Opening the door to new markets
The credibility that working with the Department for International Trade (DiT) delivers can be the key to unlocking opportunities for businesses in the North seeking new overseas markets.
That was one of the main messages from an online conference, organised by Lancashire Business View in partnership with DiT. It looked at ‘Opening doors for Tech and Digital Trade in Asia Pacific’.
Delegates from across the North heard from DiT experts, hard at work helping open those doors for companies in the Northern Powerhouse. They also received tips from digital and tech businesses that have already embarked on their international trade journeys.
And they were given an insight into some of the opportunities that exist in Asia Pacific for businesses that provide technical and digital products and services.
That broad sector supports the development of a host of others, from education, through professional services, to manufacturing, construction, logistics and healthcare.
Environmental concerns and the move to ‘Smart Cities’ in Asia Pacific are also creating new and growing opportunities, while new trade agreements are progressing which will increase the ease of doing business for UK companies.
Brian Bishop, chief executive of Liverpool based Data Performance Consultancy, was among business leaders highlighting the wide range of support DiT can provide and the positive impact it has overseas.
When you walk into a room with DiT officials you have already got the respect of the audience
He told delegates: “When you walk into a room with DiT officials you have already got the respect of the audience and there is no greater thing that you can have as a business. It is hugely important.”
He added that those officials also work to identify markets that they see as a good fit for the businesses they are working with.
Brian said he now thought of the DiT as part of his team and added: “It is a huge asset to have that support behind you.”
Nigel Jones, DiT Northern Powerhouse sector specialist in the tech and creative industries, also spoke of the “credibility” that the department can bring to businesses stepping on the first rung of the exporting ladder.
He said: “If people don’t know you or your brand or your experience, working with the UK government can bring that sense of confidence to a network or a market.”
Philomena Chen, DiT head of Asia Pacific and Smart Cities lead, outlined the wide range of tech and digital opportunities in the region.
She said that northern companies looking to break into those markets needed to highlight their USP and why they were different to local businesses, along with the quality they deliver. She added: “’Made in the UK’ can play a role in that. When you see that label, it means quality.”
Dewi Sari, senior trade manager for UK Northern Powerhouse Department for International Trade, based in Indonesia, explained her role on the ground.
It includes building relationships with both the government and the private sector, identifying potential opportunities, organising events and meetings, and introducing businesses to markets.
She said: “It is very important to establish relationships with local stakeholders, but you need to remember it takes time.”
Darren Winter, director of north east based digital marketing agency and training agency Duco Digital, echoed that advice. He said that “relationship building” was one of the keys to success in Asia Pacific and he advised delegates to be “patient”.
He added: “It is not going to happen overnight; it might take 12-18 months and that is something people need to understand.”
Darren also shared his international trade journey, which started through “virtual trade missions” set up by the DiT.
Elizabeth Vega, Group chief executive of digital transformation business Informed Solutions, said companies looking to trade internationally needed to be aware of the cultural differences that exist.
She advised businesses to ensure their systems and processes were in the right shape to meet the demands of doing business overseas, make sure they understood the markets they were going into and to clearly differentiate themselves in those markets.
And she added: “Make sure that your own people are receptive and open to working with different cultures.”
More coverage of the conference is planned in Lancashire Business View’s November/December 2021 issue.