Transforming the Workplace
A Culture That Fosters Startups And New Businesses (#6 of 6 part series)
There was an increase in the number of people from overseas setting up businesses in Fukuoka. News has come to light of a Puerto Rican native, who completed graduate studies at Kyushu University, setting up a company in the city that develops drones which are able to create 3D maps of disaster-stricken areas in order to help rescue teams identify the location of survivors. It is hoped that the three-winged drones will be used to help recovery efforts in parts of Japan that experience natural disasters.
According to a World Bank survey, Japan is currently ranked 81st in the world when it comes to the ease in setting up new businesses. The relatively low position can be attributed to a number of factors, including the numerous procedures that aspiring entrepreneurs have to go through, as well as failure of authorities to establish a strong online presence. Nonetheless, Fukuoka has been trying to buck this trend by making it easier for people to apply for startup visas.
There are reports of a former National University of Singapore professor, aged 62, who decided move to Fukuoka with his wife and business partner after reading an article about startup visas in the city during an international flight. Both entrepreneurs in question studied at Kyushu University around 30 years ago. They are now preparing to launch a pillow that helps people sleep, as well as a device that prevents drivers from dozing off at the wheel. In the future they plan to employ around 10 people at a Fukuoka-based factory.
People from overseas who are trying to start businesses in Japan need to obtain the “business manager” residence status. Applicants are required to secure capital or investment exceeding ¥5 million, and hire two or more permanent employees. In December 2015, Fukuoka City utilized its position as special national strategic zone to reach an agreement with the government that would give startups a half-year grace period to meet requirements. Fukuoka’s startup visa system has already exceeded initial expectations. By the end of March, 31 applications were made under the new initiative. However, there are still people calling for further deregulation, with some contending that half a year is not long enough to meet the demands, while others have argued that capital or investment totalling ¥5 million is not necessary when it comes to IT-based startups. In March of this year, Oita Prefecture put forward a proposal to the government asking for the requirement to be lowered to ¥3 million for international exchange students who are looking to set up a businesses.
There are other issues to consider when it comes to the attractiveness of Japan as a place for business, aside from government policies. A survey conducted by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) revealed that executives from around the world ranked Japan 56th in terms of cultural tolerance and open-mindedness. The northeast Asia representative from the school noted that the lack of diversity and the absence of international workers are some factors for the economic stagnation that followed the dramatic growth of the 1980s and early 90s. The need to be flexible enough to do business with people from overseas is crucial, and this kind of mindset is not only important for the business world, but also has wider societal benefits.
New Era of Immigration in Kyushu
The number of workers from abroad, including international students and technical interns in Japan, exceeded one million for the first time last year. This group of people form an indispensable component of the workforce, irrespective of the government’s position on immigration. Read more installments from this series here.