As companies such as the Royal Mail and Amazon look to start exploiting the potential of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), one Edinburgh firm has already had huge success exporting its UAV technology across the globe. To coincide with the launch of the HSBC Scottish Export Awards 2016, BQ caught up with Mapix technologies to see how they cater for the increasing demand for their services.
What does your company do?
Mapix technologies Ltd was established in 1996 and provides software development, GIS application services and specific 3D mapping products to land and marine industries involved in the management or collection of geo-spatial information.
Routescene, a Mapix brand, was established in 2005 and was one of the early adopters of LiDAR technology (Light Detection and Ranging).
Routescene identified a gap in the market for a lightweight LiDAR solution for use on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and in 2014 launched the LidarPod, disruptive technology which is transforming the way conventional surveys and mapping are performed worldwide.
How long has the company been exporting?
Mapix technologies Ltd has been providing specialist services internationally since 1996. With the launch of the Routescene LidarPod in 2014 we were exposed to product exporting for the first time and we have now been exporting for 12 months.
What do you currently export, and where to?
We export the Routescene LidarPod, cutting edge 3D mapping technology, designed specifically for use on UAVs.
This turnkey solution enables surveys in dangerous, hostile environments or where access is risky or otherwise too costly and has many applications across many sectors worldwide.
Currently we export to Australia, New Zealand, SE Asia and Spain through our network of distributors plus to Scandinavia via our agent office in Denmark. Exports to other parts of the world are handled directly at Routescene.
What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?
Exporting is essential for our business. The Routescene LidarPod is a specialist, high-end product and was designed with a global market in mind.
The product was launched at Intergeo 2014 in Berlin, Germany, the largest survey exhibition in the world, to showcase the product and access a global market immediately.
We have already done business in four continents and aim to consolidate this over the next 12-24 months.
What is the easiest part of exporting?
There is no easy part to exporting! For a small business with a new innovative product to operate on a global scale from Edinburgh we had to focus on core markets and key geographical areas to manage exporting effectively.
Understanding this was relatively easy, implementing it is another matter!
And the most challenging part?
Strategically, widening our distributor network across the key locations is a crucial challenge which we are working on to accelerate our business growth in the next 12 months.
Selecting the best fit distributor partner takes time, developing understanding and common goals. Operationally, the challenge of dealing with customs and excise in each different location is a learning curve and we are learning daily.
Have language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and culture ever caused you any difficulties? How did you overcome them?
The distributors we use have helped us overcome these barriers enormously, providing support and advice on the differences in culture and how business is done in their country.
With direct global sales we have learnt that having a common language is important and we have a small yet truly international staff with 13 different languages between us to enable communication with prospects and customers.
Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?
We have received support from many quarters including advice from business contacts, introductions to experienced business leaders and specialists to help us formulate our strategic thinking, to support from Business Gateway and SDI on both strategic and tactical aspects of developing an international business with an international sales base.
What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?
Get as much advice as you can from as many different sources as you can. Learn from their experiences. Take time to reflect and plan.
I wish I could go back in time and take my own advice and speak to as many experts as possible earlier in the process!
Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in 5 years time?
We are actively looking for distributors in our target geographical areas, in Canada, USA and then South Africa, to expand our network.
We will complement this by expanding our network of Preferred UAV Suppliers who work with us in key locations.
In five years time I see Routescene operating as a truly international business, exporting through a strong network of distributors.