Both Japan and Bangladesh have always shared good bilateral relations during the last three decades, with Japan providing its services as an important development partner to Bangladesh. Besides cultural and political cooperation, economic cooperation between these two countries has always been prominent. The foundation of this economic cooperation has been aid (both financial, infrastructural and in terms of technical skill building of human resources), trade and investments.
Japan has always been keen on introducing new technology to Bangladesh, and today they are looking to tapping Bangladesh's ICT resources in the form of offshore outsourcing. To establish this point, the Japanese embassy in Bangladesh brought in Professor Dr. Keiko Morisawa from Osaka City University, Japan, to provide an informative lecture on the present situation and challenges of IT service industry, through her wealth of experience in Southeast Asian countries.
Dr. Keiko Morisawa(Right)
Organised by the Information and Cultural division of the Japanese Embassy, the program was held at the Lakeshore Hotel, Dhaka, on August 6. Through the lecture, Dr. Morisawa shared her thoughts on the scope and possibilities of the IT sector in Bangladesh, more specifically in terms of offshore outsourcing. She also pointed out some directions for building a cooperative relationship with the Japanese ICT service industry. The program was chaired by Minister-Counselor and Charge d'Affaires, Embassy of Japan, Hiramitsu Hida and was attended by AKM Abdul Awal Mazumder, secretary, Ministry of Science and ICT as the Chief Guest. Other guests included distinguished persons from government, national and international organisations, as well faculty and students of universities.
Dr. Morisawa, specialist on Southeast Asian industries, spoke of two major IT destinations, China and India, which geographically surround Bangladesh. She also gave an analysis of the Philippines and Vietnamese offshore markets and how Bangladesh can learn from their success stories.
After the lecture, in an exclusive interview with The Daily Star, Dr. Morisawa stressed on how Bangladesh and Japan can benefit each other and promote growth in their economies. According to Dr. Morisawa, four major countries dominate the offshore outsourcing industry. These have been collectively named BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China). However, of late, these countries have been facing certain problems. Brazil and China are hardly utilising their potential, Russia lacks government support and China and India themselves may be turning to non-BRIC locations at least partially to secure low cost and labor availabilities.
Currently, China is the leading offshore destination from Japan, followed by India, Philippines and Vietnam respectively. Dr. Morisawa gave suggestions through which Bangladesh and Myanmar could follow the success examples of Philippines and Vietnam to enter the Japanese market and catch up or even outpace the two. Philippines have the advantage of having English as the linguistic infrastructure and quite smartly, chose to cooperate with India, rather than compete. They decided to look for nearshoring opportunities from India. 'Nearshoring' is the same as offshoring, only difference is that the outsourcer country is closer in distance or time zone.
When asked about Vietnam, she explained that Vietnam is a cheaper market and much more keen to gain access to the Japanese industries. It encourages its citizens to learn Japanese. Moreover, the social and political stability and security in Vietnam is also a driving factor encouraging Japanese interest. Dr. Morisawa believes that if Bangladesh follows the Philippines' example, it can speed up economic development. She suggested that Bangladesh should seek positions for nearshoring with BRIC countries, specifically India. â€œBangladesh has huge potential for ITO (IT Outsourcing) and BPO (Business Process Outsourcing)â€, she says. Right now, Bangladesh can be considered competent in IT sectors like web-page and multimedia design, relational database application development and data processing among others. However, Dr. Morisawa recommends that Bangladesh should be keen towards getting BPO work too, not just ITO.
Bangladeshi companies should also try to aim for more offshore work from Japan. For this, Japanese language education and training in Japanese business customs should be promoted. Moreover, ITEE (IT Engineering Exam) skill standards, a prerequisite for the BPO market, should be developed. Finally, more advertising and marketing need to be done to Japan by the Bangladeshi ITO and BPO industries.
Dr. Morisawa also informed that the Japanese government is keen on recruiting overseas students to Japan. As part of its '300,000 International Students Plan', Japan aims to welcome 300,000 students from across the globe by 2020 as part of its 'Global Strategy'.
In his speech AKM Abdul Awal Mazumder mentioned that the government has taken up initiatives to ensure a good environment for IT entrepreneurs to thrive in Bangladesh through incentives and infrastructural facilities, such as state sponsored IT villages that offer high-tech offices for rental by IT companies both Bangladeshi and foreign.
Therefore, the government has already started making its first moves. With a healthy alliance between the IT industries, the government and Educational institutions, offshore outsourcing may be the next big boost for Bangladesh's economic growth.
â€œJapan and Bangladesh can work together to realize this global IT strategy. It's all about cooperation and collaborationâ€, says Dr. Keiko Morisawa.
From The daily Star
on Friday, August 21, 2009
by Nahid Akhter