[TechSparks 2020] How India-Japan collaboration improves opportunities for business and innovation
On Day Three of TechSparks 2020, YourStory’s annual flagship startup-tech conference, a range of speakers shared insights on how startups and business leaders can benefit from more collaboration between India and Japan.
Top managers from Hitachi, NEC, NTT DATA and Lexus, along with the Indian ambassador to Japan, spoke at the virtual edition of TechSparks2020 in the Japan Track.
Through four sessions, the compatibility of two countries with different strengths and shared cultural values was addressed. Examples of current projects by Japanese corporations in India reconfirmed the growing potential of India-Japan collaboration.
Benefits and directions
Sanjay Kumar Verma, Ambassador, Embassy of India in Tokyo, described the history of the distinctive projects with Japan in the past decades. They range from Suzuki and the Delhi Metro to the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor and Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed railway.
He explained the cardinal principle of “co-innovate, co-create, co-produce.” This helps the startup ecosystem by improving understanding of each other’s ecosystems in terms of requirements and potential, creation of offerings, and production at scale.
Many industries like electronics, software, supply chain diversification, agriculture, and food processing can benefit from the partnership in both countries. “Japanese stable electronic manufacturing system and Indian’s extremely powerful embedded software development can create new products,” Verma he said.
Indian’s “disruptive technology” can benefit Japan as well. Indian managers are prominently visible in a range of global firms, and this expertise will benefit bilateral partnerships.
The ambassador urged Indian innovators to view partnerships opportunities in the context of the strengthening the strategic geopolitical relationship between the two countries.
Business and social impacts
Bharat Kaushal, Managing Director, Hitachi India, narrated how Hitachi has been engaging with Indian business and society in sectors ranging from energy infrastructure to fintech for around 85 years.
Hitachi is connecting more with Indian startups as well, according to Bharat, the first Indian Managing Director of Hitachi India.
“Japan is achieving Society 5.0, and India with flagship programmes like Digital India, Smart City, and Startup India, is promoting ease of business,” he said. AI, big data, and IoT will play a big role in enhancing the value of digital infrastructure, with collaboration between India and Japan.
Hitachi had its first board meeting outside of its Japan headquarters in New Delhi in 2013, and set up its R&D centre in Bengaluru. It has an MoU with Invest India to work with startups in India. Their commitment in and with India is firm and getting stronger, he said.
Explaining complementary fits between the two cultures, he explained that Japan may be slow in decision making but is very organised and has high quality work.
From anticipation to captivation
PB Venugopal, President, Lexus India, shared unique insights in his session titled ‘Anticipate, Innovate, Captivate’. Lexus has commanded a global market premium, started local production in less than three years of its Indian market entry, and partnered for the annual Lexus Design Awards India.
The brand combines luxury with a growing commitment to eco-friendliness. The company also has startup-like qualities, with a strong commitment to be a part of the Indian community, stay connected, and contribute, Venugopal said.
The Lexus Design Awards India go beyond the global version because the company wants to contribution to addressing the unique challenges in Indian society.
Lexus sees a good synergy between the Indian entrepreneurial mind and hard work along with Japanese manufacturing skills and technology. The company aims for a lifetime relationship with customers, with high “HQ (hospitality quality) and EQ (emotional quality)”.
The company’s commitment to India is strong, though it is a newcomer to the country. “India is the fourth country to start Lexus production after Japan, US and Canada, among 90+ countries where the company is present,” Venugopal explained.
All employees are trained at their mother plant in Japan. “This is in line with the government direction: Make in India and Skill India”.
Venugopal called for more mutual learning and collaboration. “Be very brave. Do not compromise on vision,” he urged.
Partnership for value
The concluding session featured speakers from NTT Data and NEC, with examples of collaboration in the COVID-19 period and beyond.
Kaz Nishihata, Representative Director and Senior Executive VP, NTT DATA Corporation, shared experiences in his talk, ‘From India and Japan to the World.’ With 23,000 employees in India, the company provides outsourced IT services to global clients.
It also collaborates with local players such as TiE Pune and holds open innovation contests. NTT Data has a project with AI company DeepTek to diagnose COVID-19 cases at Ruby Hall Clinic in Pune.
Nishihata spoke about internal training initiatives related to India. One of them is to send young Japanese staff in India to learn with a young ‘buddy’ Indian employee. He himself has worked with staff in their Coimbatore office on local community initiatives.
He characterised India-Japan collaboration from the perspective of harmony. There is complementarity between systematic and stable Japanese approaches with India’s practical originality and spontaneity (jugaad). Both cultures share common values such as respect for elder people.
“I believe that the more you work together, the more you get to know each other and harmonise,” he said. “I believe the combination of Japan and India has a tremendous and unlimited potential,” he summed up.
Digital partnerships in infrastructure and lifestyle-related services between India and Japan were addressed by Aalok Kumar, President and CEO, NEC Corporation India.
NEC has been in India since 1956, with a range of impactful projects in public safety, digital government, smart transportation, biometrics, and submarine cables. An estimated 95 percent of all export and import containers that come in and out of India go through an NEC platform for logistics tracking.
Around 75 percent of bus rapid transit systems in India involve NEC. Recently, Chennai and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands were connected with a 2,300 km optical fibre NEC cable.
NEC is committed to government and business partnerships between India and Japan. “Every day, talented young Indians work for very complex problems that NEC headquarters is trying to solve,” Kumar said. The company also has a lab and CoE in India.
He emphasised that a strong and talented workforce can help develop innovative solutions that create social value and are globally scalable. Upskilling helps the next generation of talent become industry-ready.
Kumar too affirmed that the future is bright for harmonious ties in business and technology. These sentiments were also expressed during the India-Japan Future Forum held in Tokyo on September 15, 2020.
The road ahead
In sum, all speakers said there were huge and diverse opportunities for Indian and Japanese startups and firms to collaborate. There is a long history of collaboration between the countries, particularly in the current geopolitical context.
Japanese investment firms can tap into India’s growing startup ecosystem as well. The future looks promising for the countries’ innovators and investors alike.
TechSparks - YourStory's annual flagship event - has been India's largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we've received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020.
Edited by Teja Lele Desai