INTERNATIONAL trade deals are not for the impatient; sometimes an initial conversation with a potential customer can take months to come to fruition. But, as Tyneside engineering firm Hart Door Systems will testify, the ultimate rewards are often well worth the wait.
Hart’s foray into the world of Dubai business rose out of the ashes of a failed business agreement with the Saudi business group Zamil. During that period, around five years ago, Hart exhibited at the Big 5 show in Dubai, when representatives from construction giant Famco – part of the Al-Futtaim Group, one of the largest privately-owned business houses in the Gulf region – visited Hart’s stand and took a selection of promotional literature.
“Some 12 months later they rang us speculatively and I took the call from their sales person, a Sajeed Ahmed,” recalled Alan Robinson, Hart’s contracts and exports manager.
“He asked whether we would be interested in pricing a project on Dubai festival city site – an Ikea hypermarket development. I said yes and coincidentally mentioned the following week I was going to Abu Dhabi on holiday to visit friends and we would be spending some time in Dubai if he wanted me to visit.
“I did not hear anything before we left for holiday so thought it was just another one of those calls. However, while in Abu Dhabi, Famco did ring and asked if I could visit their offices in Dubai. We had the meeting, then they asked me to come back again the following day for another meeting and the rest is history, as they say.”
Today Hart is one of several North East companies that has established a growing presence in the Middle East. The company, which has pioneered the development of sophisticated industrial door systems, now has a distributor agreement in Dubai with Famco as well as an agreement in Qatar and plans for a similar tie-up in Muscat. Its projects have included work on the huge Dubai Metro system.
Today, depending on the number of projects it is working on, the United Arab Emirates can account for anything between 5% and 35% of the firm’s turnover. The Dubai Metro contract alone is worth more than £1m.
Robinson said: “My view is you have to be very respectful of the culture and be very patient. Rome was not built in a day! The building of relationships is crucial and also the maintaining of them – it is a 24/7 commitment if you want to make a success of it.”
With exports increasingly forming an important part of the strategy of North East firms from across all sectors as they look to find new markets for their products, businesses are now being offered a chance to repeat the success that Hart has had in Dubai.
The Journal has teamed up with the Government of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing and Emirates airline to offer representatives from three businesses a place on the visit to the Gulf state in September. The competition is also backed by the North East Chamber of Commerce, partners in our Go Global exporting campaign, and UK Trade and Investment.
We are inviting firms to log on to our website and tell us why they believe they should have a chance to take part in the visit. From those applications, a shortlist of companies will be invited to take part in a Dragon’s Den-style event where they can explain more fully what they hope to gain from the trip.
The competition is open to businesses from all sectors and of all sizes, whose headquarters are in the North East. The prize is worth £1,500.
During the trip, the businesses will visit the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, the Dubai Department of Economic Development as well as industry-specific locations, such as relevant free zones for each company.
Ian Scott, director UK and Ireland for Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said: “We are really excited about this competition which offers local businesses the opportunity to expand into Dubai.
“With daily flights from Newcastle International making the Emirate a convenient place to travel for business, and the economy of Dubai set to grow even further in the coming year, it’s never been a better time for North East businesses to invest in this dynamic and vibrant market.”
The closing date for entries is Monday, July 4, 2011.