Bangalore: Tech professionals are flocking to Japanese language institutes to add a vital linguistic qualification to their resumes in the hope that companies in the world’s second largest economy would eventually farm out more computer services work to India.
Schools that teach Japanese have seen a significant increase in the number of people, mainly professionals from the information technology (IT) and IT-enabled services (ITeS) industry, seeking admission to their courses this year.
“The number of students in our institute has increased from 30-40 last year to 100-110 this year in the basic level group,” says Shamala Ganesh, director of the Japanese Language School, one of the oldest foreign language institutes in Bangalore, the country’s technology hub.
Navis Nihongo Training Centre Pvt. Ltd, with branches in New Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai, has seen the number of students enrolling for its Japanese language courses this year increase 30-40% from last year. Because of the increase in enrolment, the academy has had to double the number of its batches from two last year to four this year, said Kiran Kumar, manager, business development.
At Bangalore-based Sakuraa Nihongo Resource Centre (SNRC), enrolment in the basic level Japanese language class has gone up to 30 from 18 last year. “All 30 students this year are professionals,” says A. Srividhya, head of SNRC. “Earlier, we used to make calls requesting people to join our institute, now we get more inquiries than we can accommodate.”
New Delhi-based Mosai Institute of Japanese Language, which earlier offered classes only on weekdays, has started weekend classes from January because of demand from students. “Most of our students now are professionals...it was difficult for them to come for evening classes,” said manager Madhuri Chitnis.
The desire to acquire Japanese language skills goes beyond the current recession in the global economy that has also enveloped Japan and hurt Indian technology companies whose foreign clients have pared outsourcing budgets. India’s IT industry has also been concerned about possible anti-outsourcing measures in the US as recession threatens more American jobs.
Language and cultural compatibility are often cited as the biggest barriers to Indian IT firms tapping the Japanese market, despite the cost advantage they offer. Tech professionals, with or without a job, are realizing that proficiency in the language could not only open up new job opportunities for them but also give them an edge over other job aspirants.
“Unlike other countries, the differences in Japanese culture, business etiquettes, working hours and shortage of bilingual technical persons pose a big challenge while dealing with Japan,” said a spokesperson at Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS), India’s largest computer services company by revenue.
“Most Japanese customers are not familiar or comfortable with the onsite offshore model,” the spokesperson said. TCS runs an in-house Japanese training programme.
Estimated at around $108 billion (Rs5.5 trillion), Japan is the world’s second largest IT services market. Japanese companies off-shored contracts worth $8 billion in 2008. Of this, China snapped up contracts worth $5 billion while India received only $1-1.5 billion. South Korea won $1billion of work.
Another leading IT firm, Wipro Technologies Ltd, is encouraging at least 400 of its employees currently working on Japanese projects to learn the language on a part-time basis, either internally or through external coaching centres, says Chandrasekar Dharuman, vice-president and centre head, Wipro Technologies, Chennai.
Wipro currently has 2,500 employees working on Japanese projects, with at least 900 technical bilinguals distributed across various projects.
“With jobs going off for no reason, it’s time for employees to have an extra skill that can get them a better job opportunity, be it in a project or a company,” says a software engineer with an IT services firm, who didn’t want to be named, and enrolled for a Japanese course in January.
It is individual professionals rather than companies who are driving demand for Japanese language courses. “Company employees are approaching us on their own. Not many corporate houses are approaching us this year due to the slowdown,” said SNRC’s Srividhya.