Board Member Profile - Philip Greenan

What do you do in Japan?

I run a small business that develops custom software solutions for infrastructure at Japanese mobile telecommunication companies (NTT Docomo, KDDI and Softbank), and also help foreign companies targeting the same market segment, to enter and grow their business in the Japanese market. On the one hand, the mobile phone and related services business has been rapidly growing for 30+ years, so the size of the pie has grown astronomically, but correspondingly this has attracted lots of players, led to frequent landscape changes, through which we need to nimbly navigate.

My role is mostly business development/sales, working closely with very knowledgeable engineers to convince NTT Docomo for example, of the benefits of using a particular company`s technology in their 5G or IOT infrastructure. The big three (Docomo, KDDI and Softbank) typically spend one to one and a half trillion yen annually on CAPEX, and I do be fighting to get a very tiny slice of that.

My sweet spot is working with a visiting Irish businesspeople or engineers, preparing and executing meetings with Japanese target customers, where I interpret both ways, communicating the messages the Irish person has brought, but also getting him/her to really understand the Japanese party`s objectives. In my experience, it's in the unspoken assumptions that both parties bring to the meeting table, that misunderstandings and miscommunications can flourish. Taking the time to explain background and context is important, and I press visitors to take the time to effectively communicate, for example by writing down their key messages in advance, illustrating in diagrams, pictures, tables and graphs.

In my industry at least, typically Japanese customers have only moderate English language skills, so the return on investment from time spent to improve understanding is high.


Tell us about your background?

Raised in Monaghan Town, graduated in Electronic Engineering graduate from DCU, I came to Japan on the FAS program in 1985 (its second year in operation), attracted by the chance of getting ahead in my career. Initially, I spent two years with Ricoh, living one year in a dorm in Atsugi City, and the second in a homestay in Hadano City (both in Kanagawa prefecture). This was deep emersion in Japanese culture, which was hard at times, but certainly turbocharged Japanese language learning and understanding of life here.

As my career progressed I changed jobs to foreign capital companies, but for much of my time I`ve worked for the Japan subsidiary of Irish companies, or Irish companies have been my clients, so I retain strong business as well as family connections to the Mother Ship. My greatest thrills have come from, winning and growing business, while working with Irish people and companies, and I hope I can do more of this.


How did you come to join the Ireland Japan Chamber of Commerce?

Actually, when I first joined in 2006, the Japan Ireland Economic Association (JIEA), as it was known then, was a fairly quiet organization made up mostly of Japanese businessmen who had been posted to Ireland, and were now back in Tokyo. Former Japanese Ambassador Kazuhara was the JIEA President; we had a large bank balance, as membership dues accumulated over many years, but none of it had been spent on anything. Ambassador Scannell had the vision of invigorating the JIEA with the growing number of Irish doing business in Japan, and aided by Second Secretary Gerard Keown and a clutch of new board members, they transformed us into the Ireland Japan Chamber of Commerce, energizing its members on a path which would lead to 20+ events a year, fulltime staff, Ireland Japan Business Awards and eventually tens of thousands of Japanese attending the I Love Ireland Festival, the brainchild of Colm Sharkey, when on the board in 2013.


What is your role in the IJCC?

I`ve been on the IJCC board since its inception in 2008, serving as Vice President until 2018 (I did serve as Interim President for a short time prior to the election of Dimplex Japan President, Seiji Kasama, in 2009).

My role for most of this time has been leading the organizing of events (not including the “I Love Ireland Festival” though, that has mainly been Tsuchiya san`s focus).  From Minster of Finance Mc Creevy to Foreign Minister Ahern to Tanaiste Harney to An Taoiseach Bertie Ahearne to An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Chamber members have enjoyed the company of quite a variety of interesting characters! Behind the scenes, with 6 IJCC secretariats (who do the real work) over the years, we have organized Irish stew, rashers and lashings of Guinness, to lubricate the conversations!


What are you looking forward to over the next 12 months for Ireland Japan relations?

I truly believe we are blessed with an extraordinary leader in Ambassador Kavanaugh, and I look forward to supporting him in whatever he undertakes.


What do you like most about Japan?

The answer to this is very simple – I have been in Japan for 35 years because of Mrs. Greenan !!

We celebrated our 30 year wedding anniversary in March this year.

On a cold, blustery, sleety day, Setsue married me on the altar of Monaghan Cathedral, confident that we would have a happy life together. And she was right!

She certainly has changed me !! For my two years in Japan, before I met her, I hardly touched Japanese food, now I eat everything. My Nihongo was very “sukoshi” in 1990, now the natives think I speak like a native. While I had a hand in the birth of our pair, Clare and Mark, it was she who molded them into outstanding young people.


What is your favorite Irish / Japanese food?

I have a very soft spot for Irish chocolate – the ordinary stuff – Maltesers, Mars Bar, Dairy Milk, Bounty, and the like.

I do like miso soup made with potatoes and onions, kenchinjiru, grilled swordfish and hirekatsu – those are my favorites.


What is your favorite place to visit in Japan / Ireland?

Usually at some point during a visit to Monaghan (I`ve brought the family every summer since Clare was born – except this year of course !), we will pull in to the Cathedral car park, and if the door is unlocked we will tip toe up the aisle, remembering Mar 24th, 1990, and how it changed our lives forever. That is my favorite place in Ireland.

My favorite place in Japan is actually gone – it was Paddy Foleys in the basement of the ROA Building, Tokyo`s first Irish pub. Opened in the early 90s by Ambassador Sharkey (Colm`s father), it was a little island of Irish culture at a time when Ireland`s profile in Japan was tiny, an oasis of friendship in the middle of Roppongi.


What is one thing that a lot of people don't know about you?

Today everyone messages from their mobile or smartphone, but actually in the 1994-2000 era, an Irish company, Aldiscon Limited, was the market leader in the software that mobile phone companies needed for Short Messaging (SMS, as it was called), with technology developed entirely by engineers in Dublin. Adiscon`s software powered mobile phone messaging in Japan at Docomo, J-Phone and Tuka with annual revenue growing to over $150 million in Japan. I was fortunate enough to be Aldiscon`s Japan Country Manager at that time, and ride that extraordinary roller coaster.