Cambridge manufacturer cuts niche in Brazilian market

Cambridge–based manufacturer of power tool accessories and industrial band saw blades, C4 Carbides, is poised to deliver a ten-fold increase in exports to Brazil, thanks to UKTI support.

C4 Carbides first made contact with UKTI in April 2012, following a recommendation from their finance director.

Pete Nicolson, company founder and CEO said:“International sales have always been an important part of our business as we know there is a limited market in the UK for our products.

“In the early days, our approach to exporting was quite ad hoc. Over time I began to realise that we would benefit from expert support to help us develop a more strategic plan.”

UKTI international trade adviser Carmel McKean said:  “When they contacted UKTI, C4 Carbides was already doing business in Brazil, selling directly to an end user in the tyre manufacturing industry, and a distributor, even though no one from the company had yet been to visit the country.

“They knew that this market held untapped potential because they were already managing to make some sales despite high import duties, so UKTI helped the company to explore their next steps in a way that was cost-effective and time efficient.”

In September 2012 Pete signed up for Gateway to Global Growth, a UKTI programme that helps experienced exporters to take their international strategy to the next level.

A masterclass on Brazil followed by a two-day sales and marketing course at Cranfield School of Management enabled him to consolidate and extend his knowledge of the Brazilian market, while also networking with people who were already trading there.

Pete then commissioned an Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) for Brazil, working with Carmel and the UKTI office in Sao Paulo to refine a brief that would enable C4 Carbides to find more effective Brazilian distributors for their industrial product range.

In October 2013, Pete took advantage of UKTI grant funding to visit Brazil and follow up with this list of potential customers.

Ms McKean said: “The Consulate in Sao Paulo drew up a seven day schedule for Pete and found out in advance which of his meetings would require the services of an interpreter.

“We were able to recommend both an interpreter and a driver, paid for by Pete in local currency, so that he could make best use of his time.

“The driver met him at the airport and worked from a copy of the itinerary, collecting the interpreter as needed.”

“In unknown territory, where you can’t easily communicate and you aren’t familiar with the cultural practices, it’s important to have people around whom you can trust.

“Some of Mr Nicolson’s journeys were three to four hours long.

“He needed to arrive at important meetings feeling composed and ready to present, so it was essential for him to have a driver who could be relied on to know the way and get him to each meeting safely, and on time.”

Mr Nicolson added: “Because Brazil is such a huge country the Consulate even factored in three Skype sessions so that I could speak, via the interpreter, with potential distributors who would be too far away for me to meet in person on that particular trip.”

The meetings led Pete to one potential candidate that was the right size and where employees spoke good English. He was able to visit the factory and ask technical questions, later offering them the opportunity to become the master distributor in Brazil for C4 Carbides, selling to other distributors on the company’s behalf.

Mr Nicolson has also commissioned a second OMIS for India, ahead of a visit scheduled for Autumn 2014.

Next year the company may look further afield to develop additional sales in China. Mr Nicolson said: “Even though we already have established connections in Shanghai we will probably choose to do an OMIS in order to broaden our horizons.”