As we look forward to the HSBC Scottish Export Awards 2016 later this month, we caught up with the team at Aquila Insight to see how they started exporting their data analytics software to the Japanese and Swedish markets. Ian Hammond spoke to BQ...
What does your company do?
Aquila Insight is a data analytics company focused on extracting the maximum value from data, translating it into decisions which empower our clients to take better actions.
How long has the company been exporting?
We won our first overseas business 3 years ago, a year after we launched.
What do you currently export, and where to?
We supply our analytics and insight services overseas. Currently we export to Japan and we also have dealings with Sweden.
What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?
It was always our intention to be a global company.
When we launched we concentrated on companies closer to home but as our size and reputation grew it was only a matter of time before we won our first international client.
We were delighted to win a contract with a global telecoms company a year after we launched. This led to us dealing directly with Sweden and Japan.
What is the easiest part of exporting?
In the analytics space, data and the tools we use are a common language.
The skill sets required by the analysts are universal too, we all speak the same language in technical terms.
Also, no matter where in the world businesses are based, the insights they are trying to get at are broadly the same, as are the challenges faced in getting to them.
And the most challenging part?
Not having a common spoken language was the only real challenge in the early stages. We had a few misunderstandings around figures of speech on a couple of occasions.
Have language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and culture ever caused you any difficulties? How did you overcome them?
In the beginning we did have a few minor difficulties. We took extra time and care to make sure we understood everything.
We also read up on possible cultural difference we might come across and of course we went over the business rules. Our dealings with Japan have been very interesting and rewarding.
At first both sides were very formal in any dealings but now we’ve got to know them and socialised a bit, our meetings are much more laid back.
Currency change has been a bit of a sore point of late. Contractually we had to invoice one of our clients in Euros, I’m sure you’ll understand that the movement of the rate this year has made conversion into Sterling a bit painful.
Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?
We didn’t seek any support, we prepared for it ourselves and learnt from our mistakes. We are aware that there are initiatives and guidance available out there though and we’d encourage people to take advantage of them
What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?
We would advise other companies who are thinking of dealing overseas to take the leap and aim for a client you feel comfortable with.
Be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them, its all part of the learning curve and will equip you for the next overseas client.
None at all. It has been great for the progression of the company and valuable experience for the staff.
Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in 5 years time?
In short, everywhere else. We’d like to continue our trend of doubling in size every year for the next 5 years and moving into more overseas markets will certainly help us achieve this.
Exporting and international trade remain high on the Scottish Government’s economic growth agenda and the HSBC Scottish Export Awards are about recognising the excellence in those emerging, wealth creating companies that are selling their products, services and expertise in scores of overseas markets.