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Post-quake Japan warms to foreign tie-ups

BT sees huge opportunities in land of the rising sun

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The massive earthquake and tsunami which struck north-east Japan in 2011 has had an unintended impact on corporate strategy which could give foreign tech firms unprecedented opportunities to grow their business in the country, according to BT.

Haruno Yoshida, president of BT Japan, told The Reg at the firm's Asia Pacific Influencers Summit in Hong Kong last week that the events of 11 March 2011 had a profound effect on many domestic businesses, forcing them to look outside the region for growth.

“BT has been in Japan for 30 years but we weren’t as successful as we wanted to be,” she said. “Then all of a sudden 11 March happened and at the top of companies they realised how vulnerable it is to focus only on your own market – that there shouldn’t be such a focus on domestic Japan.”

She said that whereas in the past dogmatic IT leaders had “pushed the Americans back” and tried to protect their market, BT is now seeing good momentum driven by a healthy level of globalisation.

“But you can’t be a Black Ship,” she warned, in a reference to the western vessels which heralded the forced re-opening of trade ties with Japan in the 1850s.

“Japan is looking for help, but only if BT is willing to be a trusted partner offering a helping hand can there be true opportunity.”

Ovum senior analyst Claudio Castelli, said that BT in particular could be in a great position to benefit from this softening Japanese stance.

“Japanese companies in the domestic market are limited in terms of growth. They have to look outside to grow and Asia is booming so they’re looking to take these opportunities,” he told The Reg.

“BT can provide that gateway to other places.”

The British telco giant is also looking to expand its partnerships in Japan with firms like Hitachi, Fujitsu and NEC to off-set the advantage that firms like AT&T and Verizon – who have historically been more successful there – have had, Castelli added.

However, he urged caution when talking about 11 March as some kind of tipping point, arguing that the need to internationalise operations and work more with foreign partners domestically has been permeating the boardrooms of Tokyo for some time.

Firms like Sony and NEC are shadows of the technology behemoths they once were, while the country's semiconductor and LCD industries are struggling to stay relevant on the global stage.®

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