Time to rise to the east – Japan and Indian IT

Recently, my comments on Japan’s interest in India’s IT talent were published in a story by Business Standard. My conversation with their journalist happened at an interesting time. Since the article could cover only a slice of what we spoke, I thought I should put down my thoughts here.

india-and-japan-flagJapan’s interest could not have come at a better moment. A lot of things are happening in the global IT environment these days and India is a key nation to bear the impact – positive and adverse. Let’s put some dots and then see if we can join them.

We are living in some anxious moments these days. We have in Donald Trump, a President who can make or break deals on Twitter. His rhetoric on retaining US jobs, no doubt casts an impending shadow on India, who’s talent export to the US is a major factor in the prosperity of the Indian IT companies.

An interesting and alarming statistic for all our Indian readers – over 60% of engineering graduates every year remain unemployed, says AICTE. India produces more than 1.5 million engineers every year. Which means, more than 900,000 remain unemployed.

Let’s go a step further. In a recent interview, Dr. Srinivas Kandula, CEO, Capgemini India, said that 60-65% of the IT workforce is not trainable due to the poor quality of basics of technical education as well as negative wage rise over the past ten years. This state of the workforce may lead to an unprecedented percentage of unemployment in the mid to senior level salaried employees due to lack of re-skilling, he says.

Another recent study revealed that more than 80% of engineering graduates are unemployable due to poor academic training, prompting several students to seek education abroad.

Three things we see here – unemployed, unemployable, and employed, but untrainable.

Next up, we have an age-old problem in the home-grown IT talent in India. Let’s face it. A lot of the engineers are poor in English. They may be great coders, testers, programmers; but don’t stand up to English as much as the West. Knowing fluent English is neither a virtue nor not knowing it, a sin. It has just become a sticky business necessity.

Now, if all of the above are dots, let us see if we can join them in some way.

Japan, as a country has done exceedingly well when it comes to product/hardware-related technology. However, it has been a laggard of sorts when it comes to IT services and consulting. Over the past few years, you will see the aggression shown by Japanese companies to acquire IT services companies globally increasing their presence in the IT services too.

The country takes a long time to trust, and once earned and built, it would seal a long-term bonding between the two parties.

I see a different and differentiated future for Indian IT:

  • If corporate India can make few quick changes and re-skill their existing staff – exposing them to Japan, as a nation, Japanese a language and
  • If the academic India can introduce digital and newer technologies as part of their course curriculum and also add Japanese as a language to learn along with engineering

Japanese, as a language is closer to many Indian languages regarding subject-verb-object placement in sentence construction. In fact, it is English that is different!

I think it is worth a serious shot to de-risk Indian IT from the west. After all, Japan is the land of the rising sun, and just 3.5 hours ahead!