At last, Groke is moving to establish a branch in Japan, Groke Japan. We asked Yasuhiro Matsushima, leader of Advanced Ship Development Team, Ship Department of Mitsubishi Corporation, who has been a partner of Groke since its founding and is in charge of marketing in Japan, about the role of Groke Japan and its goals.
Could you tell us the background behind Groke’s initial target for the Japanese market?
As Japan is an island country, maritime logistics is an extremely important infrastructure, and it is said that the volume of cargo handled by coastal vessels accounts for 40% of the total volume of cargo transported. However, there is a serious problem of a shortage of domestic crews, and the burden on each domestic crew is increasing year by year. Groke’s Awareness System (Groke Pro) is designed to reduce the stress on crews and the risk of daily navigation, which we believe will lead to solving issues in the Japanese domestic shipping industry, thus we are targeting the Japanese market. Japan is a well-known maritime nation, and we have a large number of maritime related people, including famous shipping companies, shipyards and marine manufacturers, and I believe that it is a very positive factor for us that we have an environment in which the latest technologies related to ships and the sea are accepted.
Why did you establish Groke Japan now?
Groke was founded in October 2019. Over the past more than two years, we have been working at a very rapid pace not only in terms of technology but also in terms of sales, such as basic technology development, image data collection, hearings with many crews, financing, and partnership building. The Pilot version of Groke Pro has been in operation already for some time in Japan and development has been smooth with our local customers. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to all the people who have contributed to the development in various ways.
The need to develop marketing, maintenance and operation structures in Japan is increasing as we launched the product to market earlier this year and are now starting to deliver solutions to first customers. Groke always strives to develop products that are user friendly, but because its head office is located in Finland, there are physical distances and time differences with Japan. As a result, some people may be concerned about our support system. We decided to establish Groke Japan so that our users can use Groke products with peace of mind.
What kind of Corporate structure will it be in Groke Japan?
At first, several Mitsubishi Corporation employees, including myself, will be seconded, but at the same time, we will also be recruiting technical staff. A technical staff will be fully in charge of technical support for Groke products, so we are looking for someone who is knowledgeable about hardware and networks, and more than anything, someone who is interested in new technologies and who is proactive.
What will be the major roles of Groke Japan ?
One, of course, will be the role of sales office. Groke is not only looking at domestic vessels, but will also roll out for fishing boats, pleasure boats, and globally operating ships and facilities used in offshore wind sector, which is getting a lot of attention these days, so we’re looking to do a wide range of sales activities.
The second is after-sales support. Needless to say, Groke products are not only sold, but are maintained and operated, collecting the opinions of users, and giving feedback to the development team to improve the products. We aim to develop user friendly products as much as possible by making improvements on a daily basis, just like operating systems for personal computers and interfaces for smartphones.
And the third is partnership building in Japan. Groke’s mission is to spread Groke Pro into the Japanese maritime industry, but we also want to actively collaborate with partners who can use Groke’s image recognition technology as an element technology in roll out. I have an image of aiming not only B to C but also B to B.
Please tell me more about the third roll, partnership building.
I think there are many different ways of thinking about and developing autonomous operation and autonomous driving systems, and the roles of companies involved in the development of these technologies are varied. One of Groke’s specialties is situational recognition technology that utilizes image recognition and sensor fusion. This is one of the important technologies that make up autonomous operating systems, and can be applied to various technologies. As we aim to reduce the stress on crew members and realize safe marine transportation, we would like to build a wide range of cooperative relationships with those who are developing autonomous systems with the same vision, and expand the circle of collaboration. Please feel free to contact us anytime if you are interested.
Article published originally in Groke’s exclusive customer newsletter in October 2021