Businesses looking to make their first foray into an overseas market came from all over the region to meet the Department for International Trade ‘Export Champions’.
Whether in the food & drink sector or financial services there was a lot of advice on how to break new markets. There was a particular focus on doing business in Hong Kong, with the keynote speech coming from Priscilla To from HKETO.
Panel discussions also touched on technology and how to set up a business in the vibrant Asian port. A ‘You Can Export’ session bought together Glenn Cooper of safety bollard company ATG Access, Alex Marshall from Clarke Energy, Ed Salt of Cheshire’s Delamere Dairy, Graham James of Leyland-based Flexcrete Technologies and David Hymers of Totalpost.
One of the stand-out themes was that while there is a thirst for British goods in far flung markets, success hinges on adapting your products to their tastes and needs.
There was no better example than Delamere Dairy’s move to Asia, which saw it focus on supplying cows’ milk, as opposed to goats’ milk, as it primarily does in the UK.
Salt explained how there was also an acceptance of long life dairy products in these markets, as opposed to here, where fresh produce is essential.
James agreed, adding that a focus on innovation was key when targeting new territories. He said “If you think you can make widgets in Wigan and think you can automatically take them to Mumbai, then forget about exporting.”
As second session looked at selling services internationally. It involved Paul Grover of consultancy Arup, Rob Wilde from Stockport recruitment export Volcanic, Seth Finegan of Informed Solutions, Dave Pichilingi from Liverpool Sound City, Abigail Gregory from Manchester Metropolitan University and UK Export Finance (UKEF) export Steve Cowles.
Panellists were asked for their advice as how to crack overseas markets. The business leaders described opportunities being presented to them they hadn’t expected of planned for and needing to adapt in the moment to take advantage of them.
Finegan said: “It is all very well sitting in boardrooms and coming up with plans, but you need to be open-minded to plans you did not think would come along”.
Describing a business opportunity in Myanmar that came out of nothing, Wilde added: “Planning is really hard to get right.”
Pichilingi emphasised the need, especially when supplying services, to understand local cultures and customs, while Gregory said: “It is all about relationships.”
Finally, Grover advocated trading with “neighbours” in closer markets with common languages and cultures before gaining the confidence to go further afield, as well as working with your partners such as lawyers, banks and other advisers who have a presence in particular territories.
All guests were then presented with details of the major investment in Manchester Airport, which double the size of its terminal two and enable it to make the most of the spare capacity on its two runways.
They got the chance to use virtual reality goggles, which showed how the airport will look once the transformation is complete, including imagery of new retail, check-in and arrivals areas.
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