Pro² manoeuvres into India
We offer professional driving services to automotive manufacturers and have over 80 freelance drivers who provide high performance driver training programmes in demand by the automotive industry around the world.
Our journey into the Indian market only started back in March 2010, but in just a year and a half we are talking to some of India’s leading automotive manufacturers including Tata Motors. For a small, niche UK-based company with no previous experience of exporting we are very happy with our progress in India so far.
It’s been an exhilarating and challenging journey which we couldn’t have done without the support from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and the appointment and dedication of both UK and Indian-based experts. We are actively developing a long-term business strategy for the market and our financial forecast over the next five years shows a five-fold increase in turnover, mostly driven by our potential Indian growth.
We first looked eastwards when delivering driver training in China and South Korea for Lotus. This experience prompted us to start looking at how we could diversify our offering overseas, especially as the UK market was becoming saturated.
We got in contact with UKTI for expert help and advice. We were probably a bit ambitious in our first meeting with our International Trade Advisor (ITA) as we had set our sights on targeting China, USA and India! However, we were advised to focus efforts on just one market initially.
Pro²: Facts and figures
1. Pro² based in Orpington, Kent was founded in 2007 by Simon Poole and employs just three full-time staff in the UK and has two Indian agents based in Delhi
2. It supplies the automotive manufacturing industry with a range of professional driver services delivered by driving experts drawn from motorsports including four ex Formula 1 drivers and Le Mans competitors as well as ex-police instructors
3. Its trainers go into factories and onto test tracks to train engineers, dealers and customers on high performance driving, fuel economy and road safety
With the largest automotive industry in the world and one of the fastest growing globally, India was earmarked for exploration. As I discovered 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.
Our first step up the ladder was our selection onto the India Marketing Strategy Scholarship Programme organised by UKTI London. Our ITA recommended we apply and after a competitive selection process we were welcomed on the prestigious programme.
In March 2010 I attended an executive course at one of India’s leading management institutes in Ahmedabad, an intensive five days learning about every aspect of doing business in India and an immersion into the culture. This was an incredible experience without which we wouldn’t be where we are today.
I stayed another week for a series of meetings including one with the Head of Automotive at the British Trade Office from whom I received invaluable advice and even some business leads. As a result I left India confident it was the market for us.
As soon as I was back in the UK we joined UKTI’s Passport to Export Programme for new exporters and together with our ITA planned our next steps.
I’ve been back to India quite a few times now as building strong relationships is vital for business success there, with UKTI as a constant support. In January 2011, UKTI’s Advanced Engineering team involved us on its stand at the Symposium of International Automotive Technology, one of the biggest exhibitions of its kind in India. This really helped boost our credibility and brand there and as a result we delivered our first training course for Mahindra (a top three Indian automotive manufacturer) in July 2011.
Another major turning point was the appointment of a 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!
We also recognised the need to appoint Indian agents to grow our business and maintain relationships on-the-ground. On Clive’s recommendation we went to India to meet two representatives he knew with extensive sector experience. Having shared our aspirations and heard their plans to achieve them, we took them on board. They’ve been working with us for five months now on a retained basis plus commission.
As a small company we’re already punching above our weight in India and feeling positive about our future there. We’ve been given fantastic opportunities and support from UKTI having also been part of its Gateway to Global Growth Programme, and our collective determination is beginning to pay off. If you’re a small company like ours looking to Asia for the first time ensure you get all the support and advice you need and hopefully you won’t look back.
Simon’s top tips for doing business in Asia:
1. Indians like to say yes so the best indicator that they really do want to do business with you is an invite to their family home for dinner
2. Before you go into a business meeting know something about either Bollywood or cricket
3. The UK still has a very strong reputation in India for having the best engineering expertise in the world – so be confident in your offering