BExA Interview – with David Cant (Albion (Overseas) Ltd.)
- In your opinion, what are the benefits for UK companies when exporting to Russia? The most obvious thing to say is that Russia is the biggest
country in the world. What a lot of people may not be aware of is that it is the UK’s fastest growing export market. More importantly, they have money,
with growth of over 3 to 4% per annum. The Russians like to do business with the UK, because they regard British suppliers as reliable, and our quality
to be high. This applies not only to obvious “Brand Britain” products, but also for instance to precision engineered products, equipment, spare parts,
components and so on. So long as a company is not lazy about it, simply visiting a trade fair, appointing a distributor and waiting, (not usually a very
successful approach), then there are massive benefits. Most companies that do business in Russia just wish they had started sooner. There is money out
there, and margins are higher.
- Is it a difficult market to sell in? It surprises many people but I think on most industrial estates around the UK there are companies already doing
business with Russia. I have been in this job many years, and have visited hundreds of companies exporting to Russia. People worry about being paid. I
have had payment problems with British companies, but not once with a Russian company. That’s in 24 years. Not only that, but it is possible, indeed
normal to be paid in advance, particularly at the beginning of the relationship. Corruption is often mentioned, and the Russian Government is trying to
address this. There are western companies making the problem worse by engaging in it, but it is receding and more importantly, is far smaller than the
press would have you believe. I have never been asked to make a payment to secure a contract, or anything of the sort. It is actually unusual. People worry
about language, about culture, about whether their product or service will be understood. But we have seen time and time again that these are nonissues. The issue is: do you have a good product at an acceptable price?
- What more should Government be doing to boost UK exports? The Government is doing a pretty good job at providing the tools needed for doing
business overseas. I think it is often the companies themselves that could be more imaginative, more bold. Stop just selling to western Europe, the USA
and so on, where everybody is clambering over each other to sell the same stuff. Russia remains relatively open. And with the flight from London or
Manchester being less than four hours, it’s the BRIC on your doorstep so to speak. Successful companies don’t just do what others do. And they don’t
“try anything so long as it’s free”. They consider; they budget; they select; they drive. The companies that have a strategy are the companies that will win.
- What have been some of Albion’s high points over the past 12 months? Interestingly, we have never been so busy as we are now. It’s as if Russia
has suddenly popped onto everybody’s radar screen. In fact, in a few weeks time we are having to airlift virtually the whole of our UK staff to our Moscow
office because we have so many clients in town at the same time! It’s a high grade problem! Our company is not a typical consultancy; we also have our
own warehousing because we are distributors as well. Not only is the consultancy business booming, but the trading business too. We keep breaking
through our credit limits with suppliers, so paying far ahead of the due dates! This is why we have had to renegotiate these limits because they were set
years ago, and the trade is far quicker now than these limits could keep up with.
- What is the main benefit of membership of BExA? We have over the years been members of various bodies, but BExA is very refreshing. They are
very active, receptive to members’ ideas, and always helpful. So as well as coming up with their own busy schedule of activities, they show a genuine
interest in working with their membership. It is a virtual impossibility to please a diverse and numerous membership, but we are very pleased to be
members and look forward to a long and active relationship. We enjoy the events, the networking, but also valuable information and of course the committee
meetings, which we are now becoming involved with, are very useful indeed.