Japan’s Sekai Lab, crowdsourcing platform for app development, ties up with China’s Witmart

From the right: Sekai Lab CEO Hiroki Inagawa, PR Manager Ikumi Shiba

See the original story in Japanese.

Sekai Lab was launched February last year, to serve those in Asia crowdsourcing app development. The company recently announced a tie-up with China’s biggest crowdsourcing platform Witmart, and started accepting orders in full for entrusted development of apps from China.

See also:

Sekai Lab has been offering an entrusted development platform in 15, mostly Asian, countries where some 100 companies such as app developers or systems integrators are participating. By utilizing these international resources, the company provides comparatively inexpensive and high-quality offshore development for projects from Japan and elsewhere.

Sekai Lab CEO Hiroki Inagawa told us that the reason for cooperation with Witmart was as follows.

Until now China has been entrusted with development projects from outside the country, acting as an offshore development base. However, as labor costs for engineers have risen and the domestic market has grown, China has changed into a client-side market.

Witmart is one of the largest crowdsourcing platforms in China, with some 10 million contractor users. On its website, lots of development proposal are submitted, such as for mobile apps, eCommerce websites and so forth. While rather small-scale items are accepted by Chinese freelancers, medium-scale projects and above requiring much man-hours beyond their capacities have been left untouched. Sekai Lab aims to accept such matters from China and conduct crowdsourcing through the Sekai Lab platform.

Entrusted matters from inside and outside Japan including China will be ordered to developers in Asia through Sekai Lab platform. Although clients and developers directly conclude contracts in some cases, in fact, Sekai Lab often receive the orders as a prime contractor and conduct project management for actual entrusted developers, or act as a bridge SE (system engineer) between clients and developers.

Taking a project from China as an example, Sekai Lab’s SEs in Japan, Chengdu (Sichuan, China) or Quindao (Shandong, China) conduct hearings on the requirements from the client, then provide details to developers in Da Nang, Vietnam through the platform to commence work.

Inagawa elaborated:

We used to consign entrusted matters evenly to all 100 participating developers in the past. Currently our selection team narrows down the candidates in advance for each project and requests estimates from them, because each developer has its own specialty field such as development languages or frameworks. After collecting estimates from multiple developers, we leave the final decision up to the clients as to entrustees or the type of contract to be concluded.

The Sekai Lab page which recently launched on the Witmart site.

Based on the writer’s experience in systems engineering, large enterprises tend to avoid consigning systems development to subcontractors from the standpoint of information management, despite the general subcontract structure in Japan’s systems integration field. No wonder many enterprises hesitate to entrust development overseas where Japanese laws cannot be enforced.

However, with Sekai Lab such things do not matter, according to Inagawa. This is because his company mainly deals in development regarding web services or apps, independent of mainstay systems. An average budget is around 4 million yen (about $32,000) and an average man-month cost is 14 to 15 for projects handled by Sekai Lab. It dies not compete with major Systems Integrators or consultant firms due to the differences in the scale of targeted projects.

Inagawa added:

Our clients range from individuals to listed companies. Non-IT clients account for 60 to 70 percent of the total base, the rest being IT ones. We see many business software developments involved for projects from outside Japan. Also, there is preponderance in localization of apps ordered by Japanese companies expanding overseas, or vice versa.

When China meant “offshore development base” is a thing of the past. According to Inagawa, labor costs for Shanghai engineers are now almost the same as that of Japanese counterparts. However, not many Chinese developers are capable of high quality apps development even though they are losing ground in price competitiveness. Having built up a reputation for its work through diligent work, Sekai Lab has been able to gain many larger-scale projects from China compared with projects from Japan.

Sekai Lab this month expands into Bangladesh, its 15th development base. As its name ‘Sekai (meaning ‘the world’ in Japanese)’ implies, it is taking on the global market, in both name and deed.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy