Karthikeyan Natarajan came to Joensuu through the Erasmus Mundus programme ten years ago. This Indian man, who considers forest his passion, has been building global networks from Finland to the rest of the world and training authorities, politicians, business executives, students and school children. He has also continued research while finishing up his doctoral thesis. Adjusting to Joensuu has been easy – thanks to India, says the man himself.

Karthikeyan Natarajan works as the Marketing Director of BioAcademy Finland Oy. The company was founded in 2015 and its other executives are Adjunct Professor Liisa Toivonen and Emeritus Professor Paavo Pelkonen. The internationally active BioAcademy specialises in forestry and bioeconomy. The company exports forestry consultation, professional continuing education, academic summer and winter schools, study trips and art and science camps on a global scale.

– Finland is famous for many things, including happiness, safety and forestry expertise. Educational know-how is an important export product, Natarajan summarises.

The diverse India

India is an enormous country of approximately 1.3 billion people. The federation comprises twenty-nine states with hundreds of different spoken languages. Approximately 21% of the country’s area is covered in forest. In hectares, it means approximately 71 million hectares. The numbers are very different from Finland, as is forest ownership. In India, the forests are owned by the state.

Karthikeyan Natarajan is from southern India, the state of Tamil Nadu. In the family with three children, parents encouraged and supported the children’s education. When the family’s firstborn came to Joensuu in 2009, he enjoyed the student life of a young man to the full. Daily life in the student dorm was communal. He easily befriended Finns, foreigners and fellow Indians studying in Joensuu.

– India is a diverse country with a large number of languages and cultures. Diversity is an ordinary thing for an Indian. That is why adjusting to a new country and culture was very easy, Natarajan says.

The developing forestry

India is interested in Finnish forestry expertise. In recent years, the country has invested in developing both forestry and agriculture and carried out extensive foresting. A piquant piece of news from July 2017 tells about approximately 1.5 million volunteers planting 66 million trees in the course of twelve hours in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

– India wants to utilise the forests more efficiently and follow the Finnish example of sustainability. There are numerous matters of interest – planting, sustainable forestry, harvest technology, forest energy, utilising digitalisation, the gifts of forests, from berries to mushrooms.

Prior to his career in BioAcademy, Natarajan participated in the BEST research programme that studied sustainable bioenergy solutions for the future. Its business partners included Fortum, which began operating in India in 2012.

Later on, Natarajan has helped his native country by strengthening Indian forestry expertise with Finnish education. He counts that BioAcademy Finland has trained approximately six hundred Indians since 2015, including central and regional government authorities, policy-makers, politicians and company executives.

The best place for a family

Natarajan got married about three years ago. His Indian wife, Hemapriya Chidambaram, used to work for Nissan in Paris but moved to Finland. Now Natarajan is a Finnish citizen and the whole family speaks fluent Finnish. Their two-year-old daughter Lakshana was born in Joensuu. The family praises the Finnish health care system.

– Our daughter also has a Finnish name, Saana. Yes, after the mountain!

In Joensuu, Natarajan has become a fan of the Finnish sauna. The man can also handle heating up a traditional sauna with firewood if necessary. Having Finnish friends in addition to international ones has helped the family to adjust to Finland. Natarajan has become familiar with life through his Finnish friends: entrepreneurship, motor sports, fishing, wood as a building material. Shared hobbies and family parties have been a wonderful way of becoming part of Finnish society.

The man also appreciates silence. The contrast between the loud traffic and constant honk of car horns in India could not be any bigger.

– Joensuu is an open and positive city. Bad weather does not exist here, it is a matter of clothing. And November is the only unnecessarily dark month.
The future doctorate who has studied in India, different parts of Europe and Finland, praises the University of Eastern Finland to the skies.

– Many of my student friends have been able to use Joensuu as a springboard – to Harvard, Cambridge, major international companies. Joensuu can be proud of its university.

Text: Sirkka-Liisa Aaltonen/Viestintä-Ässä, Photo: Jarno Artika