A Japanese backpacker who came to India and ended up starting a company
Being a Murakami fan, I always relate the Japanese with meticulousness. When I was introduced to Naoki, marketing manager at Cloudlancer over email, my belief was only reinforced. After confirming the time and place of our meeting twice, he and Cloudlancer's founder Sho Nakanose walked into the YourStory office at 1.56 pm, for a meeting scheduled for 2 pm.
We exchanged smiles and dived straight into the conversation.
Sho graduated from Doshisha University and joined IBM Japan as an IT consultant in April 2009. Gaining exposure, he went on to live in Hongkong and Singapore for a couple of years. About three years back, he came to India as a backpacker. He promptly fell in love with the country and, caving in to his wanderlust, started thinking up ways to extend his stay. Sho was in Delhi when he noticed the presence of US companies all around. He was surprised to find that there were hardly any Japanese companies in India and deciding to make the most of the opportunity that lay before him, went back home to do some groundwork.
In 2013, Sho decided to shift base to India and bring to life an idea that had germinated in his mind. He established some connections in Japan and India to setup CloudLancer India Pvt. Ltd. With a capital of about Rs 20 lakhs, Sho started out with two services which could bring in the cash flow: Digital marketing services for Japanese companies that wanted to expand to India; and help to Japanese students wishing to study in India.
Not only did Sho have a personal liking for India, he also nursed a strong desire to set up a startup in India. “We would like to be a bridge between India and Japan. We believe Indians and Japanese can be the best partners – in business as well as relationships. We hope India and Japan can be partners in the streams of IT and education.” He also feels that India is an important country for companies that are looking at expansions. Cloudlancer started out from Gurgaon and currently comprises of a seven member team. It is shifting base to Bangalore to be closer to the IT hub.
All seven members in CloudLancer are Japanese and surviving in this competitive market is quite a feat. “There are very few companies that give Japanese companies what we give and this is a big advantage we have,” says Sho. The company has also been thinking of a more scalable model and has developed a mobile reward platform which they are testing at the moment. The mobile rewards platform is not a new idea but something they're confident about. Their idea is that Japanese companies provide small tasks like filling surveys to the mobile-first audience in India that gets mobile recharge or other such rewards on completing the specified task.
“There are a lot of companies in Japan that are looking to expand to India and this platform can be a means of entry,” says Sho. On his radar are big Japanese companies which provide consumer products in India such as Panasonic, Sony and Toshiba. He has already signed a deal with one of the companies and claims that the first few days of the test have been encouraging. “Our second target are big Japanese companies which provide consumer products but haven’t yet expanded in India,” says Sho.
Out of the seven team members, five deal with technology with Sho leading the team with system design. The mobile platform is called Hubb and it is a mobile optimized site for now. Talking about how a Japanese company might benefit from this platform, Sho says, “The companies can get survey results, they can boost app downloads by keeping the download as a task, get sign ups or gets viewers for their videos.” They'll be reaaching the Indian audience via digital marketing techniques and would charge the companies $2 per user with a minimum requirement of 1000 users.
Cloudlancer wants plenty of companies out there. Sho’s will to step out of his comfort zone, follow his heart and build a venture which is trying to connect the two countries makes his story worth telling.