Going Back to the Basics: President Tada’s Interview with International Development Journal

International Development Journal (hereon referred to as “IDJ”) recently carried out an interview with IC Net’s Executive President, Morihiro Tada (hereon “Tada”).

IDJ: Please tell us what you would like to see achieved at IC Net in the immediate and long-term future.

Tada: We want to review our business from two perspectives. First, I would like to reconsider the ‘basics’ of IC Net’s mission. Secondly, I would like to review what IC Net can do while leveraging the decades of experience and know-how it has, given that that international development industry is rapidly changing, from increased competition to more restrictions.

I believe that we are only at the midpoint of our efforts. As a professional services firm, we have the desire to providing development expertise to create a better world. The ideal development comes not only through the Official Development Assistance between governments, but also through decades of building relationships in communities. This long-term, sustainable development requires implementation of various development strategies particularly in areas such as promoting private businesses.

IDJ: Your company has been working on non-ODA activities for some time.
Tada: Our Private Business Support Division has been growing, as we are consulting to multiple companies, ranging from small businesses to large conglomerates.
IDJ: Tell us about launching this new Division at this time.
Tada: Under the Consulting Division, we have established the ODA Operations Department and the Global Business Support Department. We have renamed and reorganized the Global Business Support Division to focus on the private sector. Both Divisions work in similar geographic areas, so they collaborate by sharing lessons and best practices.

Shared Knowledge
IDJ: Tell us about your new departments.  
Tada: We established a Research and Development department and Business Development department. The former is aimed at integrating the experience and expertise of each consultant, and improving the overall technical expertise to seek applications through collaboration and dialogue. We are coalescing our knowledge and skillsets in areas of governance, health, agriculture, fisheries, private sector business and evaluation. We have sector thought leaders for each group who set the agenda for learning. We are strengthening each practice area by placing
We can say that knowledge management and know-how, its analysis and its application company-wide is growing in the whole industry.
We cannot respond to the changing business opportunity if we only work with domestic clients such as JICA. What is important is that we diversify our clients to multilateral and other bilateral donors. We are also providing incubation services to businesses that will be sustainable in the medium to long term. For example, we are setting up internships and study tours opportunities for companies and universities students.

Additionally, this is the second year we are sponsoring the “Business Plan Contest for Four Billion People.” Contestants submitted their business plans, which included a product/service description, customer identification, market opportunity and sales strategy. Our contest is the only one that aims at the Base of the Pyramid market.

Recruiting “Global Talent”
IDJ: How do you recruit, develop, and retain talent?
Tada: Currently, there are 140 employees at IC Net. Our institutional knowledge will not be strengthened if we operate under the premise that each consultant is independent. We can only succeed when all of our knowledge is brought together as a team.
This is the reason why we are focusing more on human resource development. We are putting a lot of effort into cultivating young professionals, vetting them through our local networks, especially in Bangladesh and the Philippines. For example in Bangladesh, there are undergraduate and graduate students who studied in the United States. We hope they gain work experience at our subsidiaries so they grow to become international. We plan on opening 15 overseas subsidiaries in the next ten years. We can no longer grow as a company if we only pay attention to Japan.
IDJ: It is a strength that your company focuses on countries in Asia.
Tada: Working in international development is our strength. We operate not only in the capital and urban cities, but in the villages and townships, taking the time to get to know the local people. We believe this is an advantage to establishing subsidiaries in those countries. We are seeking opportunities with international organizations as well as in the private sector. We intend to build a firm foundation with offices to invest in the country for the long run.