Posted: Fri 9th Nov 2012
We are proof that you don't have to be a big, established business to find opportunities and success in Asia, writes Simon (left). We're a small company with just three employees in the UK and were set up back in 2007, yet we're now working with some of India's leading automotive manufacturers such as Tata Motors. I set up ProÂ² to offer professional driving services to automotive manufacturers. We use freelance drivers to provide high performance driver training programmes in demand by the automotive industry.
For a niche UK-based company with no previous experience of exporting, we are proud and excited about our progress in India so far. I want to share two crucial lessons I've learnt since deciding to explore opportunities in India in 2010:
It's been an exhilarating and challenging journey which we couldn't have done without external support.Â Being a small business can often be an isolating and daunting experience, especially when you are taking big leaps into the unknown, such as exploring international opportunities.Â Often you are unsure of the best way ahead and keen to avoid any pitfalls or setbacks.Â I couldn't have achieved what I have so far without the help of my:
UKTI International Trade Advisor (ITA) - who made me focus on India in the first place, encouraged me to go on a life-changing UKTI Indian business scholarship and has supported me both here and in India with advice and contacts.
Non-executive director, Dr Clive Hickman who, as the former head of engineering at Tata Motors in India, knows the Indian automotive market inside out. He brought a wealth of senior level contacts and credibility that helped to condense two years progress into six months!
Two Indian agents with extensive experience of the sector and who know how to get business done there.
Only through their advice and experience have we been able to actively develop a long-term business strategy for the market in which our financial forecast over the next five years shows a five-fold increase in turnover, mostly driven by our potential Indian growth.
India is a relationship driven culture. They much prefer to do business face to face, so it's virtually impossible to succeed there without regular visits. I've been there five times in the last year. Of course, you have to factor the costs of travel into your overall marketing budget and be prepared to invest now for the long-term gains. Before you can really understand and assess the market potential for your service or product, you need to get under the skin of the market and understand the business culture there. I was lucky to be selected for a UKTI Indian business scholarship and attended an executive course at one of India's leading management institutes in Ahmedabad. It was an intensive five days learning about every aspect of doing business in India and an immersion into the culture. I'm looking forward to sharing more insights about doing business in India at the Go Global event on the 15th November.Â You can read my story in full and be inspired by other British companies doing business in Asia on the UKTI website.
1. Indians don't like to offend so are likely to say yes to everything. A good indicator that they really do want to do business with you is an invitation to dinner. 2. Before you go into a business meeting know something about either Bollywood or cricket as it's a great ice breaker. 3. India is also a great first market in Asia to consider - there's no language barrier and the legal process is very similar to the UK. UK Trade & Investment is the Government Department that helps UK-based companies succeed in the global economy. UKTI also help overseas companies bring their high quality investment to the UK's dynamic economy - acknowledged as Europe's best place from which to succeed in global business.
Simon will be part of a panel of three entrepreneurs who have successfully stepped into international markets at our next Go Global event, along with Tony Curtis of Alago and Robbie Swales of Steps. We're holding the event as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week. Tickets are Â£5 for the 90-minute event that starts at 6pm at Club Workspace in Clerkenwell. Come along to hear three international trade stories, ask questions of the panellists - and of course enjoy a glass of wine and the chance to network with other small-business owners! You can find out more and book your Go Global tickets here.