Japan’s Gitex Technology Week exhibitors look to build on local ties

Japan has long been a stalwart supporter of trade ties with the UAE. Now, as its economy gains strength, the Asian powerhouse is looking to strengthen those ties at the Gitex Technology Week in Dubai.
Japan's mobile phone sector has forged ahead with its technological advances over the past few decades, resulting in highly sophisticated creations but often unable or unsuitable to be used outside the country. Akio Kon / Bloomberg News
Japan's mobile phone sector has forged ahead with its technological advances over the past few decades, resulting in highly sophisticated creations but often unable or unsuitable to be used outside the country. Akio Kon / Bloomberg News

Humanoid robots, futuristic towers, high-speed trains, multi-tasking smartphones: Japan has long enjoyed a reputation as a nation at the cutting edge of new technology.

And so it is perhaps little surprise that as Gitex Technology Week kicks off today in Dubai, visitors may well note a number of prominent Japanese companies setting up shop and exhibiting at the event.

The event has long attracted leading players in the information and communication technology sector from around the world, with this year’s event boasting 3,500 companies from 61 countries and newcomers arriving countries ranging from Belarus to Brazil.

Among the Japanese representatives, a number of key companies loyally turn up to the event every year – Sumitomo Electric Industries included, which has exhibited at the world-renowned expo for the past six years.

Other Japan exhibitors include Wacom Europe, a leading pen tablet and digital pen company headquartered in Tokyo, which is aiming to strengthen its Middle East presence by unveiling its latest collection of products at the event.

Debutante Japanese arrivals include PFU Imaging Solutions Europe, a subsidiary of the Japanese corporation Fujitsu, which will be exhibiting at Gitex for the first time this year.

“As the market leader in professional document scanners for the region, the Middle East offers tremendous opportunities for us,” says Robert Young, the manager of business and channel development for Europe, the Middle East and Africa for the company, which makes home scanning products.

“Our first direct participation at Gitex will be an excellent platform to display our document scanner offerings to a highly concentrated business target group in Dubai.

“The Middle East market is a strong and vibrant market for Fujitsu scanners. We have recruited personnel in the region and rolled out the Assurance Program service support and warranty offering.

“Gitex Technology Week is the undisputed number one IT event in the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia region. We will leverage our massive presence at the show to reach out to new customers and network with existing ones.”

With exhibitors predominantly originating from the UAE and wider Middle East, Gitex’s organisers also emphasised the importance of Japan representatives in creating an increasingly international event.

“Japan has a long and proud history of influential ICT innovation and GITEX Technology Week is committed to building strong links with thought-leaders and businesses from across the country,” says Trixie LohMirmand, the senior vice president at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

But with a growing number of exhibitors also from countries including Germany, Egypt and India, some experts may perhaps question why Japan, a nation long renowned for its technical expertise, is not more high profile at the event.

One theory is due to the nation’s so called “Galapagos Syndrome” – in a similar way to the exotic endemic flora and fauna on the remote Galapagos Islands, some of the most advanced aspects of Japan’s technology industry have found themselves isolated from the rest of the world.

A problem relating in particular to the mobile phone sector, Japan has forged ahead independently with its technological advances over the past few decades, resulting in highly sophisticated creations – that are often unable or unsuitable to be used outside the country.

“Japan often develops standards, rules and regulations which are completely different than in any other country in the world and then develops fantastic products to fit these totally different standards,” says Gerhard Fasol, a Tokyo-based high-tech business expert and the founder of Eurotechnology Japan.

“Such products can be very successful but have no market anywhere else in the world. Examples are the traditional Japanese clam-shell mobile phones, another example are the K-cars, which have a large market share in Japan, but cannot be sold anywhere else in the world, except maybe in India now.

“Japan’s business culture is quite different than global business culture. Traditionally almost all Japanese companies have zero non-Japanese management or zero non-Japanese employees.

“Such purely domestic Japanese companies find it very hard if not impossible to grow to a global scale, despite being market leaders in Japan in some cases.

“Events such as Gitex can help Japanese companies develop business in global markets and overcome this effect of market isolation.”

Another key sector at Gitex – and one that is fast growing – is the wider Asian market, with a total of 21 exhibitors from the region at this year’s event, which is anticipating as many as 130,000 visitors from 150 countries.

Among them is Extol Corporation, based in Kuala Lumpur, which specialises in internet communication technology security solutions, and Hayagriva Software, a personal information management company from Mumbai.

“I think everyone realises that South East Asia, with its huge populations in several countries – including China, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia – and also with important manufacturing and technology in many of these countries, is dramatically increasing in global importance,” says Mr Fasol.

“Gitex surely can be a very good platform to connect South East Asia’s growth and technology and business with very important markets.”

business@thenational.ae

Published: October 19, 2013 04:00 AM

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