Interview/ Sales

Connections with Clients Produce New Value for Regions

Toshiyuki Nakamura

Toshiyuki Nakamura(joined the company in 2008)

Sales / Chemical plants

Business Department

Humanities graduate from a faculty of law

Interview

A job that supports people’s lives from the ground up

Toshiyuki Nakamura

My backpacking experiences in university are what first got me thinking about working in the infrastructure field. I backpacked around India for about a month, and I noticed many Japanese products from the likes of Suzuki and Panasonic. At the same time, I witnessed the reality of towns suffering from power outages nearly every day.
When I returned to Japan and started looking for work, I attended an informal event put on by the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Group (MHIG) where we could speak with MHIG employees. There I heard a veteran employee who had been involved with a thermal power generation project talk about how they had overcome numerous hurdles to deliver electricity throughout Syria. This conversation reminded me of my experiences in India. I was keen for a job that supported society from the ground up and that made people’s lives better, as well as a job that directly spread Japan’s products throughout the world. Hearing the story convinced me that those things were possible at MHIG. Through further employee meet-and-greets and interviews, I got a sense of the breadth of MHIG’s business and its social impact, and I decided to join the company.
Right after joining the company, my job was to sell compressors used in oil and gas chemical plants. The compressors were chiefly sold to plant manufacturers and oil, gas, and chemical companies around the world. The order-taking process was quite worthwhile, as I met and negotiated with many clients both in and outside Japan.
In my fourth year, I requested and received a transfer to chemical plant sales in the engineering department. I had wished for this transfer because, although I would still be in sales, the sales operations I would be responsible for were magnitudes larger with chemical plants. As compressors are exported in single units, my job was mainly to go through estimates and conditions with the client and, after negotiating and signing the sales contract, have the compressor produced in the factory and shipped. In comparison, the chemical plant sales process begins with a feasibility study to check whether the project is even possible. This coincides with estimates of the project’s economics and arrangements with domestic and international financial institutions to put together financing for the client. Moreover, the terms and conditions in the contract must be closely scrutinized, contracts must be negotiated and signed with construction partners and licensers holding various technical licenses, and preliminary studies must be done of the local regulations where the plant will be sited. Taking an order for a chemical plant is a long and extensive process. And once an order is placed, particularly when the plant will be constructed overseas, my team has to take care of all kinds of matters much like running a regular business; setting up a bank account in the country, hiring local workers, procuring goods, paying taxes, obtaining import-export licenses for materials and machinery, and so on.

Doing sales in an unknown country

My main work today is taking orders for new projects. The job that left the biggest impression on me so far in my working career was being involved with taking and completing a new order in 2014 for Turkmenistan’s largest urea fertilizer production plant. It was the first time for MHIG to do business with Turkmenistan, and we entered the business discussions with absolutely no knowledge of local laws, permit and licensing systems, customs, or anything else. Moreover, accepted practices in Japan and other developed countries didn’t translate in Turkmenistan.
These handicaps, however, made the project even more enticing. By visiting and listening to local government authorities and to companies that had constructed plants in Turkmenistan before, we gradually clarified one question at a time. In any case, the sheer sweat and exertion it took to move the project forward was a valuable learning opportunity for me. And the conditions were such that I could really feel my work at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering (MHIENG) pay off — namely, providing a facility that would underpin a country’s industry.
The urea produced by the plant will address the robust demand for fertilizer to meet the rising demand for grain as the world’s population increases. The plant’s operation will also contribute to local employment. I felt truly inspired when I sensed the scale of the social impact the project I was involved in will have.
The real pleasure in plant sales is the variety of operations you have to deal with and the ability to take part in a global activity that includes unknown parts of the world too. It is also the new value produced, and the social impact that results, through the client and MHIENG forming a new connection and through the business and services MHIENG provides. Of course, sales activities alone do not make the projects happen. Pushing a project forward while reconciling the client’s intentions with the engineers in charge of the design definitely has its challenges. But when I can resolve an issue, I feel a great sense of accomplishment. MHIENG engineers always take pride in their work and persevere for years on a project that most people would give up on. Working with them is a huge source of confidence.

Watching what can happen in these times of relentless change

Toshiyuki Nakamura

My next goal is to conduct sales, thinking from a position closer to the client. In the future, I want a job where, for example, I’m embedded with a client as a resident employee in a local subsidiary and I can propose the ideal plant after looking over the client’s business plans. When I meet a client who says, “I have the land and the feedstock, but I don’t know what I should do?” — I want to be proactive and propose: “Building this kind of plant will enable you to do this.”
MHIG, in recent years, has been looking at investing in projects under the right circumstances, in addition to plant construction. If this happens, I may be involved in project operations with partners we have invested in. Regardless of what I end up doing, I want to watch from the frontlines what can happen in these times of relentless change.