Kotaro Nishida has come to Turku  from Tokyo for two years to help Groke Technologies to accelerate their sales. He finds the working atmosphere in Groke relaxed and life in Turku comfortable.

How did you end up working for Groke Technologies in Turku, Finland? 

I have worked for Mitsubishi Corporation in Japan for almost 30 years and dedicated my career to the shipping business. Mitsubishi Corporation is Groke’s strategic investor. When my boss asked me whether I wanted to work for Groke in Finland, I immediately said yes, because I think their technology is so cool. 

The relaxed working atmosphere at Groke Technologies has been a positive surprise for Kotaro Nishida, who is used to a much more formal working culture in Japan.

What does Groke Technologies do? 

Groke provides seafarers with peace of mind. Groke wants to improve the safety and efficiency of the commercial marine industry through digitalisation. 

What is the company’s product Groke Pro all about? 

With Groke Pro, seafarers can see all relevant data at one glance. Groke Pro is a situational awareness system, which combines and fuses data from various sources such as radar, AIS, thermal cameras, and visual cameras, and brings it all together into one screen. 

Kotaro Nishida works in close co-operation with Groke Technologies CEO Juha Rokka.

You have come to work for Groke as a Deputy CEO for two years. What do you do in practise? 

My role is to make the business of this startup fly, using all my sales knowledge and experience which I have earned in Mitsubishi Corporation. I am responsible for developing the company’s sales strategy, and I also work as the CEO’s and CFO’s right hand. 

How is the working atmosphere at Groke? 

Very relaxed. People are straightforward and have a very good sense of humour. The organisation is quite flat, and everyone calls the CEO by his first name, which was a surprise to me.  I also brought neck ties and suits with me from Japan but have had no chance to wear them. 

Why is the Japanese market interesting for Groke? 

The biggest reasons are the ageing problem of Japanese seafarers and very congested sea waters surrounding Japan. Through digitalisation, Groke wants to attract younger generations into seafaring. There are 7000 domestic vessels transporting domestic cargos around Japan, so the business demands for Groke are huge. The Japanese government also supports autonomous ship technology. 

What is Mitsubishi Corporation’s role in Groke’s breakthrough in the Japanese market? 

Japanese clients are quite domestic and communicate only in Japanese. That is why Mitsubishi Corporation has had a big role in helping Groke succeed in the Japanese market. 

How do you see Groke’s future? 

The company has a lot of business potential, and I see its future very bright. Groke’s aim is to be a major provider of situation awareness products globally. I think one of Groke’s strengths is the strong network of partner companies that they have managed to build around them. 

Kotaro Nishida’s family enjoys living in Turku.

You came to Turku with your wife and daughter. How have you settled in? 

We feel at home here and life is quite comfortable. It was very easy to find a good apartment at a reasonable rate, and a good international school for my teenage daughter. Her English has improved a lot there. 

How do you and your family find living in Turku? 

Turku is a beautiful and compact city, and it is easy to get around by bike. We have found a nice group of friends through a local Japanese restaurant called Yasukon Keittiö. We like to go to the forest. We have managed to find matsutake mushrooms, which are very expensive in Japan. 

Kotaro enjoys attracting more Finnish people to learn the Japanese martial art kendo.

What do you do in your free time in Turku? 

I like sports very much; I go running and play padel with colleagues regularly. The Japanese martial arts Kendo and Katori are very important to me, and it was quite easy to find a local Kendo community here. Kendo requires a lot of concentration and helps you to forget about work. Since I came to Turku, I also started to practise Katori, the origin of Kendo. Luckily, I have a colleague who teaches Katori. 

Kotaro Nishida and his family have found a nice international community of friends through a local Japanese restaurant in Turku, called Yasukon Keittiö.

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Text: Heidi Pelander
Video: Simo Ahtee