Bangkok-based TalentEx, offering recruitment-focused online media and SaaS (software as a service) for human resource affairs, unveiled on Sunday that its Russian subsidiary has launched an online school business called CyberSamurai (КиберСамурае in Russian). The monthly subscription-based class is intended for Russian-speaking IT developers and engineers, helping them keep updated with IT industry and technology updates as well as business practices from Japan. It may also aim to allow them to enjoy commentary on Japanese anime and subculture in addition to giving them opportunities to e-meet up with CTOs from Japanese companies.
TalentEx was launched back in 2013 by Yojiro Koshi who previously worked for Japanese ad network startup Nobot (Nobot was acquired by Japanese telco giant KDDI’s subsdiary Mediba in 2011). The company has several core businesses: the Wakuwaku online and offline recruiting service to find Japanese-speaking talents in Thailand, community management at the Monstar Hub Bangkok co-working space, and sales and marketing of the Michiru RPA software for Japanese companies in Thailand.
In July of 2018, the company founded a local subsidiary in Russia for a new project supplying Russian IT engineers to Japanese companies. After a little more than a year after its launch, the Russian business had been outpacing other businesses in Thailand in terms of revenue, but the recent coronavirus pandemic has halted it. After several months of their efforts to keep the Russian operation alive leveraging the sales from their Thai business, their Russian team of young members decided to launch a new business called CyberSamurai at this time.
Many startup businesses use a model that makes money by bridging the gap between the two sides of the transaction, such as information asymmetry and arbitrage. That’s something TalentEx is good at because of having presence in four markets – Japan, Singapore, Thailand and Russia. Coming up with moving talent from market to market, we may think the biggest challenge is language gap. According to Koshi, however, he turned to recognize that’s not true while work from home is more common in a huge country like Russia in addition to the fact that such a working style is becoming the global norm due to the pandemic.
When a Japanese company hires a Russian engineer, language gap is certainly a concern at first. Recently, however, these companies have been forced to shift to work from home, job instructions and other communication among colleagues are now often done through Slack and other online tools.
With more communication using tools than face-to-face meetings, the language barrier has been lowered for foreigners than in the past. In fact, we need to more focus on the cultural gap that cannot be fully verbalized but is often seen in business practices and work processes, which is more important when working with a Japanese company.
Many of my foreign friends have learned the Japanese language as a result of watching Japanese TV drama series and anime titles in their country. Japanese anime was also a source of inspiration for Hong Kong Democracy Movement stalwart Agnes Chow to learn Japanese. Perhaps what makes her so popular in Japan may be our perception that she deeply understands Japanese culture and social customs rather than just her ability speaking the language.
That’s why the service is not just about language learning but rather giving opportunities to learn industry trends and subculture commentary which are not directly related to business operations or professional activities. The company charges membership fee but it may be hard for them to see significant revenue with the new business alone compared to their past human resources business in Russia. Perhaps the company sees the member base as kinda talent pool for the time when the demand of Japanese companies hiring Russian engineers recovers after the pandemic settle down.
Run by TalentEx’s team of a few young Japanese and Russian members in Russia, the service is wow focused on community building using Telegram which is one of the most popular messaging apps in the country. Going forward, they are expanding into other Russian-speaking markets including former CIS countries.