“I would go [kiteboarding] every weekend — twice in a weekend — if there was wind”

Marco Zoli

Only the best conditions

 


Text by Andrew Howitt  /  Photos by Kageaki Smith


Picture a sunny, cloudless day at the beach with a steady breeze blowing along the shore and waves rolling across the water. These are the ideal conditions for kiteboarding, a water sport in which you are harnessed to a kite and pulled along on a small surfboard by the wind.

“The wind drives how often I go,” says Marco Zoli, president of Marposs K.K. “I would go every weekend — twice in a weekend — if there was wind. I often check [the weather app] Windguru to see if it’s going to be windy.”

An amateur kiteboarder, Zoli — from Forli, near Bologna — decided to give the sport a try in 2005, after having watched some friends kiteboarding in Italy. At first, it was a struggle to control the kite and maintain balance on the board. He was also acutely aware of the danger of losing control of his kite and being dragged somewhere he didn’t want to go. But today, even after a hiatus between 2009 and 2017, he is an adept kiteboarder.

“You don’t just want to ride, going here and there, but you want to do some jumps and tricks,” he notes. “You can jump using the waves, but the kite can also lift you. The really good guys can fly for several seconds.”

Kiteboarding doesn’t only dictate how Zoli spends many of his weekends, it also determines where he goes on vacation. He’s travelled to places such as Maui, the Philippines, Cape Verde and Greece to kiteboard — and he always appreciates that the sport is a great way to meet people.

“When I go on kiteboarding vacations, within 10 minutes you’re friends with everyone there,” he says. “You just go on the beach and talk to people; it’s easy since you all want to know what the conditions are.”

In his work, Zoli is the one with the information. Marposs, a precision measurement and process control firm, helps businesses keep track of the condition of all their machinery. Although Marposs’s direct customers are in the machine tool market, its products are ultimately for end-users that mass produce high-precision mechanical parts, in the automotive, aerospace, IT and medical sectors, among others.

“We can provide process-monitoring software to keep machines under control, but also to upload machine data to a higher server to do data analysis and use AI to enhance the process,” Zoli explains. “If you have 1,000 machine tools in your plant, and you want to keep track of them all on one computer, we have software that can do that.”

Founded in Italy in 1952 by Mario Possati, Marposs today employs 3,500 people worldwide. It came to Japan in 1970.

“Japan is one of the biggest markets worldwide for machine tools,” states Zoli. “Japan’s top import from Italy is precision machinery — more than fashion or food.”

With the electrification of vehicles and a greater push towards automation, Marposs’s business will change, but the firm is already beginning to diversify into new markets.

“Everyone is talking about robotic operators being the future, but this is what we do — making and controlling machines, putting sensors in them to know if they’re working properly or if they’re about to break,” Zoli observes. “This new trend matches Marposs’s DNA.”

Zoli’s DNA, meanwhile, includes the motorbike racing gene, having grown up in a region where it seems everyone is passionate about the sport. Many famous racers are from the area, including record-holding world champion Valentino Rossi.

As a Ducati owner, Zoli doesn’t only care about the conditions on the water, he also cares about the conditions on the road. He often takes trips around Japan with his wife on his Multistrada touring bike.

“I love the freedom it gives you, just to grab your stuff and go for a weekend to a ryokan,” he says. “Japan has great roads for bikes that lead to nice places. There’s a lot of nice scenery.”

But at the first stirrings of a breeze, it’s back on the water. 

Do you like natto?


 

Time spent working in Japan? Ten years in total.

Career regrets? I wish I had learned to play the drums. In another life, I’d probably be a drummer in a rock band, and not an engineer.

Do you have a favourite saying? “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” — Master Yoda from Star Wars.

Do you have a favourite book? Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. It changed how I think and helped me put things in the right perspective.

What’s something you can’t live without? Physical exercise — I have to do something. And my morning espresso.

What’s something you’ve learned in Japan? Patience. And that you have to look at the details, but without forgetting the bigger picture.

What’s your secret to success in business? By far, it’s motivating the people you work with.

What’s your favourite place to dine? Elio’s near Hanzomon station, di giorgio in Azabu-juban, and Mamma Luisa’s Table in Shibuya.

Do you like natto? I tried it a long time ago and didn’t like it. I’ve changed a lot in the last 15 years, so I should probably give it another try.

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