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Afterstory #2: Pursuing “My Naive and Childish Dream” Leads to Starting a New Healthcare Business in NEC

(This is a translation of a Japanese article issued on September, 2022)
Nobuyuki Yasukawa, working in NEC, is currently leading a healthcare business in India. When he was a researcher at NEC’s Central Research Laboratory back in 2013, he participated in Cross Fields’ Corporate Volunteering Program (CVP) program and volunteered at Drishtee, an NGO in India. He says that this experience is what sparked his interest in solving social issues from a business approach. We asked him about his journey, from participating in CVP to starting his current business.

Nobuyuki Yasukawa
Corporate Business Development Division of NEC Global Innovation Unit (NEC Corporation)
Nobuyuki participated in Cross Fields’ CVP program in 2013, and was sent to Drishtee, an NGO in India. At Drishtee, he worked on using IT to improve its logistics network. After returning to Japan, he committed himself to launching businesses that solve social issues. In 2019, he started a new health checkup business that aims to prevent diseases such as diabetes. He also currently serves as one of the Executive Board of Cross Fields.

Aiming to spread preventive medicine in India and Ghana

—What kind of projects are you currently in charge of?

One is a health checkup business in India. In India, where the economy is undergoing rapid economic development, the number of people suffering from diabetes is increasing, especially among the middle class and the poor. In fact, it is estimated that more than 100 million people will be diabetic by 2045. In our business, we offer health checkup services aimed to prevent diabetes and other lifestyle-related diseases. Although we had to stop our services temporarily due to Covid-19, we have now resumed our activities.

Recently, we expanded our operations to Ghana as well. In Ghana, we are working to improve nutrition in the area of maternal and child health, by trying to use the expertise we gained in India. In the area, one of the most serious challenges today is malnutrition of infants and young children. Also, similar to India, an increasing number of middle-aged people are suffering from diabetes due to unbalanced diets. Therefore, we hope to contribute to solving these global health issues by promoting preventive medicine.

“It all started from CVP” – 10 years of never giving up

—You told us before that CVP influenced you to start your preventive medicine business. Is this true?

During my stay in India, colleagues in Drishtee often said to me, “You look younger than your age.” Indeed, when I looked around, many of the local people of my age were larger in size and looked older than I was.

On the other hand, many people had diabetes or had family members with complications. And because many people did not have enough knowledge of how to balance their nutrition such as carbohydrates and proteins, it was common that they had unbalanced diets. Once a person becomes ill, the cost of getting treatment is high, so life becomes difficult. I began to think that this situation can be solved by providing services that can prevent people from becoming diabetic.

A photo of Nobuyuki (left) and his colleague in Drishtee

—Wasn’t it difficult to start a new business inside your company?

Yes it was certainly not easy, especially because I was not part of the new business development department at the time. I first started by submitting a transfer request. When I heard that there was an open position in the new business development department, I immediately raised my hand and was able to start launching my business in 2019. In that sense, I changed my environment on my own initiative.

To think that almost 10 years has passed since CVP…I wish I could have achieved this sooner. But I can say I was able to come this far because “I didn’t give up”.

A pure dream is what keeps me moving forward

—What has kept you going forward and not giving up?

Of course, after returning to Japan, I had some difficult times. But at such times, I always think of my colleagues in Drishtee.

One of my colleagues was working diligently every day to launch a new business called “reverse supply chain,” a system that products made by women in rural areas are sold in urban areas. When I asked him why he was working so hard, he replied, “Because my mother’s pickles are the best in the world, and I want her to open a store in the city one day. If there is a store, people in the city will be happy to eat delicious pickles at a low price, and it will also make my mother’s life easier.” His reply was very simple and straightforward.

I realized that the source of my colleagues’ motivation was always a naïve and childish dream. Dreams can be easily forgotten when you’re working everyday. But since meeting them, I promised myself to cherish and keep my own “naive and childish” dream too.

Nobuyuki (left) and colleagues from Drishtee

—What is your “naive and childish” dream?

My dream is “to become a hero”. Ever since I was in elementary school, I’ve loved Hollywood movies like “Terminator” and “Die Hard” because they had strong hero characters. I’ve always admired the mindset of heroes who would courageously take action for everyone even when no one else wants to, or overcomes multiple challenges.

Looking back, I chose to work at NEC because I had a dream to “rebuild the Japanese industry”. I believe now that the key to achieve this goal is businesses that can solve social issues. In fact, NEC has also stated in its management guidelines that it will use ICT to contribute to solving social issues. I can feel that the atmosphere within the company is changing recently.

I am sure the challenges will continue, but whenever I feel like giving up, I always think of my colleagues at Drishtee. Thinking of them boosts me up, and keeps me moving forward. I’ll continue challenging myself, believing in the words they said to me, “You yourself will become the change.”

Learn more about Nobuyuki’s business here:

Message from Host Organization

After reading this story, we have come to know how Drishtee has left an impression on Noboyuki. But let us state that he has left a deep impression on Drishtee as well. His undying smile, relentless energy in the field and commitment to his work are examples which we site to the new interns and team members who join us. Noboyuki was a great brand ambassador of NEC and Japan while he worked with us. Now, he has become Drishtee’s brand ambassador as well. (Swapna/Drishtee)