers. In short, their rapid growth derives from their industrial policy. Secondly, approximately 30-50% of Tier-1 suppliers in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia are local capital firms. Large local autoparts firms in Southeast Asia have been regionalising (by establishing factories in Southeast Asia, China, etc.). Surprisingly, one of Thai firms took over a firm in Japan and owns a production factory in USA. In Central Europe, Such a dynamism is virtually none in the industry. Local firms in Central Europe are typically a sub-contactor of Tier-1 firms (German, American and Japanese multinational firms).
Let’s be a little bit more personal. You have moved away from your home for quite a long time. What are your first impressions of Budapest as a newcomer?
Since I used to live in Australia, UK, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, etc., I was able to settle down my life in Budapest fairly well. By comparing between Japan and Hungary, certain elements/systems are more efficient and easier and the others are not. For instance, I was surprised at the use/development of electric money in Hungary. Japan has been changing, but still highly cash-based society. Contrary, postal service in Japan is extremely efficient (city delivery is just next day), while in Budapest, it takes 10 days…
A similarity between Beppu (where I live) and Budapest is hot spring. There are 2,288 hot springs in Beppu City. A difference in hot springs between two cities is temperature. In Beppu, water temperature is 42-43 degree. It might be too hot for Hungarians. I go to hot springs in Budapest every two weeks and I got used to Budapest temperature recently.
Would you recommend Hungarian students and researchers to visit APU?
APU has a multi-cultural environment (50% of Japanese students and professors and 50% of foreign students and professors from over 80 countries). APU provides a dual language education system (in Japanese and English). Almost all subjects at APU are held in two languages, thus our students can choose the language by subject. At the moment, BGE and APU are finalizing our partnership agreement. If BGE students and professors are interested in our university, you will be more than welcome.
Prof. Natsuda, Thank you very much for your answers. Wish you a fruitful stay in Budapest!