Professionals from Japan and India brainstorm on future IT ties at Tokyo tech event

by Shusuke Murai

Staff Writer

As the domestic market faces a shortage of information technology engineers, Japan has turned its eyes on India’s abundance of IT talent to prepare for the anticipated “internet of things” society.

At the Bengaluru Tokyo Technology Initiative event, held Friday in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, policymakers, scholars and officials from both Japan and India discussed potential bilateral collaboration in the industry.

Japan and India could be “a good match” to drive efforts to realize an internet of things society, where many things are connected to the internet, said Tatsuya Terazawa, director-general at the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry’s Commerce and Information Policy Bureau who spoke at a panel discussion.

Manufacturing high-quality products is one of Japan’s strengths, but the nation doesn’t have enough IT engineers to underpin software development for internet of things technologies. On the other hand, India’s strength lies in the rapid growth of its IT startups while its hardware production is not as strong as that of Japan, Terazawa said, adding that collaboration between the two nations will make it possible to create a strong industrial base that can compete with IT behemoths like China.

A 2016 ministry survey estimated that Japan was short of 171,000 IT professionals in 2015, and that the number may balloon to 790,000 by 2030. Another survey, by the Information-technology Promotion Agency Japan, showed that about 87 percent of 1,221 domestic IT companies surveyed in fiscal 2016 found they were short of IT staff.

“I hope this event will be a turning point to make the great potential for collaboration between Japan and India into a reality,” Terazawa said.

The event was attended by about 200 participants from 90 Japanese companies, scholars, government officials and others. It also attracted 22 Indian IT startups from various sectors, including transportation, artificial intelligence, medical, agriculture, Fintech and space business, giving them an opportunity to network with Japanese investors.

For India, Japan can be seen as an attractive investor that has maintained a strong diplomatic relationship for a long time, said R.K. Misra, a non-resident fellow at Carnegie India who chaired the panel discussion.

But challenges remain as many Japanese companies still believe India is an underdeveloped country that is difficult to do business with — despite the rapid emergence of prominent IT ventures, he said.

“If you really want to get the next Facebook or next Google, it will come from India. If you don’t invest now, you will not get it,” he said. “There is no reason for Japan and India not to work together.”

The event was organized by Tokyo-based Sasakawa Peace Foundation and Delhi-based Carnegie India. It was also supported by the industry ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Japan External Trade Organization and the Embassy of India.